Woodbridge High School students Renato Econa and Evan Marshall standing back to back

Renato Econa and Evan Marshall, 12th grade students at Woodbridge High School, faced many academic challenges in their 11th-grade dual enrollment English course. The two embraced these challenges, though, and that eventually led their work to publication.

For a class assignment, students had to examine a rhetorical term by researching its usage and development over time, and then apply it to two horror texts. Expanding on their original papers, Econa and Marshall drafted research essays, which were recently published in academic journals.

Econa's essay titled "Lessons from horror: The rejections and failures of arete" is in The Virginia English Journal, and Marshall's essay titled "Outsmarting monsters and murderers: An examination of Metis in horror literature" is in the Undergraduate Research Journal.

With the flexibility granted in dual enrollment courses, allowing students to explore concepts interesting to them, Econa and Marshall found success. English teacher Kyle Trott designs assignments, including this one, to encourage students to succeed.

"That's something that I enjoy about the dual class and teaching it is that we have opposite sides of the [academic] spectrum. They can both do that same stuff," said Trott. "My pedagogical purpose is just to get [students] to recognize one that they have a voice. It's a powerful voice, and it is something that they can employ."

While the course set them up for success, it was ultimately Trott who motivated the students to further their work. Econa and Marshall agreed they would not have made it as far without his support.

"I'm just glad Mr. Trott motivated me because I would have never thought of submitting my essays or anything," said Marshall.

Trott saw growth in these students from their reading to writing, perseverance to character. As an educator, he was wowed by their efforts and proud of their accomplishments.

"You know, I just tried to get out of their way as much as possible and let them realize that they have so much potential and power and energy to do a lot," said Trott. "I was thrilled and blown away by their publications and their ability to do that."