Hyde Park 5th grader wins statewide letter writing competition

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (left) poses for a photo with Hyde Park resident and St. Thomas the Apostle School 5th grader Akosua Haynes, who was awarded first place by the Illinois Letters About Literature contest for a letter she wrote to “Hidden Figures” author Margot Lee Shetterly that won. –Photo courtesy of Kenyetta Giles Haynes

By JOSEPH PHILLIPS
Staff Writer

Hyde Park resident and St. Thomas the Apostle School 5th grader Akosua Haynes was awarded first place for a letter she wrote to “Hidden Figures” author Margot Lee Shetterly, which was entered into the Illinois Letters About Literature contest in April.

Haynes said reading Shetterly’s book “Hidden Figures,” made her more excited about becoming a NASA astronaut.

Haynes, whose letter was chosen out of over 2,000 Level I (4th-6th graders) participants statewide, will represent Illinois in the Level I National Contest. The national contest will take place online on the Library of Congress website with a winner being announced on May 29.

In the letter, which Haynes wrote to Shetterly in August 2017, Haynes said, “Becoming an astronaut had been my dream, I met Mae Jemison when I was four and have dressed up as an astronaut for at least four Halloweens.”

Haynes said she also challenged her friends to read Shetterly’s book in order to gain access to her birthday party.

“I finished your book on the train ride back from Carbondale [Illinois] just five days before my Hidden Figures – themed 10th birthday party,” said Haynes in the letter. “I made up a rule and told my friends that if they wanted to come they had to read at least two-thirds of your book so that we could have an interesting discussion.”

There are three categories in the Illinois Letters About Literature contest, they included Level I: Grades 4–6, Level II: Grades 7–8 and Level III: Grades 9–12.

As the Illinois Letters About Literature contest Level I winner, Haynes also received a $200 cash award and her school received $100 to help purchase materials for the school’s library.

Should Haynes win at the national level, she will receive $1,000 for her participation in the contest. There are also $200 awards given for second and third-pace winners.

j.phillips@hpherald.com