• Rachel Ponce de Leon
  • St. Pius X Catholic High School, rising senior
Rachel Ponce de Leon

Throughout high school, Rachel Ponce de Leon has astonished teachers and peers with her writing.

Every November, Rachel challenges herself to write a 50,000-word novel within the month. She also likes to write short stories and poetry in her free time.

Her perseverance and talent are reasons she was nominated to enter the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Achievement Awards in Writing program. Requirements of the nomination were enrollment in AP English courses and a general knack for writing.

Carrie Stockard, her English teacher, called Rachel’s writing strong and honest.

“It is beautiful, of course, but Rachel observes the people around her and even herself with a remarkable objectivity and a clear eye that allow her to see right to the heart of every individual,” Stockard said. “She greets every situation with her eyes and her mind wide open, trying hard to see the story that it has to tell her.”

At one point, English teacher Jan Collier picked 10 or so students she thought were above-average writers and gave them each “super secret” assignments to see who she would enter for the NCTE writing award. Collier, along with other English teachers, narrowed the contestants to Rachel and her friend Molly Hildreth. Both students sent in portfolios of pieces they had written.

More than 1,100 students across the globe were nominated this year for the award. There were four winners from the state of Georgia and 274 across the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, and American schools abroad. Rachel was the 37th St. Pius X student recognized with the honor since 1969.

Rachel said she was sitting in the school library one day when Molly came in and complained that the computer link showing the contest results didn’t work. Molly moved on, but Rachel hit the computer and figured out how to look up the Georgia winners. She saw she had won.

Rachel had to hold in her excitement until later that day, however. When she looked around the library, she realized she didn’t recognize anybody. She had nobody to tell.

What’s Next:

Rachel would like to pursue writing as a career in the future. She would enjoy going to college somewhere like Georgia College and State University to pursue a degree in writing.

–Lauren Duncan