Writing contest and memorial trail dedicated to Mary Katherine Coderre

Published 5:09 pm Sunday, August 31, 2014

Shirley Burnham / THe Prentiss Headlight—Dedication of “Katie’s Trail” at the New Walden Writers Retreat for the Environment & Arts. L-R: Katies grandparents Hank and Marlene Rivers of AK., Fiance’ Burnadette and Lincoln Coderre, Bryan Coderre, Philip Scharper and Julianna Smith, Katie’s mother.

Shirley Burnham / THe Prentiss Headlight—Dedication of “Katie’s Trail” at the New Walden Writers Retreat for the Environment & Arts. L-R: Katies grandparents Hank and Marlene Rivers of AK., Fiance’ Burnadette and Lincoln Coderre, Bryan Coderre, Philip Scharper and Julianna Smith, Katie’s mother.

Cash awards were presented to Lawrence County and Jefferson Davis County youth for their creative writing entered in a contest in memorial to the late Mary Katherine Coderre, a member of the organization, avid writer and nature lover.

Winners are included in three categories: Category 1 & 2 included grade 9 & 10 students; Grade 11 & 12 students, of PHS, BHS and Lawrence County HS, PCS and home school students residing in JDC or Lawrence County. Category 3 included all grade 2-6 students in the JDC Parachute Program.

Shirley Burnham / The Prentiss Headlight—Writing Contest Judge Dave Moormann, Eleanor Turnage, Cat. 3 1st place winner Olivia Boleware  (PCS) Cat. 1 2nd place winner Hailey Williamson (PCS), Jeff Davis SWCD Hope Daley, DEQ Project Coordinator Laura Beiser, Phil and Faleeza Scharper with New Waldens Writers Retreat.

Shirley Burnham / The Prentiss Headlight—Writing Contest Judge Dave Moormann, Eleanor Turnage, Cat. 3 1st place winner Olivia Boleware  (PCS) Cat. 1 2nd place winner Hailey Williamson (PCS), Jeff Davis SWCD Hope Daley, DEQ Project Coordinator Laura Beiser, Phil and Faleeza Scharper with New Waldens Writers Retreat.

Students could chose writing short story (fiction) or personal narrative (nonfiction) on the theme of nature and/or animals. Student entries were received Dec.15, 2013 through March 15, 2014 and winners received cash prizes.

Winners Category 1: 1st Place Andy Dupre (LCHS) 2nd place Hailey Williamson (PCS), 3rd place Naiga Johnson (BHS).

Winners in Category 2: 1st place Ruby Zuniga (LCHS), 2nd place Sarah Harrell (PCS), 3rd place Elizabeth Howell (LCHS)

Winners in Category 3: 1st place Olivia Boleware (PCS), 2nd Jade Barnes (Carver) 3rd place Slywenda Geeston (Carver)

Sponsors for the contest were New Walden Writers Retreat for the Environment & Arts Center, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, and JDC and Lawrence Co. Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Project Coordinators were Hope Daily (JDC) and Mandy Calaway (LC) of SWCD, Laura Beiser from the MS Dept. of Environmental Quality and Phillip and Faleeza Scharper Co-Directors of New Walden Writers Retreat for the Environment & Arts.

Judges for the contest included Dave Moormann of Denham Springs, LA who is a freelance writer and former LSU sports writer, and Katrina Byrd of Jackson, MS, fiction writer and playwright.

Shirley Burnham / The Prentiss Headlight—Contest Judges Dave Moorman and Katrina Byrd, New Walden Writers Retreat for the Environment & Arts Director Philip Scharper,  Carver Parachute Teacher Ellen Smith and contest winner Jade Barnes of Carver Elementary, contest winner Naija Johnson of BHS and her teacher Patrice Carter, Laura Beiser of MS Dept. of Environmental Quality.

Shirley Burnham / The Prentiss Headlight—Contest Judges Dave Moorman and Katrina Byrd, New Walden Writers Retreat for the Environment & Arts Director Philip Scharper, Carver Parachute Teacher Ellen Smith and contest winner Jade Barnes of Carver Elementary, contest winner Naija Johnson of BHS and her teacher Patrice Carter, Laura Beiser of MS Dept. of Environmental Quality.

The contest celebrates the life and aspiration of 14 year-old Mary Katherine Coderre who lost her life in a car accident two years ago. Mary Katherine was a participant in several writing workshops sponsored by New Walden Writers Retreat for the Environment & Arts organization and was one of the young people who inaugurated the New Walden Woods Walk trail formed on the property with assistance of the Mississippi Forestry Commission.

“Mary Katherine was a true lover of nature, animals and the outdoors. She was a very talented, very outgoing and compassionate young person, whom we were gifted to work with and know,” states Co-founder and Director Philip Scharper of New York.

Mary Katherine’s mother, Juliana Smith, was the school nurse for Jefferson Davis and Lawrence counties for several years and is well known by many.

The trail is located on acreage purchased from Elsie Lee and her son Kenneth for the home of New Walden Writers Retreat for the Environment & Arts Center. There is the Langston house, a welcome center and writers retreat in a vintage home on the property that was once used for the “visiting” preacher. Solitude and silent enchantment of bygone history surrounds the center and the memorial to Coderre marks the trailhead of a nature walk through wooded natural land that holds perhaps rare virgin timber, woodland flora and fauna. A ribbon-cutting ceremony with Coderre family, friends and organization members was held to honor Mary Katherine (Katie) Coderre, dubbed as “Katie’s trail” and open the path to visitors. The property’s meadows, now reclaimed by nature, that once produced for the Lee family cotton, corn, soybean, poultry farming and cattle grazing are now given to inspire creativity of those who visit.

“We are all writers,” stated Scharper to the students gathered at Bassfield High School. “I believe this is the best alignment to the Common Core we can present because it is authentic and engaging, while demanding the highest standards of quality, thinking and production.”