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Out of hundreds of participants, Paideia High School student Tabitha Cashion won first prize in the Jacob Friedman Holocaust Writing Contest. She attended the awards ceremony in Gig Harbor, Washington, during the Yom Hashoah: Holocaust Remembrance Day Program, where she was honored by survivors and members of the community for her work.

Ilana Cone Kennedy, the Director of Education at the Washington State Holocaust Education Resource Center, had informed Tabitha that she’d won by saying, “Your entry clearly stood out to the judges and we commend you on your thoughtful piece.”

“The ceremony was pretty amazing,” Tabitha said. “Some of the Holocaust survivors thanked me personally.” She’s sixteen, shy and intense, a student at a small, innovative high school. She has a deliberate way of speaking that is both thoughtful and to-the-point, until she’s asked about her favorite musicians. Then she gushes a list of old heavy metal bands like Judas Priest, Metallica, Nightwish, and so on.

For her inspiring work, Tabitha received a certificate and a $100 prize. She first heard about the contest when her mother, Stephanie—a para-pro at Loon Lake Elementary—suggested she write something for the contest. “It was an opportunity to speak her mind,” said Stephanie. “We are very proud of her.”

Her unnamed essay reflected on the causes of the Holocaust and was cleverly interspersed with her own personal struggles: health problems, bullying, being an outsider, and quotes from heavy metal musicians. “She’s an awesome young lady who took it upon herself to do this,” said Paideia Principal, Loren Gilson. “She’s educating herself, which is what we strive for at our school.”

Back home, Tabitha plans on spending the prize money on video games and CDs. She’s currently editing a novel, two years in the making. She attends Paideia High School in Valley.

In this photo: Tabitha Cashion

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