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Martin Luther King Essay Contest Cmu

18th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Awards

The 2017 Carnegie Mellon University Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards Winners

High School Prose

First Place: "Being a Minority in a School of the White and Privileged"
Djibril Branche, 16
Shady Side Academy

Second Place: "Gate No. 1"
Zihao Kong, 17
Winchester Thurston

Third Place: "Sono Con Voi?"
Adero Kauffmann-Okoko,17
Winchester Thurston

Third Place: "The 'S' Word"
Kristen Deasy, 17
Oakland Catholic High School

Honorable Mention: Katherine Davenport, 17
Shady Side Academy

Honorable Mention: "Eskimo Box Days"
Cherisse Tompkins, 17
Winchester Thurston

Honorable Mention: "Just Because"
Emma Steckline

High School Poetry

First Place: "We Are Americans"
Zainab Adisa, 17

Second Place: "I Am Not Wrong: Wrong is Not My Name"
Elsa Eckenrode, 18

Third Place: "Wide Tooth Comb"
Ciara Sing, 16

Honorable Mention: "Compliment"
Ruthanne Pilarski, 16

Honorable Mention: "Route 28"
Becca Stanton, 17

Honorable Mention: "Black Lives with Corrupted Minds"
Katerria Weldon, 17
Taylor Allderdice High School

College Prose

First Place: "Being Mexican-American Post-Election"
Melanie Diaz, 21
Carnegie Mellon

Second Place: "Dear Sir"
Christian Manaog, 19
Carnegie Mellon

Third Place: "Am I A Terrorist?"
Shamanta Mostofa, 21
University of Pittsburgh

Honorable Mention: "The Truth from my Chair"
Uduak Obong-Eren
Carnegie Mellon- Silicon Valley

Honorable Mention: "Mixed Girl Problems"
Julianne Mercer, 18
University of Pittsburgh

College Poetry

First Place: "Microdermabrasion"
Katherine Huang, 21
Carnegie Mellon

Second Place: "Whitewash"
Indigo Baloch, 22
Chatham University

Third Place: "some assembly required"
Javier Spivey
Carnegie Mellon

Honorable Mention: "The 'Dirty' Mirror"
Kyle A. Burnett, 22
University of Pittsburgh

Honorable Mention: "Birthright"
Theresa Abalos, 18
Carnegie Mellon

Honorable Mention: "Engineering 101"
Pragna Mannam, 20
Carnegie Mellon

“Best of” High School Winners

“Five Dollars”
Joshua Cagan
Fox Chapel High School

“I Am”
Nathan Walter
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart High School

“White Board”
Charity Anthony
Pittsburgh Science and Technology Academy

“Golden Tears”
Wells Watson
The Kiski School

“They Notice”
Christina Reed
Penn Hills High School

“Cultural Immersion in Morocco”
Jahonna Lipscomb
John A. Brashear High School

Hailey Bartlett
Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School

“A Man Who Had Given Us All Hope”
Kiersten Lee Ketter
Carrick High School

“Stereotypes' Effect“
Anh Nguyen
Woodland Hills High School

Mae Knight
Westinghouse High School 

“Middle Man”
Daniel Simmons
Obama Academy


Video: The 2016 Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards

July 28, 2016

Express Yourself: Writing Contest Encourages Exploration of Racial, Cultural Struggles

By Emily Stimmel

With racial tensions in America on the rise, it’s more important than ever to acknowledge our cultural differences. One way to address these differences is through writing — and with a month of school-free days ahead, high school and college students have plenty of time to get their feelings on paper.

Students throughout western Pennsylvania are encouraged to submit their poetry and prose to Carnegie Mellon University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards. Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker University Professor of English, started the awards program in 1999 to create a safe space for students to talk honestly about their shared experiences with discrimination.

“There’s a lot of heart in these awards and I think that’s one of the things that makes them special,” said Daniels.

Colorblindness was the theme of the 2016 winning prose entry by Taylor Thomas, a rising senior at Winchester Thurston. She won first place with her piece, “Black Tigers,” in which she wrote, “Colorblindness seeks to keep the voices of the oppressed quiet, and increase the volume of those who are comfortable with the status quo.”

Both personal narratives about racial and cultural differences and detailed reflections on Dr. King’s legacy will be accepted.

Winning entries will be published, and students will be invited to read their work at CMU on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, Jan. 16, 2017). Cash prizes will be awarded.

Interested students may submit their poetry or prose entries online as separate Microsoft Word attachments (.docx preferred). Entries should be no more than 2,000 words, double-spaced. Students may submit up to two poems. Email questions to Jim Daniels.

The deadline is Friday, Nov. 25.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards are sponsored by CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of English, Division of Student Affairs and the Office of the President.

Read last year’s winning entries.

Submit an entry.

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