Lauren Hand, an eighth-grader at St. Pius V School in Melville, won a national award on Thursday. She was named the eighth-grade grand national champion in the Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. NewsdayTV's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost; Kendall Rodriguez

For many young students, cursive handwriting is a lost art form, dismissed in favor of typing assignments on school Chromebooks or on educational apps.

But for Lauren Hand, an eighth-grader at St. Pius V School in Melville, cursive is a craft of precision, patience and practice. And one in which the 14-year-old is without peer for her grade. 

On Thursday, Lauren was named the eighth-grade grand national champion in the Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest, which attracts nearly 80,000 student applicants in kindergarten through eighth-grade each year, competing in print and cursive handwriting. She's also the only winner from New York in any age group.

"I was shocked," she said of winning the award, which comes with an engraved trophy and a $500 cash prize. "I couldn't believe it." 

Lauren Hand's winning entry.

Lauren Hand's winning entry. Credit: Zaner-Bloser

Winning the contest is no small feat. Lauren first had to best all of the participating eighth graders at her school before winning a state-level contest and then advancing to a national competition where judges select nine grade-level champions and semifinalists.

All students are required to write the required sentence: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” because it contains every letter of the alphabet, officials said. Winners are selected based on four keys to legibility: shape, size, spacing and slant of the letters.

“Research tells us what handwriting can do to support cognitive development and better academic outcomes,” said Lisa Carmona, president of Zaner-Bloser, an educational-resource company. “That’s why we’re committed to recognizing those schools that encourage the use of manuscript and cursive, and the students who work so hard to master it.”

Sister Rose Marie Miller, Lauren's eighth-grade teacher, said her prized pupil's wizardry with a pencil doesn't just stop in handwriting class.

"She makes every homework assignment impeccable," she said. "You could just photocopy it and think it's right out of the book."

At St. Pius, nearly all assignments are performed by hand — no pun intended.

"We find it's easier for the children to memorize when they write in handwriting, especially in cursive," Miller said. "Handwriting is important because it develops character. It helps them to be their own person and develop their own unique character and style. And with all the practice and repetition it also develops self discipline, which is something we really try to inculcate in the students."

Lauren, who hopes to become a kindergarten teacher one day, has found other ways to utilize her impeccable penmanship, honing her skills as artist who is now learning calligraphy.

"With practice, I've gotten better over time," she said. "And I just think it's calming to write."

On Thursday, Lauren demonstrated her technique, writing for a pair of Newsday reporters the same passage that was required by the contest. She proceeded slowly and with purpose, paying close attention to the line while rarely lifting her pencil too far from the paper.

The key, Lauren said, is fairly simple: "focus on the writing."

And as for that handwriting class, Lauren showed off her final paper Thursday. Not surprisingly, she scored a perfect 100.

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