First grader Anaya Ellick was born without hands, but that has not stopped her from having perfect penmanship. Anaya, who attends Greenbrier Christian Academy in Chesapeake, VA, won the Zaner-Bloser 2016 National Handwriting Competition.

Anaya took home the Nicholas Maxim Special Award for Excellence in Manuscript Penmanship at the competition judged by occupational therapists. The award is given to students in kindergarten through eighth grade who have a cognitive, intellectual, physical or developmental disability. Anaya competed against 50 other students.

Tracy Cox, Anaya’s school principal described her as a “hard-worker.”

“She is determined. She is independent. She is vivacious and a no-excuses type of young lady,” Cox said.

Anaya uses a special technique to achieve her perfect penmanship. Anaya places her writing utensil between her arms and stands at her desk in an angle which helps her write.

Bianca Middleton, Anaya’s mother, explained that Anaya’s effort at writing reflects her attitude towards life.

“She ties her shoes, she gets dressed by herself, she doesn’t really need any assistance to do anything,” Middleton said.


Jowelle M. is a college student interested in sociology, political science, and Spanish. Aside from academics, Jowelle enjoys blogging, reading, music, and spending time with family. She is happiest when she is working with others to improve the community.