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Isabelle Nichols, 1st place; Chaci Whitfield, 2nd place; Saylor Stroble, 3rd place.

Thursday, February 24, 2022, Calhoun County Democrats held the first celebration of the Shirley A. Justice Memorial Essay Contest. This contest grew out of a wish to encourage more youth to engage on public issues and to develop communication skills that can serve them and their communities in later life. The essay contest honors Mrs. Shirley A. Justice, who died in 2020. She and her husband, Jim Justice, had wanted to give back to the Calhoun County community where they had built a successful business and raised their family. They planned and developed the Jim and Shirley A. Justice Center for these purposes. The Center is located at 812 Noble Street in Anniston. It serves as the headquarters for the Calhoun County Democrats. This year, the Center established this essay contest, modeled on a scholarship contest that Optimist International has run for decades.

The contest was open to students, including home-schooled, in grades five thru twelve living in Calhoun and surrounding counties. Contestants submitted an essay of 700-800 words. The topic was “Is Voting a Right, Privilege or Responsibility? Why?” Judging considered organization and strength of argument, vocabulary, grammar, and style. First-, second-, and third-place winners received a cash award of $250, $125, and $50 respectively, along with a medallion. All entrants received a certificate. Judges were Anne Phillips, a retired English teacher from Anniston High School; Jennifer Smith, retired English teacher from the Calhoun County schools; and David Ford, retired curator/assistant director of the Berman Museum. Sandy Stewart chaired the contest.

Beginning at top row left and continuing: Isabelle Nichols, 1st place; Chaci Whitfield, 2nd place; and Saylor Stroble, 3rd place. An incredible group of young women!

Sheila Gilbert, chair of the Calhoun County Democratic Committee, gave a brief welcome. Jim Justice briefly told the background of the Jim and Shirley A. Justice Center. Jim Williams, who chaired Optimist essay and oratorical contests for several years, introduced winners and presented their awards. Isabelle Nichols, a home-schooled student from Jacksonville, was First. Chaci Whitfield and Saylor Stroble, both students at Oxford High School, took Second and Third prizes. Each student then read her essay.

Following an appreciation to the judges, Jim Williams announced plans for both the second essay contest and the Dr. George F. McKerley Memorial Oratorical Contest in the fall. Plans include longer advance notice and wider advertising to let more students participate. Everyone then shared a potluck meal. Carsie Evans ended the evening with giving an update on the Meal Train for the COVID staff at RMC. She revealed a beautiful thank-you card from the RMC staff for Calhoun County Democrats’ providing a weekly meal over the past two years.

Top row: RMC COVID nurses surprise us with a wonderful 'Thank You' card

Bottom row: Beverly and Carsie join in on the photo; then, back at HQ - Sandy, Pam, Carsie, Beverly and Sheila. The card will be displayed prominently and proudly at HQ


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