Winners of the 2012 Idyllwild School Charles Dickens essay contest are honored by classmates, teachers and the Mary Austin Scholarships and Grants Program ambassadors on Thursday. Photo by Shane Fender

Winners of the 2012 Idyllwild School Charles Dickens poster contest. Photo by Shane Fender

The world celebrated the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, one of the most renowned authors in the English language, on Tuesday, Feb. 7. At Idyllwild School, however, it was just another day in another year of annual celebrations of Dickens and his life.

This is the seventh year of the annual essay and poster contest that Doug Austin launched in 2006 with his now-deceased wife Mary. The Austins created the contest to promote literacy among the school’s students.

Each year, students are asked to memorialize Dickens and his literary contributions with art or words. “It has become a tradition that the kids are looking forward to,”Austin said. “And, the children are reading Dickens!”

Austin, a Dickens double at local festivals and events, speaks often of his and Mary’s commitment to Dickens’ core goals of promoting social justice and removing barriers to success rooted in class prejudice. Since Dickens came from humble beginnings and still was able to fuse literacy and artistry to achieve enormous success at a very young age, the Austins believed Dickens’ story could resonate with and inspire Idyllwild students.

The 2012 Idyllwild School Charles Dickens Essay and Poster Contest winners are listed in the accompanying box.

Referring to the winners, Austin said, “This was just such quality work. Everyone was so talented.”

2012 Idyllwild School Charles Dickens

Essay and Poster Contest winners
Essay winners
First place: Destiny J. Griesgraber, 8th grade
Second place: Max Swanson, 8th grade
Addison Wilson, 7th grade
Third place: Kubrick Hannah-Diaz, 8th grade
Natalie Quintero, 7th grade
Poster winners
First place: Hannah Hardy, 8th grade
Second place: Audrey Carver, 7th grade
Edgar J. Santiago, 8th grade
Third place: Micah Hitchcock, 7th grade
Yasmin Morales, 7th grade
Sable Summerfield, 7th grade

Excerpt from Destiny Griesgraber’s first-place essay:
“Charles Dickens wrote the novella, “A Christmas Carol,” as an attempt to create societal change. His was a time of great disparity between the haves and the have-nots. He contrasts the abject poverty of the have-nots with he callous prosperity of the haves who are completely devoid of the Spirit of Christmas. This essay will examine Dickens’ classic story to determine what devices he used to accomplish his goals and evaluate their effectiveness. … Throughout this work, Dickens uses an array of larger-than-life figures to confront the existing social structures of this era. Only the wealthy were safe from the inhumane punishments imposed upon the poor. In fact, one of Dickens’ relatives was incarcerated for not paying a required fee. He [Dickens] tries to strike fear into the hearts of the rich by showing the horrid afterlife of Scrooge’s former colleague Jacob Marley. His chains are the result of his greed, selfishness and misdeeds.”

Destiny is an eighth-grade student of Patty Carratello, Idyllwild Middle School teacher.