SKOKIE, Ill., June 18, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Under the spires of the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Va., Rand McNally Friday awarded two Grand Prize winners from among 12,000 essays submitted in the "America the Beautiful" short essay contest. Caitlin Shelby of North Forsyth Middle School, Cumming, Ga. was selected from the 7th - 9th grade division, and Sarah Dean, of Hudsonville High School, Hudsonville, Mich. won for the 10th – 12th grade group.
The two Grand Prize winners, announced from ten Finalist winners at the event, each receive a $10,000 college 529 savings plan in addition to a NOOK Tablet™ by Barnes & Noble, and a three-day WorldStrides DiscoverNow! trip to Washington, D.C. Barnes & Noble and WorldStrides are primary sponsors of the program.
The schools of the Grand Prize winners each receive $5,000 worth of classroom products from Rand McNally.
Additionally, as of the event, the Grand Prize winners and the eight other Finalist winners, had their essays published by Rand McNally in an "America the Beautiful" e-book available exclusively on NOOK.com.
Launched in March, "America the Beautiful" asked this simple essay question: What's the one place in the U.S. that truly inspires you? Subjects ranged from hometowns to the special memories about places visited, to meaningful landmarks. The program included lesson plans for educators, activity guides to assist student writers, and correlations to the Common Core State Standards.
Shelby, an 8th grader and the middle school Grand Prize winner, wrote about a special family link to Sharps Chapel, Tenn., in an essay entitled "Our Secret Stillness."
"Here, here is where my blood was born, where the ghosts of my soul still wander through the rustic buildings which they grew from pitch. Here the timeless churning of their creek still reaches its crescendo comes every downpour, and each dawn awakens with dew-clothed hills and the lingering taste of heavily sweet smoke. They call this place Sharps Chapel, the former word a surname of my ancestors, but I call it the keeper of my soul," wrote Shelby.
Dean, a 10th grader and the high school Grand Prize winner, wrote about New York City in her piece called "Beyond the Scars."
"While iridescent rays of sunshine fused with the sapphire blue of the ocean, miles of skyscrapers stretched along the horizon. Captivated, I started to picture what it must have been like for the millions of people before me to reach New York City. For them, however, it had been more than just a city. It signified freedom, hope, life. This realization gave birth to a deep pride within me, to know that my country was a place of refuge and a beacon of hope for so many," wrote Dean.
Joining Rand McNally for the award festivities at the Air Force Memorial were program sponsors Barnes & Noble, the leading retailer of content, digital media and educational products, and WorldStrides, the global leader in accredited educational travel programs.
"Today you are all published authors," Jim Hilt, Vice President of e-books at Barnes & Noble, to the students, noting that the ten Finalists were published in a free e-book on NOOK.com. "We hope that you continue to hone the skills you've so obviously developed."
The students also heard from Jamie Gerber, CFO of WorldStrides – which provided a three-day tour of Washington, D.C.
"During your time in Washington, you were able to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King delivered his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech. We hope that your experience in Washington, and with this contest, emboldens your own dreams," Gerber said.
Dave Muscatel, CEO of Rand McNally, noted that his company launched the contest to promote pride in the United States as well as highlight Social Studies – a subject hit hard by school funding woes.
"By encouraging kids to write about a 'place' this program was able to weave social studies content back into core curriculum, as well as to get kids feeling good about their country," said Muscatel. "The quality and the breadth of topics this contest generated were inspiring, and far exceeded our expectations."
Rand McNally will publish a second e-book on NOOK.com with the 100 winning Semi-Finalist essays.
A complete list of winners and contest details can be found at bestoftheroad.com/education.
About Rand McNally – Rand McNally is the most trusted source for maps, directions, and travel content. Rand McNally's products and services include: Road travel review site bestoftheroad.com; Interactive travel referral service, tripology.com; America's #1 Road Atlas; and TripMaker® RVND™ GPS for RVers; IntelliRoute® truck routing software and navigation devices; TruckPC and the TND™ 760 Fleet Edition mobile communication solutions for the transportation industry; and the leading geography-based educational resources for the classroom. Consumers, businesses, truckers, and educators depend upon Rand McNally to help navigate today's world. randmcnally.com
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About Barnes & Noble, Inc. – Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE:BKS), the world's largest bookseller and a Fortune 500 company, operates 691 bookstores in 50 states. Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Barnes & Noble, also operates 641 college bookstores serving over 4.6 million students and faculty members at colleges and universities across the United States. Barnes & Noble conducts its online business through BN.com (www.bn.com), one of the Web's largest e-commerce sites, which also features more than two million titles in its NOOK Bookstore™ (www.bn.com/ebooks). Through Barnes & Noble's NOOK™ reading product offering, customers can buy and read digital books and content on the widest range of platforms, including NOOK devices, partner company products, and the most popular mobile and computing devices using free NOOK software. Barnes & Noble is proud to be named a J.D. Power and Associated 2012 Customer Service Champion and is only one of 50 U.S. companies so named.
About WorldStrides - WorldStrides is the nation's largest and most trusted student travel organization, having inspired more than four million students with interactive and educational travel experiences across the United States and worldwide. Founded 45 years ago by a Chicago school teacher, WorldStrides has grown to a team of more than 450 professionals in the United States and the UK dedicated to delivering life-changing experiences and improving the way students learn. WorldStrides' group travel offerings fall under four major brands: WorldStrides DiscoverNow! programs, WorldStrides Heritage Performance programs, WorldStrides Capstone programs, and Casterbridge Tours. In addition, WorldStrides introduced its New Worlds Emerge programs for individual travelers at the high school level in 2012.
SOURCE Rand McNally