Catholic schools dominate writing contest

Students from Catholic schools swept a writing contest staged in honor of the bicentennial of Louisiana’s statehood.

St. Dominic’s Rachel Anselmo and Hannah Nguyen earned first and second place, respectively, in the Historic New Orleans Collection’s “18th Star Story Contest,” open to all seventh graders who attend schools in Orleans Parish. Third-place honors went to Madison Vise of Ursuline Academy.

The HNOC contest challenged students to examine a person, place, object or event that shaped Louisiana’s history through the writing genre of their choice.

Rachel retold the story of the Battle of New Orleans through the words of “Jacques” – a French-born soldier in the Louisiana militia. In a letter to his wife, Jacques relays battle anecdotes, such as how American soldiers were outnumbered by the British and were forced to build earthen ramparts as their defense.

The letter also describes the battle tactics of the Americans, who would take turns shooting in the front lines of the rampart before returning “to the end of the line to reload.” After witnessing the battleground death of British General Edward Pakenham, Jacques writes that he is “proud to be an American.”

“I used to feel more French than English, but now I feel more American than French,” he writes.

Hannah’s second-place winning piece focused on Louisiana’s $300 million crawfish industry, whose more than 1,000 farmers produce 90 percent of the nation’s total crop.

Hannah noted in her essay how some farmers grow rice and crawfish at the same location by harvesting their rice crop while the crawfish are safely underground in their burrows, then flooding the fields to lure crawfish out of their burrows to feed on the leftover rice. Her research noted that it takes 90 days for a baby crawfish to reach market size, and that a crawfish has a life expectancy of up to three years.

Madison documented the many voyages of Canadian-born Sieur d’Iberville by writing a fictitious deathbed diary.

Iberville, who was sent by King Louis XIV to claim the Mississippi River Valley for France, established Fort Maurepas, near Biloxi; Fort Mississippi, 54 miles north of the mouth of the river; and Fort Louis in Mobile Bay. Iberville, who was accompanied by his brother Bienville, writes that he was unnerved by the sight of “so many alligators that could bite your head off.”

En route to Louisiana a second time after a stint in the French army, Iberville contracted yellow fever and only got as far as modern-day Cuba.

“I had done my job for the king and named the land Louisiana, which in French was ‘Land of Louis,’” the dying Iberville writes. “With my good life remembered, I prayed to the good Lord in thanks.”

For more on the HNOC’s ongoing bicentennial exhibit, visit

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