Student Work Published in New York Times Anthology

In the spring of 2019 when Lila M. ’23 was in 8th grade, she was selected as one of twenty-seven runners-up in The New York Times Annual Student Editorial Contest out of more than 10,500 submissions.
Each year, the contest challenges students aged 13-19 to make a persuasive argument in 450 words or fewer on a topic that is meaningful to them. At just 14 years old, Lila was one of the youngest to be honored with her essay titled “China: It’s Time to Meet Your Daughters.”

Now, Lila’s winning essay appears in a new collection curated by The New York Times titled Student Voice: 100 Argument Essays by Teens on Issues That Matter to Them. Her work was selected from among the previous five years’ essays (totaling more than 43,000 submissions) and she was one of only 9 students to be interviewed by the author for the book. Of the compilation of work, Lila says, “It was nice to see what other students were writing about and how they approached the contest. Everyone has a different take on the world and their own unique writing styles.”

Lila’s editorial focuses on China’s one-child policy which was implemented over the span of more than thirty-five years and its impact on generations of families. The policy not only prevented millions of births but, as Lila writes, “given the cultural preference for male children,” forced the abandonment of thousands of girls. In her very personal essay, Lila explains that she was one of these children “who ended up in an orphanage, ultimately adopted to be raised in America.”

Lila attributes much of her success in the contest to Campbell Hall’s middle school teachers who helped her explore various genres and develop her own voice. She says: “In Ms. Stockton’s 7th grade English class, we were introduced to so many different forms of literature - an autobiography, a play, a graphic novel, a classic. We got to see different writing styles and to learn more about why the authors wrote what they did. In Mr. Turner’s 8th grade English class we wrote poetry, editorials, narratives, journals - he just had us writing constantly. One thing that stood out was that we had to write a 100-word memoir. We learned the importance of quality over quantity. We had to be efficient with our words. In Ms. Pilon’s Social Justice for a Changing World, I learned about speech writing - making a claim and then backing up that claim. I learned how to make what you’re saying matter to someone else.”

Lila’s writing process for the contest employed passionately conveying her feelings while also making a persuasive argument. “I tried to take a political topic and personalize it,” she says. “It was important that it was not just all opinions, but that I found the balance between political and personal.”

Click here to purchase Student Voice and click here to purchase the companion work for educators.
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