JUNIOR JOURNALIST: Young writer’s 1st assignment is the Big Ten Championship

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Eastern Hancock sixth grader Lillian Kneberg got to cover the Big 10 Championship game as a writer.

Photo submitted

EASTERN HANCOCK — When Eastern Hancock Middle School teacher Erin Harmon saw a new student, Lillian (Lily) Kneberg, touring the building with her family last summer, the educator spoke with them and learned that Lily had a real love for writing.

When school started, Harmon had Lily in a sixth grade English class and quickly found the parents were not kidding about Lily’s gift for writing. Harmon noted she was particularly blown away with Lily’s use of sophisticated vocabulary and sentence structure — something not typical for an 11-year-old.

“I quickly found her stories are very elaborate and creative,” Harmon said.

That ability led the sixth grade student to a one-of-a-kind writing opportunity late last year as she and a select group of youngsters across the state were selected to take part in the Big Ten Junior Journalism contest.

One day when Harmon was working on projects with other sixth grade teachers for their students, they came across the contest, and Harmon immediately thought of Lily. The young girl applied for the chance to participate in the program, which allows young writers an opportunity to cover a Big Ten team like a professional journalist, and she was selected to take part.

Lily’s love for writing began back in the second grade when she started tinkering with words, she said. The middle school girl noted it’s always been pretty easy for her to see something in her mind and write about it in a descriptive manner.

“It’s kind of like a movie in my head,” Lily said. “Writing is really fun for me, but when I write, I want to feel like I accomplish something, so I purposely write.”

Harmon and Lily’s parents were a little shocked and excited when they learned Lily had been chosen as one of the 14 finalists to participate in the Big Ten Junior Journalism contest. Lily was paired with Purdue University to write an article about the school, players and football program. She did the research, player interviews as well as everything a sports reporter is supposed to do when covering an event or person.

“When I first heard I was selected, I was kind of shocked and then I was a little worried and wondered, ‘Am I even going to be able to do this,’” Lily said.

Not only did she craft a well-written story about the Purdue University football team, she was able to go to the Big Ten Championship game, as well as tour Lucas Oil Stadium where the game was played. She and her dad visited the VIP lounge, entered the main control room, saw the team tunnel, got to go out on the field, met some real news teams, and watched the Boilermakers play from 11 rows back on the 50-yard line.

“It was really neat to find out there was an opportunity like this out there for me,” Lily said. “I never knew there was a chance to do something like this, but now knowing it’s out there, I could see me doing something like this in the future.”

Lily started her story by explaining exactly what a Boilermaker is and how the team got it’s mascot. She then went into the team’s origins, including highlighting the success the program has had. Lily also added quotes from players and finished by letting the players talk about what a game day experience is like.

Harmon then helped edit the story, providing feedback after Lily produced a first draft.

“She revised several times to get the piece just right,” Harmon said. “She also had the opportunity to work with high school student Austyn Sutton to discuss how to smoothe out her transitions and work to condense her article.”

Lily’s father, Robert Kneberg, was thrilled his daughter got the opportunity to showcase her skills at such a high level.

“She can definitely write better than I can,” her father said. “When you read her stuff, it’s almost like an adult was writing it.”

In addition to being a top-notch writer, Lily is also an artist and is able to convey messages well, the family said.

Lily’s mother, Veronica Kneberg, noted her daughter is talented but also extremely in-tune with other people’s feelings.

“She’s got very good intuition, and she’s careful to a fault when it comes to thinking about how someone else feels,” her mother said. “That helps her with her descriptive and creative writing and that helps her make characters more in-depth.”

Lily says writing is just a part of who she is. Now that she’s written and completed her first sports article, she’s already on to something new. Lily has been working on her first book, a story about a dragon who is traveling through different parts of the world no one knows about.

“I’m already on chapter three,” Lily said. “Along his travels, the dragon comes across obstacles and has to dodge them.”

To read Lily’s article on Purdue University football, titled “Kings of the Field: Boilermaker football,” visit https://d13etxi6sgquip.cloudfront.net/documents/PurdueBig-Ten-Football-Article.pdf.