Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Student Spotlight: Laura Manna Winning Essay

Collage of photos featured below in blog

Memories Inspire Student’s Award-Winning Essay

Every writer gets it. The blank page. No ideas. Fingers that won’t type. What do you write about when nothing comes to mind?

Laura Manna presenting 
her winning essay
Rio Salado College computer technology student Laura Manna was facing this dilemma when she had to write a descriptive essay for an English assignment.

“I thought about a writer from BuzzFeed,” Manna said. “She couldn't think of anything to write about. One of her grandparents came from Malta. She Googled Malta and was dumbfounded by its beauty. She ended up writing a blog about visiting Malta, and eventually traveled there herself.”

Manna took the writer’s basic idea, and considered her own grandparents.

“I followed a similar thought process,” Manna said. “I started thinking about my grandparents and life in Mexico, but I didn't feel that there was enough story there.”

Manna then recalled some words of wisdom from her Rio Salado instructor.

“At the start of my English 101 course, my instructor Gail Dudley shared a tip about making the writing memorable,” Manna said. “Memorable made me think of memories. So then I expanded my memories of Mexico with those of coming to the United States.”

The idea for Manna’s essay, “Rain, Dirt and Sky” was born. Read it now.
snapshot of the essay

“My essay is a memory of simpler times,” Manna said. “It’s about remembering that even if we get caught up in our daily lives, we should appreciate and take in our surroundings and everything that comes with that moment.”

“I really cherish the memories of my grandparents because they were loving and patient,” she said. “I've been told I have an old soul and I like to attribute that to spending time with them in my early years.”

Dudley recognized the well-thought writing and poignancy of Laura’s essay.

“When Laura submitted this essay in my English 101 class, I knew it could be a winner,” Dudley said. “Laura is an exceptional student with an inquiring mind and a creative spirit.”

Image of Manna's awards and gifts for her achievement, including a Rio Salado mascot plushDudley encouraged Manna to enter the essay in the Maricopa County Community College's creative writing competition held each spring.

Manna’s story won second place in the essay category and was published in a booklet that included all the creative writing award winners.

“When I received the award, I was truly stunned,” Manna said. “It is very exciting to have my work shared and makes me feel proud and honored.”

In April, Manna and Dudley were invited to the creative writing awards dinner, where honorees read their works out loud to those in attendance.

Group photo of Manna with other honorees
Manna with other Maricopa Community Colleges student winners and Chancellor Maria Harper-Marinick
“Listening to Laura read was one of the high points in my career as an adjunct instructor for Rio Salado College,” Dudley said.

Manna also thanked Dudley for her support.

Dudley with Manna
“Gail gave me the confidence to feel that my work was worth being shared,” Manna said. “Her honesty and positive feedback helped me gain the motivation to push myself and attempt the creative writing competition.”

Winning an award has helped to boost Manna’s confidence as a writer and a student.

“I didn't have grand plans for college except for passing, but I believe now that I can do so much more,” Manna said. “This award has opened doors of opportunity. I see a better future.”

Contributed by Mira Radovich, Communications Coordinator.