By Cary Shuman
Ava Bertino may have a future career as a writer because she certainly has a present and by present, we mean a gift for writing.
Bertino, a fourth grader at the Cummings Elementary School, won the top prize in the 2011 Will McDonough Writing Contest. Of the 250 fourth graders statewide who entered the contest, Bertino’s essay was deemed the best by a panel of judges from The Boston Globe and Bank of America. The late Will McDonough was a prominent sports columnist for The Boston Globe.
The contest is designed to encourage the development of language and writing skills while incorporating the topic of sports and such concepts as leadership, teamwork, respect and perseverance. The essay is judged on topic development, organization, style, and mechanics.
Bertino wrote about a special needs student and the challenges the girl faced when she tried out for a cheerleading squad. The essay was titled “Jill’s Tryout.”
“Ava’s essay was outstanding,” said Michelle Gormley, director of education at the Sports Museum, who coordinated the writing contest. “Her essay showed a tremendous amount of empathy and caring toward students with special needs. It also provided excellent examples of courage and determination.”
Bertino received a $100 U.S. savings bond and a large plaque engraved with her winning essay. She was an invited guest at a Boston Celtics game and received her award at a pre-game reception. Ava’s essay is on display at the Sports Museum’s Will McDonough exhibit on the sixth floor of the TD Garden.
Brian Gill, principal at the Cummings School, congratulated Bertino on her achievement.
“Ava is just a fantastic all-around kid,” said Gill. “She is helpful, respectful, generous and kind and works tremendously hard to achieve. This is a well-deserved award for an outstanding essay and an excellent student.”
Dawn Letterie, Ava’s teacher at the school, praised her talent and drive.
“Ava is an exceptional writer and a very creative artist,” said Letterie. “She always works hard and tries her very best and she does very well academically.”
Ava, daughter of Town Finance Director Michael Bertino and Robin Bertino, took her big victory in stride.
“I’m proud of my accomplishment because I really never won anything before, so I think it’s a really big surprise for me,” said Ava. “I want to thank Mrs. Letterie. I think she’s a great teacher. She is my favorite.”
Marc Van Buskirk, also a student in Mrs. Letterie’s class, received an Honorable Mention award for his essay on Boston Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin.
(Information from the Will McDonough Writing Contest press release and other sources was used in this story).