Last updated: August 24. 2013 5:03AM -

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LIMA — Local students drew on very personal experiences when they wrote their Laws of Life essays this year. Several took home high honors at the state competition.



The Business Bureau Center for Character Ethics recently awarded 29 students and their schools more than $6,000 in prizes. Waynesfield-Goshen sophomore Linda Carol Spencer’s “Follow Your Heart” essay won the top state prize.



In Allen County, Alexa Nieman, of Lima Central Catholic High School, finished third overall. Rachel Painter, of Bath High School, received “Best Female Essay” honors. Both are seniors.



“There were so many essays and so many good ones there. I was just happy to be there in the first place. I was not expecting that honor,” Painter said.



Apollo Career Center senior Corey Paul also competed and landed in the superior division.



Wapakoneta senior Ross Kohler took home third place. Corbin Niese, of Miller City-New Cleveland, was the best eighth-grade male essay writer. He is the son of Chad and Lynne Niese.



The statewide contest, in its 13 year, is open to all Ohio schools or youth groups for sixth- through 12th-graders. Teachers select the best essays from their class or school and submit them to the statewide contest.



The contest encourages students to think about the people and experiences that have helped shape their principles. It challenges the students to write about what they believe in. A panel of business leaders, educators and community volunteers judged the entries.



Spencer used words of wisdom she heard from her grandfather in her essay. He died a few years ago but had taught her to follow her heart and do what she needed to do instead of listening to others. Spencer won $500.



Painter wrote about growing up in a strict religious environment and following the teachings of Branham, who called himself a prophet. He was known as a “women hater,” Painter said. She and her family no longer follow him.



“I wrote about growing up in that environment and how I had to develop my feminism through compassion, independence and excellence,” she said. “I could not think of anything more life changing than when I kind of freed myself from being oppressed because of my sex.”



Nieman wrote about her youngest brother, Nicholas. While a healthy 4-year-old today, he almost died soon after he was born.



“He had underdeveloped lungs and could not breathe on his own, and we thought we were going to lose him. Somehow, he made it,” she said.



Nieman’s essay urged people to appreciate the gift of life because it is taken for grant by so many people. Nicholas is also the reason Nieman wants to become a nurse and work with children.



“It’s because of the nurses that took care of him,” she said.



The finalists were chosen from 112 entries submitted to the contest from more than 4,300 essays written in the 39 schools that participated in the statewide contest.



Sir John Templeton created the contest in 1987 to encourage children to reflect and write about their “laws of life,” or the core values and ideals by which they live their lives.



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