OGDEN -- High school senior Vincent "Vinnie" Anderson doesn't think of himself as a writer.
But lucky for him, his English teacher does, and so does the National Council of Teachers of English, which recently awarded Anderson the 2009 NCTE Achievement Award in Writing.
The Two Rivers High School student came to the alternative high school as a sophomore without much hope for a bright future, but now things have changed.
"It's good knowing I still can accomplish things," Anderson said of winning the award and the other success he has found at Two Rivers. He said he was an excellent student in elementary school and then in junior high things fell apart.
"I was expelled in ninth grade," Anderson said. As he started getting involved at Two Rivers, he changed his attitude and knew it was the best fit for him.
"I don't think I would have made it at a normal high school," he said with a smile.
His English teacher, Cassie Cox, also is glad he came to the school. He has been in her English classes for the last three years.
She said she was bursting with pride when he won the award, but wasn't surprised, because of his talent. She knew he had something special in him even in 10th grade. "Even then he stood out. He is outstanding in so many ways," Cox said.
Cox is a member of NCTE and noticed the contest last year. Only one student can apply for every 500 students in a school, and she knew Anderson was the one she wanted to enter the competition.
"Vinnie is amazing," she said.
Anderson had to write two pieces for the competition, one in advance as a "polished piece," and another he wrote in a timed setting with writing prompts. Cox was given the prompts before the contest, but wasn't allowed to share them with Anderson, which was hard for her.
"I was very flattered," Anderson said of his win, which took place eight months after the competition. He did the timed piece last spring.
"Ms. Cox really helped. I never would have known about it. It was purely inspired by her," Anderson said.
As Cox has taught Anderson over the last few years, she has watched his writing evolve and she likes to use him as an example of excellent writing in her classes. "Everything he writes, everyone wants to read," Cox said. She has noticed he has learned to read like a writer.
"He looks at the author's craft and mimics it in his writing," she said. Anderson doesn't know what he will do with his writing beyond high school. His first love is animals and he wants to do something in that line of work, but one thing he does know -- he will be going to college, and he attributes that decision to Cox and his experience at Two Rivers. The school's policy of all students earning As, Bs or Fs, and nothing in between, has been motivating for him. He hasn't ruled out the idea of freelance writing on the side, though. It's just lately that Anderson has started writing for fun; mostly he has written for school assignments.
"I like to please my teachers with what I write," Anderson said.
More than 1,700 entries were in the NCTE writing competition nationwide and 500 were chosen, just five of them in Utah. Allyson Canonico from Weber High School also won the award.
Winners received a certificate and special papers to put on college resumes saying they won the award. Cox had Anderson's award framed and is proudly displaying it in the school until both Anderson and Canonico are honored by Weber School District at a board meeting in November.
"I wanted something nice to keep it in," Cox said of Anderson's framed award. "It's been an unforgettable three years."