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Daily Barometer: Van Winkle develops voice, gravitas in her writing

Posted October 22nd, 2012 by UHDS News

 UHDS’ Katie Van Winkle, an assistant coordinator for room management, was featured in a front page article in OSU’s student newspaper (The Daily Barometer) on Thursday, Oct. 18.

[The Daily Barometer, Oct. 18, 2012] — Just four minutes before the deadline Katie Van Winkle hit submit, entering her piece, titled “Speak Up,” into the Muhammad Ali Writing Award on Ethics competition. Little did she know the 10-page narrative that took her only three hours to write would become a finalist and receive an honorable mention in the Sala Kryszek Writing and Art Competition.
A self-professed “shy writer,” Van Winkle began to develop her voice and writing style in the seventh grade when her English teacher, now mentor, Charles Sanderson, took notice of her special talent. He encouraged and pushed her to enter writing pieces into state and national writing competitions.

“Sanderson made me more willing to experiment with my writing,” Van Winkle said.

Last spring, it was Sanderson who gave Van Winkle the information about a writing contest sponsored by the Muhammad Ali Center. This national writing competition is held annually and offers awards to college students who honor and uphold Muhammad Ali’s legacy of living a life dedicated to high ethical standards.

Among the judges for this contest was Elie Wiesel. Esteemed author and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Wiesel has made a huge impact on Katie’s life. After reading “Night,” Wiesel’s memoir about his experience during the Holocaust, Van Winkle began to understand the impact that stories and writing can have on others.

Van Winkle cherishes the opportunity to be judged by Wiesel.

“I feel really honored, he spoke up for his experiences and what he believes in,” Van Winkle said. “I read ‘Night,’ in high school and learned so much from it. I feel humbled and honored. I’d [like to] ask him about courage, about the importance of speaking up for the things that you believe in.”

This competition and experience has given her confidence in her writing and in the knowledge she can make a difference with her words.

Van Winkle has made a difference. When she received news from Sanderson that the book, “The House on Mango Street,” by Sandra Cisneros, was going to be pulled from her old school’s approved book list because it was considered to contain inappropriate content and language, she jumped into action.

She wrote an essay titled “Saving Mango Street,” which was published in the magazine “Rethinking Schools,” that then launched a letter writing campaign on Facebook. Van Winkle testified to the school board. Her efforts were successful. Van Winkle was able to help save the book that Sanderson had taught to her class years ago.

“[It] allowed the opportunity for valuable teaching moments about domestic abuse, violence against women and speaking out,” Van Winkle said.

Her winning essay — “Speak Out” — was a narrative tying together her personal experience with sexual abuse, her involvement with CARDVA (Center Against Rape & Domestic Violence) and her efforts to save “The House on Mango Street.” This ethics essay on women’s violence held a powerful message about speaking up and standing strong.

“If you don’t talk about it, people don’t know and can’t help,” Van Winkle said. “I don’t want people to feel like it’s their fault or that they can’t talk about it or that they are alone.”

Looking to the future, Van Winkle says that she wants to become a counselor and to work with women and children who have been affected by domestic violence. She plans to continue to express herself and to communicate through writing.

“It is easier to communicate through writing verses statistics or numbers; writing really gets people to think [about] things or to change or to react,” Van Winkle said.

Those who have a story to tell, need someone to talk to or have experienced sexual abuse can contact CARDVA or CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services).

“Basically, everybody has a story,” Van Winkle said.

Read the original story by reporter Brytann Busick.

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