Next week, the week of the 24-29, students in both the middle and high school levels will be participating in the 39th annual Youngstown State University English Festival. Students from schools in Mahoning, Trumbull, and Columbiana counties in Ohio, and Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania, along with a few teacher chaperones, make the trip to YSU for this unique event. This year, the festival is held on Wednesday, April 26 for 10-12th grades and Thursday, April 27 for 7-9th grades. Each year, the Beaver Local School District takes a maximum of 30 students to the festival.
Even though the festival is not until the end of April, students participating still have a lot of work to do. Before anyone can take part, each grade level has a certain number of books that need to be read as well as quizzes that need to be taken. All books and their quizzes need to be completed two weeks prior to the festival. A week before the festival, a meeting will be held for all students going to YSU to pick up a map of the campus and their track letter, or schedule. Each “track” is designed to fulfill a student’s experience at the festival and, hopefully, be enjoyable for that student.
While each student’s schedule may be different, they are the same in some ways. All students begin the day together in Kilcawley Center for the “Welcome” speech. At about 11:30, students head to lunch and have around an hour to eat, socialize, or go to the bookstore. When the day is coming to an end, students meet back up with the rest of their classmates and chaperones for an awards ceremony in Kilcawley Center.
Awards that are given at the end of the day include not only those that are given for the activities students took part in that day but for the pre-festival activities. Pre-festival activities consist of the Candace Gay Memorial Essay Contest, English Festival Art Contest, and the Jeremy Salvner Memorial Music Contest. These pre-festival activities are not just contests, either. Each year, YSU invites guest speakers to talk to the students. This year’s speakers are authors E. Lockhart and Gene Luen Yang.
While English Festival may seem like a lot of work and boring, when you meet up with other schools on your designated day it is actually really fun and interesting. Not only do you get to compete for prizes and show off your writing skills, you get to meet new people and make new friends. Like my old English teacher used to say, don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself because there’s a 99% chance that you will never see those people again.