Notre Dame de Sion students expand horizons, receive accolades from New York Times’ contest

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This week's reaching for excellence report features huge accolade for nine local ladies.

The New York Times named the juniors from Notre Dame de Sion High School winners and finalists in its "Learning Network's 2016 Student Review Contest." The concept was to expand their horizons from food, to art, even architecture, and then express their opinions.

“We just went for it and we had a brief brainstorming session, and they had no problem coming up with really neat ideas," said Casey Engel.

Engel chairs the English department and says the thought of entering was a no-brainer. The school librarian saw the contest first, then Engel and her inquisitive group jumped in with both feet, trying something new; ranging from eating at a new restaurant to tackling difficult literature and art projects

One of them came out on top as the winner of the entire thing. Morgan Hickman is one of the 10 overall winners.

“I was really surprised because I even like forgot about the contest because we had a long Christmas break,” she said.

She submitted her analysis on the book Lolita, which is a story about the relationship between a younger woman and an older man.

“I just kind of wrote about the controversy in the book,” she explained.

She was surprised when she returned from the Christmas holiday.

“I logged on to the website and immediately I saw one of our names under the winning category and so I thought, ‘wow, ok!’" Hickman said.

It wasn't long before the announcement came over the school's public address system.

“I heard my name and it was pretty awesome, everyone was like cheering,” she recalled.

“My pure excitement turned into, 'yeah, this is Sion girls, this is what they do,’" said Engel.

There was a lot of excitement for Meg Schwartz, too. She, along with another student were named runners up -- out of 24 other students across the nation. Her assignment was visiting an art museum in the Big Apple.

“I was kind of dreading it, actually, going in, so I think i'm more open minded to art now and it just opened up my mind to what an art exhibit can be," she said. “They completely transform the whole room into art. They paint the walls, ceilings the floors."

The project opened her eyes to a whole world she never really had interest in.

"I'd love to go back, especially since they change it so often," she said.

Six other students from the school received honorable mentions. Hickman -- one of the young women picked as a winner-- says she wants to design street wear and high fashion.