Over 50 years ago Westminster, Avon Old Farms, Loomis, Kingswood Oxford, and Suffield Academy created a league with various academic competitions. A few years ago, all but one of the competitions were abolished, and the WALKS essay competition for AP U.S. History (APUSH) continued on. Every year these five schools pick two winners to advance to the finals, and from these ten, awards are given out to the best of the best. Kingswood Oxford’s two representatives this year were juniors Ahana Nagarkatti and Braden Flowers.
This year’s question was: “Which duties of the president have seen the most frequent use of Executive Orders? How much has the presidential use of Executive Orders strayed from the Founders’ vision of the role of the president?”
Each year one of the five schools hosts a dinner and chooses the topic that the students write about. Once a topic is chosen, the students write the essay and submit it to be read by their teachers. Once the teachers read their students’ work, they choose which one goes on to be judged by a non-AP teacher. Most of the students who write the WALKS essay are in APUSH classes, but they do not have to be.
History Department Chair Peter Jones said that Braden and Ahana answered the question the best this year. “This was the hardest year to pick because the essays were all very good,” he added. The most important part is making sure all three parts of the essay are addressed. “In their essays, students should address the topic from three points: the Founder’s intentions, examples throughout the first 200 years of the Constitution’s being ratified, modern-day issues,” Mr. Jones said. “This year’s topic was quite lengthy and included two parts.”
Writing the essay was a long process for Ahana. “I ended up writing and rewriting my essay numerous times before its final iteration,” she said. “Before even sitting down to write it, I had to compile pages and pages of scholarly sources and evidence to support my thesis.” Additionally, she talked about how she would not have been able to succeed the way she did without the help of history teacher Rob Kyff. “Mr. Kyff gave me a lot of great constructive criticism throughout the copy-editing process, and without his guidance, my paper would not have been half as good,” Ahana said. It took her about two months in total, and her final draft ended up being around 18 pages long.
Braden spent the majority of his spring break working on the essay. He spent up to two hours working on it every day of break. For Braden, he is interested in politics and thought the topic was very interesting. “I’m into history, politics, and government,” he said, “and this essay was an opportunity to really explore that.” Since the topic covered a lot of information, he enjoyed some parts more than others. “I enjoyed writing about the delegations of power,” Braden said. “It’s such an obscure idea that I knew nothing about going into this, but as it turns out, it’s incredibly consequential. It was really interesting to learn about and write about.”
While everyone who entered the competition undoubtedly worked very hard, Braden and Ahana’s essays stood out. Even with the coronavirus, their hard work will not go unrecognized, as the traditional dinner is planned to happen in the fall. “I worked hard on the essay and did a lot of research, so it was really great to be recognized for that,” Braden said. Ahana shared this sentiment. “I had worked really hard to write the essay, and the competition was stiff,” she said. In spite of the coronavirus, both Ahana and Braden’s hard work did not go unnoticed, and this competition will continue to recognize amazing writers.