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Valley Journals

Seventh-grader Kate Kaufman contemplates solutions to tomorrow’s problems

May 17, 2018 02:25PM ● By City Journals Staff

Kate Kaufman recently took third in an international writing contest. (Photo courtesy Kate Kaufman)

By Heather Lawrence | heather.lawrence@mycityjournals.com

Kate Kaufman, a seventh-grader at Olympus Jr. High, recently placed third in an international writing contest. The contest, sponsored by Future Problem Solving Program International (FPSPI), asked contributing students to imagine a problem that might be faced by the world in the future.

Kate’s response showed incredible insight for a student so young. “My story is fictional and takes place in the year 2178. It’s about a man who works for an international company dedicated to eradicating disease, similar to the World Health Organization,” she said. Kate foresaw that solving the problem of diseases might bring about new problems and bio-ethical dilemmas. 

“In my story, they get so good at curing diseases that the world becomes overpopulated. That created another problem. How do you decide how to control population and diseases?” In essence, who is saved, when do you let nature take its course and is it always good to prolong life by curing disease?

Kate’s integrated science teacher at Olympus Jr. High is JoAnne Brown. As part of the curriculum in Brown’s class, all students must participate in an extracurricular project. “We use 20 percent of class time on personal projects,” said Brown. One of the project choices was the FPSPI contest. It was familiar to Kate; she had entered twice before in fifth and sixth grades. Submitting an entry was part of the curriculum in her magnet class at Morningside Elementary.

“Kate is self-motivated and an amazing writer. She tied her writing into the science curriculum. She’s very thoughtful, and has a mature way of looking at problems,” Brown said.

The program recognizes winning essays in first to fifth place. Though her previous entries didn’t garner a win, she got feedback on her writing. Submissions are judged against a grading rubric, and judging sheets are made accessible after the judging is completed. In addition to the rubric, judges make specific comments on what they like and what can be improved. This feedback was helpful to her writing process in this year’s submission.

Kate is in the youngest level of the middle division, which includes seventh- to ninth-graders. Three weeks after the February deadline, she learned she had won at the state level. It was another month before she heard the results of the international contest.

“I was at home and my mom was gone. I was trying to get my computer to reload (so I could see the results),” Kate said. When she saw that she had placed third, she called her mom “and just screamed!”

Kate’s mom, Rosie Kaufman, couldn’t be more proud. “I’m so happy she got recognized!” she said. “She worked so darn hard. After her first write-through, she started over at least three more times. Then there was a lot of fine-tuning. Every word mattered and was carefully chosen. What she learned about the writing process is invaluable.” 

Kate is enjoying her success and gaining confidence in her abilities. She loves school and learning, and loves writing. But in addition to schoolwork, she is a dedicated dancer, spending many hours a week dancing with Ballet West Academy. Her summer plans include several ballet intensives, and even more writing.

“I’ll definitely enter more writing contests. Definitely. I’ve always loved writing. If I’m a good writer, it gives me hope for my future. My dad has taught me the value of an education.”

As part of the win, Kate is invited to attend an awards ceremony this summer. In addition, the top five scenario entries are published in a book each year. Future applicants can look through these to learn what a winning entry looks like. Kate’s entry will be included in the book, which is available to purchase. “My family will definitely be getting that book,” Kate said.