Go Behind the Scenes of This Year's Winning Student Essays!

Posted by Stacey Perlman on May 30, 2018

student contest winners

Facing History and Ourselves is proud to announce the three Upstander Scholarship winners of the 2018 Facing History Together Student Essay Contest! Thanks to a generous contribution by Holland & Knight, these three received $5,000 toward tuition fees for college. This year’s theme, which was connected to the documentary film, American Creed, asked students to tell a story that they believe shows the power of uniting people, building bridges, or orienting us to what we share and the common good.

Go behind the scenes to read about what inspired these three to write and share their personal stories and what they plan to do after graduation. And make sure to check out the rest of the 2018 Upstander Award winners, who each won $1,000 along with a $250 cash award for their teachers to be used on a classroom project!

Maud T. - "Right and Just"

“I felt inspired to write something about Traian Popovici because he has always been sitting at the back of my mind. When I was in eighth grade I remember that my grandmother was upset that I had not gone to look at a picture of him on a school visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I didn’t understand her reaction at the time, but as time progressed I realized the impact he had on her life and on my life, and because of that I decided to write an essay on him. It was nerve racking to write an essay that had the possibility of being read by so many people but especially my grandmother. It is mainly her story to tell and I was afraid that I wouldn’t do her story justice.

I hope that others can learn that there are people in history who do incredible things, things that are not always acknowledged and appreciated, but nonetheless incredible. I hope my peers can take risks and fight for what is right without the expectation of attention or praise.”

What’s next for Maud: “I will be attending Tulane University in New Orleans to study public health and learn how to make healthcare more equitable.”

Lechaun M. - "Talking With Water Balloons"

“I wrote about a small moment in my life that didn’t mean much at the time but in reflection changed the way I thought and acted a lot. Not many people can say they are good friends with people who don’t share the same language. I learned how to combat cultural barriers but also learned how seemingly different people can be very similar. I hope my peers can understand me more and see where I come from. A little moment in my life tells a lot about my personality

Identity isn’t a static thing. You don’t just get one personality and whoever you are right now is as legitimate as who you once were and who you will be even though it’s fluid and changing. I hate when people say you have to grow up to discover yourself because there are so many elements of 'yourself' that you find along the way.”

What’s next for Lechaun: “I will attend the University of California, Los Angeles to study business economics with the goal of working in either economic policy or international business.”

Ashley G. - "Finding My Center"

“Speaking about the issues of the LGBTQ community are very important to me. I’m pretty much an open book and I felt like if I spoke my truth, I will make others comfortable enough to tell their truth as well. I have found a supportive community in my school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, which made me comfortable exposing my identity to the public. For a long time I was confused about who I was as a person, but being involved with the center, I learned a lot about who I am.

I hope others take away from reading my essay is that if you feel really strong about an issue in any community, go for it. Don’t stay in the shadows because if you don’t do anything, nothing will change. Also, be passionate about what you’re working towards and being apart of community you can relate to can be life changing. I encourage anyone struggling with their identity to take things step by step. There are places that will make you feel safe and support who you are so you don’t feel like an outcast. There are people like you and that’s what really matters.”

What’s next for Ashley: “I will be going to Fashion Institute of Technology for photography where I will use my art as an outlet to address social issues in the world.”

Thank you to all the students who submitted essays. Facing History was inspired by all of the stories that were shared. Make sure to check out all of the winning essays!

Read the Winning Essays

Topics: Student Voices

At Facing History and Ourselves, we value conversation—in classrooms, in our professional development for educators, and online. When you comment on Facing Today, you're engaging with our worldwide community of learners, so please take care that your contributions are constructive, civil, and advance the conversation.


Welcome to Facing Today, a Facing History blog. Facing History and Ourselves combats racism and antisemitism by using history to teach tolerance in classrooms around the globe.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all