The 2015 Narrative High School Essay Contest Winners

“Where I’m From and Where I’m Going”

Since Narrative began, it’s been central to our mission to discover, mentor, and publish the next generation of talented writers. And for a long time now we’ve been hearing from teachers around the world who use Narrative’s free library as a vital tool in their classrooms. How best then, we wondered, to reach into those classrooms and hear from writers in their teens? This year, with the help of a grant from the Wells Fargo Foundation, we partnered with six California high schools to launch the First Annual Narrative High School Essay Contest. We say first, since it is our great wish to expand the contest to more schools across the country and around the world. Imagine that.

Our Process
We put out the call to teachers in September, asking for essays, each 600 words or less, from juniors and seniors at our partner schools. Each student responded to the prompt “Where I’m From and Where I’m Going.” The scores of essays submitted revealed flights of resilience, creativity, and ambition—and a steadfast belief in the power of storytelling.

For the sake of unbiased reading, the judging was done blind, with names and schools removed and entries sorted randomly. Members of the Narrative staff read, ranked, and came together to confer. In the process of many lively editorial discussions, many worthy contenders emerged as possible winners. We have the pleasure of presenting the award-winning few to you today.

What We Were Looking For
A good essay tells a great story—it has exciting language, powerful narration, and fierce originality. As our name suggests, we’re always on the lookout for compelling and cohesive narratives. Pull us into the scene, and seat us next to your characters. Surprise us with a unique point of view, a revelation, an unexpected ending, or all of the above. Given that this year’s prompt was “Where I’m From and Where I’m Going,” we were looking for pieces that conjure a singular and distinct journey. Finally, because we seek to celebrate the work of young writers, we kept our eyes peeled for potential: What can this writer do now on the page, and what will he or she be capable of down the road?

So, without further ado, the winners of the First Annual Narrative High School Essay Contest:

    FIRST PLACE ($500)
    CHARLEY BURLOCK   Shattered
    The Urban School, San Francisco

    SECOND PLACE ($200)
    ZOE HARRIS   As a Girl, I’ve Been Taught
    Lick-Wilmerding High School, San Francisco

    THIRD PLACE ($100)
    HUGO APARICIO   The Great Awakening
    PUC Community Charter Early College High School,
    Lake View Terrace


Lily Dodd, the Urban School
Sophie Drukman-Feldstein, the Urban School
Natalie Podell, Convent of the Sacred Heart High School

Many thanks to the staff and students of our participating schools: Convent of the Sacred Heart and Stuart Hall high schools, Lick-Wilmerding High School, Lowell High School, PUC Community Charter Early College High School, the Urban School

Please help us reach more students in 2016 and beyond. Donate today.

In the future, we’re hoping to expand our high school essay contest program. If you’re a high school English teacher interested in more information, please contact us.

And Don’t Miss:

The Thirteenth Annual Poetry Contest, with $3,300 in prizes.
Contest opens May 14 and closes July 16.

The Spring 2021 Story Contest, with $5,000 in prizes.
Contest opens May 1 and closes July 31.