Cicada Scott Advances to Final Round in Scholarship for Essay Focusing on Gender

Kaitlyn Cashdollar, Reporter

Cicada Scott (12) was selected as a finalist to win a $2500 scholarship for writing an essay on the impact society had on who they are today. The story uses To Kill a Mockingbird as a base prompt, and uses how society shapes the characters in the book as a comparison to how it has impacted them personally. Mrs. Rockenbach really pushed her students to do they essay, and submit it. There was a word limit of 500 words, so the students didn’t have a lot to work with. “It’s about our history, but its also about things that are going on in society today. To Kill a Mockingbird is about the segregation and discrimination and prejudice that takes place with african americans, but it’s a similar theme with whats happening today in a lot of areas,” Mrs. Rockenbach said about the book.  The winner will be elected using a public vote starting on April 11, and Cicada’s essay, titled “Congratulations! It’s a Mockingbird” will be posted on the Facing History Together website, and the like is below.

This opportunity first caught Cicada’s eyes when they saw advertisements on twitter, but they only got serious about it because Mrs. Rockenbach pushed them so hard to apply. Mrs. Rockenback has a huge passion for To Kill a Mockingbird, and had her entire class apply for the essay.  She said, “I thought it would be a great opportunity for [the class] because we have such a unique community. The essay was about how your community shaped your identity, and they had to relate it to the characters in the novel, and how their community really shaped them, and we just have such a unique community that I thought they would have a lot to say about that.”

In their essay, Cicada compares many of Scout’s problems with facing sexism with their own experiences. “Most of what I wrote was from personal experience. What I was writing about, since I’m non-binary, I noticed a lot of what Scout was going through was similar to what I was going through, even though it wasn’t specifically supposed to be about transphobia. So I was making connections between that, and between my personal experiences, and how that relates to today, and what I think this generation needs to focus on.”

Not only did Cicada compare the characters problems and personalities to their own, but they compared todays society’s problems and issues with the book as well. They noticed a lot of things that are wrong with the society in the book went hand in hand with todays conflicts. Cicada says, “To Kill a Mockingbird addressed a lot of social issues, like racism, and some ablism in there, but the main one that I focused on was sexism in it, because Scout is sort of androgynous. Throughout the whole story people are telling her, oh girls can’t do that, girls can’t do that, boys can’t do this, and she just defies all of that. I think that kind of goes hand to hand with her childhood innocence that goes throughout the whole story.”

A main part of this essay is about personality, and how society has shaped them as a person, and Cicada’s personality is very unique. They value their creativity above other things. In this essay, they had to incorporate many things about themselves, and their personality. Mrs. Rockenbach also has lots to say about Cicada’s personality. “Cicada is a huge contributor to our class. It’s a really advanced class where we analyze critically, where we talk about really big themes and social issues and Cicada has a lot to say. They look at things really really carefully, and I really appreciate that.”

In their essay, Cicada had to reference specific parts of their personality. Mostly, they focused on their gender. “I actually didn’t focus on growing up in this society, so much as I focused more on society’s general focus on gender and gender roles and gender binary. I was just talking about how that can do damage to trans people and how it can do damage to cis people as well,” said Cicada. “I don’t want to say that trans people are the most marginalized group. They’re the most marginalized group in the public eye right now. I’m sure there plenty more that are going to come in the future, and I just hope that things will be better for them. There’s a lot of transphobia and sexism in todays society, and people don’t even tend to notice it, or they’ll notice it and they’ll just move on. What I’m hoping is that by comparing it to this book, people can see that, no, we haven’t moved on from all of this and we need to stop looking at this as the past, and bring it to our future.”

Last year there were two parts of the competition, one where they submitted a video of themselves reciting their own poem, and then the To Kill a Mockingbird essay. There were only 14 finalist in the nation for this contest last year, and this year there are 17.

This essay is an honest piece of work that not only speaks greatly about Cicada as a person, but as well as their beliefs about society. Here is just a snippet of the essay, “Despite what my ultrasounds would tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever been a girl. That said, I’ve never been a boy, either – while I call myself trans, I’d like to think it’s not because I’m transitioning between genders, but that I transcend them altogether. I expressed this feeling from a young age, and fortunately, my parents were lenient about it. Even my community, being a small, liberal town, was okay with it for the most part. I could play with toy cars one minute, romp around in a dress the next, then wallow in the mud later that day and no one would bat an eye, at least to my face.” You can read the rest of their moving piece below, at the Facing History Together website. There, you can vote for their essay, and help them with the chance to win 2500 dollars.

Vote here: