Six Swarthmore Students Receive Honors in National Russian Essay Contest

by Sera Jeong '14
Cyrus Newlin '15, Peter Nilsson '15, Pravin Barton '15
Cyrus Newlin '16, Peter Nilsson '15, and Pravin Barton '15 display their awards.

Naoki Tokoro '16, Abigail Holtzman '16, Cyrus Newlin '16, Lillian Jamison-Cash '15, Pravin Barton '15, and Peter Nilsson '15 received distinctions in the Fourteenth Annual ACTR National Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest, for Non-Heritage Learners Level One and Level Two. The contest was administered by the American Council of Teachers of Russian, a professional membership association for American teachers of Russian language and literature founded in 1974. This year's contest saw 946 essays submitted from 57 universities, colleges, and institutions.

Judges evaluated essays according to content length, lexicon, syntax, and structure. The contest, divided into multiple levels of difficulty, places multiple winners for each level. Naoki Tokoro '16 won first place in the Non-Heritage Learners Level One category, only one of two first-place winners and the College's first winner at that level.

Holtzman and Jamison-Cash received Honorable Mentions for their Non-Heritage Learner Level One entries. Newlin, Barton, and Nilsson were awarded Honorable Mentions for their Non-Heritage Learner Level Two entries.

The contest, a class requirement for students studying Russian, instructed entrants to respond to the prompt, "Compare yourself now to how you were four years ago."

Lillian Jamison-Cash, Naoki Tokoro, and Abigail Holtzman
Lillian Jamison-Cash '15, Naoki Tokoro '16, and Abigail Holtzman '16

Holtzman, a first year student who had not studied Russian before taking it this year, described her daily routine in high school in her essay. 

"It was useful and beneficial to see that we had clearly learned a ton," the Newton, Mass. native says. "It was nice to see that we had acquired the language to express ourselves on the topic."

Newlin, an intended Russian and political science double major from Oberlin, Ohio, took two semesters of Intermediate Intensive Russian this year. Achieving recognition in a Russian essay contest revitalized the language for Newlin. "It reminded me that I am studying a language, culture, and region that I love," he says, "not just a textbook."