Winners Announced in PUC’s First High School Essay Contest

By Ally Romanes on June 9, 2023

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The department of English at Pacific Union College held its first annual Emerging Voices of the Pacific Union essay contest. The contest began on March 12 to high school students from Seventh-day Adventist academies or junior academies in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah.

Students had until April 21 to submit a personal essay about a time they found beauty in an everyday or unexpected place. Approximately 80 entries were received and judged by PUC English professors to choose three winners.

PUC is happy to congratulate and share the winners of the Emerging Voices essay contest: 

1st place is Joshua Nielson, a senior from Rio Linda Academy, who wrote an essay titled Whispers of a Ghost Town about a town called Bodie and finding true beauty within the legacy of towns. Judges were greatly impressed with Nielson’s strong sense of description and place and the unusual approach he took to thinking about beauty and discovery. His work is a fantastic representation of the beauty of California, and his voice as a writer shines through. Nielsen will receive a $1000 scholarship and a $500 prize. 

2nd place is Yieby Shade, a junior from San Gabriel Academy, whose essay Layered In Between is about the beauty and sentiment she has found that food holds through her family's history in troubling times, the past, and the future. Judges appreciated Shade’s strong sense of description and detail, as well as how the essay connected small details to larger themes of family and connection. Shade will receive a $1000 scholarship and a $300 prize. 

3rd place is Ancheska Balbalosa, a freshman from San Fernando Valley Academy, who wrote an essay titled Rollie Pollies about how beauty can be discovered in unexpected minuscule crevices. The readers praised Balbalosa’s strong sense of description and voice, as well as the sense of creativity and fun throughout the piece. Balbalosa will receive a $1000 scholarship and a $200 prize. 

The English department was thrilled by the creativity, joy, and thoughtfulness of the essays they received from high schools across the Pacific Union. “These students have demonstrated not only strong writing skills, but also an aptitude for observation and reflection about the beauty in God, nature, their communities, and their lives,” said Catherine Tetz, assistant professor of English. “In a world that increasingly devalues writing and creative expression, it's deeply inspiring to read the incredible work of our next generation of writers."