Marina del Rey Middle School eighth-grader Chanel Velasco has earned a third-place finish in the seventh- and eighth-grade division of the City of Los Angeles’s third annual African-American Heritage Month creative writing contest.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined 200 middle and high school students engaged in writing workshops and panel discussions Tuesday, February 19th, to announce the winners of the creative writing contest.

This year’s 300 contest entries were the highest number of any previous city Heritage Month writing contest.

The students came from local public, charter and private schools across Los Angeles County.

The contest was designed to expose youths to various creative writing styles and show how they can be used in everyday life and possibly as a career, a Villaraigosa spokeswoman said.

Prior to the awards ceremony, the 200 students who attended participated in a breakout session facilitated by WriteGirl, a local organization that brings professional female writers to mentor teenage girls. The students then joined in a question-and-answer session with a panel of authors and scriptwriters.

In a departure from past writing contests, students this year were asked to research and write about one of the following figures from African-American History: Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of African American History Month; Benjamin Baneker, clockmaker and astronomer; Marian Anderson, opera singer; Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female pilot;

Noble Virgil and George Johnson, founders of the Lincoln Motion Picture Company; Phillis Wheatley, poet; Ralph Bunche, political scientist and Nobel Peace Prize winner; the Little Rock Nine; Biddy Mason, former slave and local entrepreneur; Paul Williams, architect; and CJ Walker, the first African American millionaire and inventor of the Pressing Comb.

The competition was a collaborative effort between Villaraigosa’s office, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Recreation and Parks.