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Mira Costa Senior Earns Statewide Honors for Literature

Mar 31, 2020 01:16PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Killian Hynes, a statewide honoree in the PTA Reflections contest

Mira Costa High School senior Killian Hynes has earned a top statewide prize for literature in the annual PTA Reflections contest.

Hynes, who competes in the "Special Artists" category, is nonverbal and communicates through writing. That hasn't stopped him, however, from being among the most-honored young writers in California.

Hynes won the "Award of Merit," or second place in this year's competition at the state level. This is the second year in a row that Hynes has risen to the top for his writing. He placed first in the state in last year's contest, and went on to win Honorable Mention at the national level.

"I write not only for school or for fun, but to communicate my every thought," said Hynes, who communicated with DigMB through email. "I am non-verbal so writing is my way of life...It’s also how I process the world."

Hynes' winning entry, "My View from the Peak," describes a mountain climber who has reached the peak of a summit. He wrote the piece to reflect this year's contest theme, "Look Within."

"The specific metaphor of climbing a mountain was inspired by a recent motivational video I watched on YouTube," said Hynes. "In it, a climber persevered through obstacle after obstacle, overcoming dangerous and unsure challenges all the way, and throughout this he never gave up."

Hynes continued, "I took that inspiration and combined it with how I feel the journey is for students graduating high school. Not only do we overcome tremendous challenges but from the peak of graduation, all that work pays off when we can see so much more of the world and its opportunities than we ever could before."

Just to put Hynes' win into perspective: There were more than 30,600 total entries in the PTA Reflections contest across the the state of California. The local PTA districts submitted 484 entries to the state level (which is where Hynes took second place in his division). 

Teachers Who Inspire

Hynes credited Shannon Vaughan, his creative writing teacher at Mira Costa High School, for teaching him how to use a variety of literary devices.

"Beyond that, I also need a communication partner with me every day to help me write my thoughts, as I require shoulder taps that facilitate my brain to receive the proprioceptive information from my hand," he said.

Hynes wrote his winning entry last year about his aide, Chris Willemse, and Willemse's fiancee, Sandy Casey, an MBMS special education teacher who was killed in the 2017 Las Vegas shootings.

Hynes plans to attend college next year, although he is still settling on his final choice.

Looking Ahead

Lindsey Fox, the MBUSD PTA Council Reflections chairperson, called Hynes "amazing and brilliant."

Fox added that while Manhattan Beach schools are closed during the COVID-19 school shutdown, it would be a great time for students to begin work on entries for the 2020 contest. (The final due date for entries is in December). 

The theme for the 2020 PTA Reflections contest is "I Matter Because," and the categories include visual arts, dance choreography, music composition, film production, literature, and photography.

"It's a great project to 'reflect' on and create while at home," said Fox.

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