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Local girl places in statewide writing competition

by RACHEL SUN
Staff Writer | December 1, 2020 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Some writers start their careers at a young age, and some when they’re older. For 7-year-old Liberty Hazard, it’s something of a family tradition.

Liberty, a Sandpoint resident, recently placed second for first-grade writers in Northern Idaho for Idaho Public Television’s PBS KIDS Writers Contest. Liberty previously won first place once before in the kindergarten category, her mother, Katy Hazard, said.

Her 2020 story, “The Bowl And Everything That Went In It,” was inspired by Liberty’s love of baking, she said.

To write her story, Liberty used a recipe from her family’s cookbook, she said. She also got some help with ideas from her two older sisters, who participated during the four years they were eligible and each previously placed in the contest at least once before.

Katy said the story is about a bowl that’s sad because it hasn’t been used for a long time. The bowl teams up with a spoon and, working together, they make a cake.

“I like to cook, so I thought it would be a good idea,” Liberty said. “It’s a common cake recipe we make.”

The writing program, which is in its 26th year, had a total of 154 submissions for 2020, according to a press release.

Katheryn Astle, IdahoPTV community education specialist, said some children made up completely fictitious stories and included illustrations, and some drew from real-life experiences.

“The stories were awesome,” Astle said. “A few of them made me laugh until I cried.”

Usually, winners are announced in the spring and meet in person in Moscow. This year, the contest was delayed, and there was no in-person meetup, so even though Liberty submitted her story for the first-grade competition in the spring, she only found out she won in October.

“She was really excited,” Katy said. “[Although] it was a little different this year.”

Even though winners were unable to meet in person, they still won awards and $100 for their IDeal 529 college savings account — the state-run college savings program in Idaho.

Christine Stoll, executive director of IDeal, said the program has been sponsoring the writing contest since 2017.

“We really believe the literature that writing and reading is so integral to a person’s future,” Stoll said. “When they write a story, it’s great to highlight that.”

IDeal chose to sponsor the writing contest in part because it supports children all over the state, she said. Winners were chosen in K-3rd grade in numerous locations across Idaho.

Stoll, who has also served as a judge for the contest, said the children who participate are extremely creative.

“They’re so funny, I’m just blown away,” she said.

Typically, there are around 36 winners, Stoll said. Over the past several years IDeal has awarded 115 accounts with $11,500. This year, 30 participants each won $100 in their college savings accounts for their stories.

By saving for college early, students are able to avoid student loan debt later on, Stoll said. In Idaho, the average student loan debt is about $27,000, and nationally it’s closer to $30,000.

“It’s really holding people back,” she said. “if you’re a young professional, it’s hard to buy a house or a car or move forward.”

With the state’s college savings program, she said, parents are able to contribute money to the program and write it off on their taxes. That money is invested, and can then be taken out later interest-free so long as it’s applied to qualifying expenses.

Money for the savings program can also be gifted and is tax-deductible, she said, as are contributions from employers. The deadline for those tax incentives is Dec. 31.

Several other children in North Idaho also won in their respective categories, including Maisie Chamberlin, Coeur d’Alene, Kindergarten; Cody Uptmor, Nezperce, first grade; Lillian Chamberlin, Coeur d’Alene, second grade; Leah Uptmor, Nezperce, third grade, and Audree Baldus, Nezperce, third grade.

Liberty’s story, along with the other 2020 winners, can be found at idahoptv.org/kids/writers.