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Syracuse • A student at Syracuse Arts Academy winning a contest was no surprise to principal Jan Whimpey.

She already knew her students were talented, but having someone reinforce what you already know is always a good thing.

Eighth grader Tyce Petterson admits to being shocked when he received a letter telling him he was the 8th grade level winner of the video category for the 2013 Utah State Office of Educational (USOE) Equity Contest.

It was the USOE's 29th Annual Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. contest. Utah students were given the opportunity to submit essays or video's about King and the impact his legacy has had on their lives.

The theme for the 2012-2013 contest gave students the opportunity to write a 500 word essay or create a video of 3 minutes or less reflecting on one of King's quote: "In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct or struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline."

Students in Katherine Robinson's eighth and ninth grade at Syracuse Arts Academy classes were given the challenge of entering the contest. Tyce, who said he doesn't like to write and is more comfortable expressing himself through spoken word, was the only student at the school to submit a video instead of an essay.

He recruited friends and family to help with his project. Initially Tyce added Beatles music to the video, but when Robinson told him he could not use published music, Tyce took another route.

"My friend Noelle Bybee is a really good singer. She wrote a song just for my video. She came over to my house with her guitar and we recorded her singing," Tyce said.

He learned a lot about King in the process of making his video.

"He wasn't scared to get up in front of people, he was proud of who he was and his beliefs. From him, I've learned to stick with my stance and stand up for what I believe. I'm not scared to tell my friends, family or class what I think," Tyce said.

Robinson, Tyce's teacher, wasn't surprised by the award.

"When I saw the video, I thought we might have a winner," she said.

Tyce said he could not have completed the video without the help of friends and family, particularly his mother.

"She helped edit. She got everything to flow together; it was awesome. She showed me how to do everything. She was a good push," he said.

Robinson encouraged her students to enter the contest as way to help them learn to compete in the academic setting.

"These kids are all college-bound, and I think it's an important skill to learn," she said.

The competitive spark has been ignited in Tyce, and he has already written a limerick to submit in an upcoming poetry contest.

Tyce and all the other award winners throughout the state were honored at a luncheon on Jan. 15 at the Canyons School District Student Support Center.

Twitter: @sltribDavis

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