January 5, 1998
photo courtesy of the Yorioka family
by Deborah Stone
This year's grand prize winning essay in the Seattle Times "Follow a Leader" contest was written by fifteen year old Polly Yorioka of Mill Creek. Yorioka, a tenth grader at Cedar Park Christian School, chose to do her essay on Eric Nalder, Chief Investigative Reporter, for the Seattle Times. Yorioka's school will receive the grand prize of $5000 for her efforts, and Yorioka herself, will be given a $1000 U.S. Savings Bond for her future education. The "Follow a Leader" contest is held yearly by the Times and it encourages students to choose one of twenty five community leaders listed on which to write an essay.
Yorioka decided to enter because she felt her school could use the money, if she won,and also because she simply enjoys writing. She says, "My school is small, but it's growing, and I know they need new supplies to keep up with the growth. I thought it would be great if I could help out somehow." She chose Eric Nalder because he is a writer, and writing is a favorite pursuit for her, too. The investigative nature of his work intrigued her. "I think Mr. Nalder has an interesting job, and I admire how well he does it," says Yorioka. "Before writing my essay, I went on-line and read some of his past articles. I was impressed with how clearly they were written and the amount of research that he did. His series on HUD scandal was very good because it exposed the truth to the public. Because of his articles, there are now changes being made."
Yorioka's essay emphasized the power of the written word and its ability to enlighten people. She also stressed the need for a good education to become an effective writer and the importance of learning to students today. Yorioka was able to meet Nalder at the awards luncheon and found him to be friendly and very approachable. He shared information and thoughts about his job and was, according to Polly, very easy to talk to.
It was at the ceremony that she learned she had won the grand prize. "I was very surprised and thrilled!," says Yorioka. "Then I had to go up and read my essay to everyone. Because I didn't know ahead of time that this was going to happen, I didn't have time to get nervous." Cedar Park Christian School has not decided how they will spend the prize money yet, but they are delighted with the award and proud of Polly. Copies of the essay were passed out to the teachers, and Polly read her essay to the students.
Nina Yorioka, Polly's mother, is equally proud of her daughter. She says, "I was so delighted when she won. The contest is great for kids. It encourages them and gets them excited about various careers and lets them see the contributions that people can make to the community. Polly didn't know that much about journalism before. Now it's opened a new door for her, a possibility in her future."