Working Together for a Bright Future

Vineland High School senior wins award in state writing contest

One Vineland High School senior can now add award-winning author to her resume after recently being awarded a Certificate of Merit in the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English (NJCTE) annual High School Writing Contest.

Aminata Bangura, a student in Vanessa Rasmussen’s Creative Writing class, submitted a short story entitled “The Stolen Win” to the contest. The story centers on a man named Luke, who has recently been fired from his job as a journalist in New York. Not only does he need to find a new job, he must do it quickly due to the eviction notice on his apartment. But Luke's fate changes when, on the subway, he sees something fall from a man's pocket. He slyly pockets it, only to find out later it's a lottery ticket. But not just any lottery ticket: a winning one. Now that it's in Luke's possession, is it really his, or is it just a stolen win?

For Aminata, story ideas come naturally.

“When Mrs. Rasmussen gave us our short story assignment, I had a couple ideas locked down,” she said. “But overall, I thought it would be really interesting to write about someone who found a lottery ticket and kept it instead of returning it back; the phrase ‘finder’s keepers’ coming to play in such an immense situation. Sort of like a John Quinones "what would you do" idea, but instead of doing what is right, the main character does the opposite.”

Although writing comes naturally, the win was still a surprise for Aminata, who hopes to continue writing as a hobby.

“The first thing I did when I found out I won an award was gasp in shock,” she said. “I was actually surprised, because I haven't really written that many works. But to find out my story was honored, I felt very accomplished. Writing isn't my future career choice, but something I want to continue doing on the side or as a hobby. To be able to write something that others can connect with wholeheartedly or feel emotional impact, just like I do when I read, is an ultimate life goal of mine.”

The contest, open to all high school students in New Jersey, focuses on encouraging NJ students to write independently and well in response to a challenge outside of the classroom. The NJCTE hopes to foster growth in self-awareness and perseverance in visiting and re-visiting individual literary works to prepare them for entry in a competition. Aminata is one of only 11 students in the state to win an award in the Short Story category. She is also one of only two students from South Jersey to win in any group. An additional seven students each won in both the Personal Essay and Poetry categories. The winners will receive their awards at a reception on April 11 in Scotch Plains, NJ.

The full list of winners can be found here: