First place YourTurn winner: Nathaniel Larson

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Spending a majority of the workweek in the windowless basement of a library can be slightly isolating. Fortunately, Lynda and I broke out of what I lovingly call the dungeon this morning for a quick trip to Southwest High School in Minneapolis.

Our mission: Celebrate Nathaniel Larson, the talented teen writer whose unique voice has caught the attention of multiple judges during the past three YourTurn contests. Most recently, he scored the first place prize of $100 for his story about his neighborhood, Linden Hills, which is published on our website and in the May issue of the magazine.

Rewind a few months. Last fall, Nathaniel earned the $30 third place prize for our YourTurn question about teens and technology. His essay reminds us that technology can never replace the power of a good teacher. That essay was also published on our website and in the December issue of the magazine. For our winter contest, we asked teens to give President Obama some advice. Although his essay telling Obama that high-quality education is the strongest investment this country can make didn’t place in the top three, it landed a spot as a top-ten finalist — among 209 submissions — and was sent to the offices of Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken.

During our visit, we were also able to thank Southwest English teacher Bob Rees for having his sophomores — including Nathaniel — enter the YourTurn essay contests this year. In the spring contest alone, three of his students won prizes or honorable mentions.

For a sophomore who foresees a potential career in engineering, Nathaniel certainly has a gift for writing. His study hall teacher, Wendy Earl, was quick to remind him that the higher up you go in any career, the more critical it is to be able to communicate well through writing.

Thanks, Nathaniel, for getting us up out of the basement and reminding us why we do the work that we do down here.

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