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Albert Hill 6th grader a winner in Library of Congress essay contest

Isla Rodriguez, 6th grader at Albert Hill Middle School, earned a second-place grand prize award in the 2017 “A Book That Sha

Isla Rodriguez, a 6th-grade student at Albert Hill Middle School, has been named the second-place grand prize winner in the 2017 "A Book That Shaped Me" Library of Congress National Book Festival Summer Writing Contest.

Rodriguez wrote about the book “Hidden Figures” for the contest, which received more than 300 student essays from rising 5th and 6th graders in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia.Winners were celebrated at an event on September 2, and Rodriguez had the opportunity to read her essay to the author of “Hidden Figures,” Margot Lee Shetterly.

The book chronicles the long-overlooked contributions that African-American women made to NASA’s early efforts in the space program. Despite facing segregation and discrimination in the Tidewater region in the early 1960s, the high-level mathematical calculations by Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Dr. Christine Darden were critical to flight-path projections in the uncharted physics of space travel. Rodriguez wrote about the influence the book had on her and her mother, Holly Rodriguez.

The pair started a Facebook group call “Hidden Figures Sisterhood,” and attended a speech in Richmond by Dr. Christine Darden, one of the women featured in the book, however, not in the 2016 movie based on the book.

In her essay, Rodriguez wrote that the book inspired her to work hard to bring her math grade up to an A, and that it makes her want to “become an astronaut and do something that changes history.”In the 2016 contest, Rodriguez was the Virginia state-level winner for her essay about the graphic novel "March," by John Lewis.