A Westchester High School student is one of several Los Angeles area students who were recently honored in the city’s African American Heritage Month Writing Competition.

Shannon Polee, a senior at Westchester High, earned second place in Division III of the writing contest with her piece, “How Far We Have Come!”

Held for the fourth year in a row, the contest is designed to expose youth across Los Angeles to the important role literature plays in society and history, a spokesperson for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. Students from sixth to 12th grade classrooms throughout the county were asked to explore African American history in an essay themed “African American Empowerment: Remembering the PastÖWriting the Future.”

From over 500 submissions — the most ever received in the competition — nine student authors were selected by a distinguished panel of artists, celebrities, and community leaders to be honored by Villaraigosa.

“The potential of our youth here in Los Angeles inspires me everyday,” said Villaraigosa, who announced the contest winners March 5th.

“It is an honor to be able to reward their talent. I am proud of each and every contestant and I hope they continue to strive for excellence in a creative and nurturing environment that will allow more students the opportunity to flourish.”

The program began with students participating in a question and answer session moderated by master of ceremonies Kel Mitchell and featuring a panel of guests including Grammy Award-winning rapper Common, ABC7 reporter Amy Powell, author David Hollaway, Fox 11 News anchor Christine Devine, entrepreneur/philanthropist Sheila Starks, and members of the 2010 Super Bowl-winning New Orleans Saints, Robert Meachem and Marques Colston.

The writing event was a collaborative effort between Villaraigosa’s office, the city Department of Cultural Affairs and Time Warner Cable.