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ISBN: 9781935552017
Contest Winners #238
Write a letter to the author responding to their story
Writing Contest Winners

1st Prize
Focus on Empowerment

Dear Aishamanne Williams,
Your article, “Speaking My Truth,” opened my eyes to a constant problem in our society that I believe must be acknowledged and changed. I have seen in media and even among my friends that when a black woman with strong opinions and an unapologetic demeanor tries to express herself, she is often labeled an “angry black woman.”

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Like you, this also makes me angry. Even though I am not black, I am still a woman of color who has been told that I constantly “rant” about racism and other issues, even though I am only trying to inform and educate people. Being aware about social issues shouldn’t make a person seem aggressive.

Recently in one of my classes, my friend (the only black person in that class) voiced her opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement and racism in general. Although I was in awe of how passionately she expressed her thoughts, other classmates dismissed her and said she always brings race into the discussion. I was shocked by their ignorance because how is race irrelevant when discussing discrimination? How is dismissing the thoughts of someone who faces it firsthand reasonable?

I am glad that I read your article because connecting with you on the internal conflict of overcoming preconceptions about being an opinionated woman of color made me see that I wasn’t the only one who feels dismissed for speaking up. Your words have encouraged me to ignore those who try to discredit my opinion and instead focus on empowering others and spreading awareness. Thank you for writing this article and bringing attention to how these stereotypes are still connected to the deeper roots of racism in society.

Manuljie Hikkaduwa, 15
CSI HS for International Studies
Staten Island, NY

2nd Prize
I Want a Voice Like Yours

Dear Hande,
I’d like to start off by commending you for writing “When I Lose My Virginity Is Up to Me.” In a period of so much political uproar, when many women feel like their rights and bodies aren’t being protected, it’s inspiring to hear a girl speak out against societal expectations. The topic of sexuality is one people often avoid addressing, but you didn’t hesitate to; that’s really admirable.

I wish I had known what you know now when I was 14, so I could have preserved my virginity and self-esteem. But unlike you, I was misguided. I gave into the pressure of sex when I wasn’t ready, which left me with emotional pain that still resonates today. My boyfriend at the time was 18, which made it easy for him to have a strong influence on me. He made me feel like I was supposed to have sex, that it was my job to satisfy him. I was afraid he would leave if I didn’t, and I thought this was love.

Looking back, I wish I had known that if someone pressures you like that they don’t really love you. I wish I had known manipulators often disguise themselves as friends and that the only person I needed to “satisfy” was myself.

But I’m happy to say I’ve learned. And in the future I want to have a voice like yours. I want to give girls the confidence to know they can, and should, make their own decisions about when to have sex, because at any age it’s important to stay true to yourself—and it’s OK to wait.

Jacqueline Skidmore, 18
Shawnee Mission North HS
Kansas City, MO

3rd Prize
Confronting Fat Discrimination

Dear Dear M.M.,
I was really able to relate to your story, “Too Fat or Too Thin.” I have not experienced pressure from my family to be a certain weight, but I have received several comments from classmates and friends about my appearance. They have said things to me like, “You used to look better when you were thinner.” It seemed like they were more interested in hanging out with the thinner me compared to the one who’s at a body weight that is more comfortable for me. It makes me think about our society and how we determine a person’s worth on their physical appearance.

Thin people are generally considered beautiful, motivated, active, healthy, athletic, and smart. Larger people are assumed to be sluggish, lazy, incompetent, clumsy, embarrassing, and not as attractive. People want to be friends with thin people. I believe that teachers and employers think more highly of thin students/workers. When we talk about discrimination, we often include examples based on gender or race. We often do not think about the discrimination that occurs on a daily basis due to size.

M.M., I am glad your family does not make comments about your weight anymore. It was brave of you to express your thoughts and feelings to them and advocate for yourself. You inspired me to stick up for myself and not surround myself with peers who would make negative comments to me about my weight. To increase society’s awareness on this issue, I hope that more and more people who have experienced discrimination due to their weight will make their stories heard.

Deborah Basoto, 18
New Road School
New Brunswick, NJ

Runner Up
Domestic Violence Doesn’t Discriminate

Dear Anonymous,
I was glad you shared your story, “It Can Happen to Anyone.” My story has several similarities, but thankfully, as a 17-year-old high school student, my parents were able to provide protection even when I didn’t see a need.

Like your mom, I was a happy, outgoing person. I liked nice clothes and hanging out with friends, but shortly after I started dating my abuser he was telling me what to wear, while slowly making sure any other friendships were destroyed. He would tell me that I was lucky he decided to date me, because no other guys would ever want me. He called me names and accused me of cheating. The crazy thing is, he had a way of making me believe it was my fault. He completely destroyed my self-esteem.

Fortunately, like your mom, I too had family intervention. Because of my age, my parents were able to stop any further contact with my abuser. Looking back, I can see why the relationship was dangerous, but at the time, I was devastated and heartbroken. It was not just the breakup, but the fact he was walking the halls with a new girlfriend the very next day. I believed I would never recover.

Thankfully, I’m better now. Not everyone’s so fortunate. It was only after the relationship ended that I discovered I was not alone. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the United States and one in three women and one in four men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner. You’re right; it can happen to anyone.


Contest #238 - Honorable Mentions
Angelyne Acevedo, Michael Adinolfi, Jillian Umahag Andres, Rachel Aranyi, Jasmine Balderas, Kayleigh Barr, Ritika Bhattacharjee, Parker Blessing, Saida Bogdanovic, India Boone, Kayla Brown, Chloe Burke, Samantha Burns, Yaquelin Rodriguez Castro, Tahiyat Chowdhury, Michael Cupelli, Melissa De La Cruz, Kavisha Desai, Nathaly Diaz, Emma Donnelly, Vague Dorvil, Brianna Fisher, Danielle Fisher, Caitlin Garcia, Rosina Ghebreyesus, Dominique Goddard, Adam Goudjil, Makala L. Griswold, Julianna Guitian, Mary Hartnett, Brittany Hasiak, Lauren Hogan, Genevieve Iacoviello, Shauna James, Bailey Katsumata-Smith, Elaina Kietzke, Peter Klimek, Brooke Kraus, Hailey N. Laczko, Paul Lee, Megan Liew, Angelina Lin, Kamila Lipka, Lisa Lozano, Paulina Madziar, Bella Manas, Anya Martinez, Logan Mason, Lauren Milisci, Angel Nyaga, Lynnsey O’Connor, Matthew Pecoraro, Abbi Pettinati, Robert Popov, Felix Resto, Justin Rivera, Lucero Robles, Alysa Rodriguez, Angelina Santoro, Nylie Sauffian, Kayla Saunders, Suhaib Siraj, Alexis Smith-Caswell, Rachel Minina Speis, Emily Steele, Kitty Tang, Sabrina Tatarskaya, Julian Tato, Alexis Vega, Gzime Vukovic, Mckenzie Wheeler, Nathalie Wijerathna, Michella Wise, Janice Wong, Lana Yannotti, Sofia Zlotolow, and Eric Zwierzynski.

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