Drum roll, please

PHS Students (L-R) Casey Nichols, Jazzie Cooper, Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and Seth Lansdowne visit the Alabama State House after attending the Alabama High School Literary Arts Awards ceremony in Montgomery. (Special/Connie Nolen)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

“I think you’ll want to read this,” PHS Senior Parks Haley said as he pushed the letter on University of Alabama stationery toward me.

Reading that letter announcing Haley’s hefty scholarship gave me palpitations. Parks greeted my wide eyes calmly.

“Parks, have you read this letter?” I asked.

“Yes m’am. I read it,” he said

“Did you have a reaction at home?” I asked. “Did you do a herkie or something?”

“My mother did,” Haley said grinning.

Announcing the scholarship to my senior competitive writing class, they lift up a cheer that Haley’s mom would appreciate.

Good news travels both quickly and quietly these days. “You’ll never guess what!!” is the text I receive from PHS Senior Samantha Ellis.

I respond, “What?” fully expecting a magazine cover idea from this fourth year literary magazine student.

Ellis informs me that she won second place in the University of Montevallo’s Jim Harrell Poetry Contest earning a $1,000 scholarship.

My students’ quiet announcements mystify me.

At least, the email I receive the next day from Writers’ Forum in Montgomery is marked urgent. This email reveals that PHS Senior Casey Nichols won a $500 scholarship as one of the six statewide senior portfolio scholarship recipients for the Alabama High School Literary Arts Awards. Not only was Nichols a portfolio and scholarship winner, PHS also had a nonfiction winner, Senior Seth Lansdowne and a poetry winner, Senior Jazzie Cooper.

Another email arrives from Sen. Cam Ward’s office inviting my student winners to come by the State House for a photo after the Alabama High School Literary Arts Awards’ ceremony.

In Montgomery, we’re greeted by members of Alabama Writers’ Forum who sponsor the High School Literary Arts Awards. After the ceremony, the Pelham High School contingency entered the State House. Sen. Cam Ward’s office staff greets us, and an enthusiastic Sen. Ward appears within moments. Sen. Ward invites the students into the Senate Chamber for pictures in front of the Alabama State Seal.

Taking the photos, I see fireworks going off in the smiling, confident eyes of my students. They may be cool and subdued, but a busy senator taking time for photos and congratulations convinces them that these writing awards are a very big deal.

Seniors winning statewide awards validate what we’ve taught them. PHS students can compete with the best—and there is nothing quiet about how proud they’ve made their community.