A Chesapeake, Virginia, third-grader has won two national awards for her exceptional skill in handwriting. That's pretty remarkable on its own — except there's also the fact she was born without hands.
On April 26, 9-year-old Anaya Ellick was named the winner of the 2018 Nicholas Maxim Award, part of the 2018 Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest. The award recognizes special-needs students who develop a mastery over handwriting.
Ellick was born without hands on either arm and does not use prosthetics, according to a news release from the contest. Instead, she has learned to hold a pencil between her arms to draw and write.
Two years ago, she made headlines across the world when she was named a winner in the contest's print category. For 2018, she won again for her mastery of cursive script.
To be eligible for the Nicholas Maxim Award, the entrant must have a cognitive delay or an intellectual, physical or developmental disability, and a team of therapists judges each entry, according to a news release for the awards.
Tracy Cox, the principal at Greenbrier Christian Academy, where Anaya is a student, told ABC News it was her idea for Anaya to enter the contest in 2016.
"She is a hard worker," Cox told ABC News. "She is determined. She is independent. She is a vivacious and a no-excuses type of young lady."
After her first win, the contest organizers said in a news release that Ellick was determined to practice her cursive and come back to win the award a second time.
“Anaya does not let anything stand in her way of reaching her goals,” Cox wrote after Anaya won the 2018 award. “She ... has some of the best handwriting in her class. Her determination is inspiring and contagious to all of us at Greenbrier Christian Academy.”
Anaya's teacher Sarah Cannaday told WVEC that Anaya is a role model to other students.
"Her classmates see her and see her doing the same tasks they are and they are often amazed that she can do just as well as they do, sometimes even better," Cannaday told the station.
I’m proud because it encourages her ... for her to see that hard work does pay off," Anaya’s mother Bianca Middleton told WTKR.
Anaya's dad Gary Ellick told the station Anaya had always been independent. "It was always like ‘I can do it.' So, that just carried on over the years," he said.
Anaya was honored at a school assembly Wednesday, and the school shared photos of her with her new trophy and examples of her writing.
But another victory notch in her belt doesn't mean she's slowing down. Besides, winning the contest "wasn’t really hard” anyway, Anaya told WTKR.
So what's next on her plate? Sports, she told the station.