A Conway teen won her age group in the Live Deliberately essay contest.
Abigail Oudekerk of Conway won the 17-18 age group “for her precise and original prose that will urge readers to recognize the power we have to make a difference,” according to a news release.
Oudekerk is a 2019 graduate of Conway High School. After spending a gap year in Germany on the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, she plans to attend Rice University in the fall.
The contest, offered annually since 2010, invites youth ages 14-18 from around the globe to respond creatively and thoughtfully to a selected quotation from Henry David Thoreau – reflecting on the ways in which Thoreau’s words are relevant today. The 2019-2020 contest received nearly 1,000 submissions, coming from 49 of the United States and 12 countries.
This year’s prompt had two quotations that were taken from Thoreau’s November 8, 1858, and June 16, 1854, Journal entries:
“I thought with regret how soon these trees, like the black birches that grew on the hill near by, would be all cut off, and there would be almost nothing of the old Concord left, and we should be reduced to read old deeds in order to be reminded of such things – deeds, at least, in which some old and revered bound trees are mentioned. These will be the only proof at last that they ever existed.”
“It is time we had done referring to our ancestors. We have used up all our inherited freedom, like the young bird the albumen in the egg. It is not an era of repose. If we would save our lives, we must fight for them.”
In responses of 750 words or fewer, contestants were asked to address what natural legacies society is leaving for future generations and to refer to both quotations to discuss the role of youth in shaping that legacy.
The essays were reviewed by a panel of more than 50 volunteers, which consisted of educators from a wide range of disciplines and settings, as well as writing and publishing professionals.
Winners in each age category were awarded a $500 cash prize.
To read the all age group winners, visit www.walden.org/education/essay-contest.