Writing Contest 2021

Combined Spoken Word Competition and Writing Contest

Program Information and Resources #1





2020:  You Find Your Truth Within

(Image by Italian sculptor Paola Griz)

This year, all students will create a Found Poem following the specific grade level requirements. Yes, if students participated in the Spoken Word event they may revise poem, following the guidelines below, and submit. Teachers may submit up to 5 poems from each class; poems that demonstrate evidence of the writing process. In other words, the best of the best.  For further information, click on the link below.

2019:20 Writing Competition

2018/2019 Concept English:  Pen A Poem For Justice

Congratulations To This Year’s Winners!

Category: 3-5th Grade Winners


1st place


A Travel Through Time

By Ian Gamble, 5th Grade, Gateway Science Academy Smiley


This is that afternoon

Where I accomplish something.

That the world will be happy it’s new

It’s a time machine, that the something


I worked day by day, month by month

Mastered the science, to see the secrets

I couldn’t believe it, I could barely hold my bluff

The six foot four beast, that holds all of it


I finished everything up, did my homework

I won’t be back for a while so better prepared

I told my parents all about my work

They were frightened, but I ain’t scared.


This is the moment, to see it all, I ain’t lying

We had in the past, with all success

I turned on the metal and it shined like a diamond

Five, Four, Three, Two, One… Yet! I achieved the win!


The time is the 20’s, and I’m in Harlem

I see Langston, and hear the jazz

Blacks presenting, attracting people to Harlem

Clothes and dances, churches and mass


Oh no, now I see all the horrible slavery

All the black’s wishing for a new life

They sing the blues, waiting and saying “Help Me!”

All they want is freed, and a world without crime.


It just gets worse, now we’re at World War Two

Blood and sacrifice, all so it will end

Germany won’t give, and the allies won’t too

Why so many Jews dead, they can’t even defend.


I wish the world wasn’t full of war,

That it could just only be peace

All these war sites with so many tours

But none should we please


Then I see the new world with cars

And all the brilliant minds and inventions

Freedom rises, and we shine like a star

Equality and races meet and aren’t in wretches.


I watch all the heroes and gunshots

And I think of the future we have

All these people who think not

Of what’s now and what we can have


I can’t believe how lucky we are

With all this freedom and technology

I thank the heroes for what we are

And it’s all real not psychology.


It’s time to go back home

And I still am the first,

To make a time machine right in my home

And I know all the secrets to the universe


The countdown starts, and all I’ve heard

Is everyone wanting a very new life

If only they could come with me and return

From our very first travel through time.


2nd Place



By Katie Maloney, 4th Grade, Gateway Science Academy Smiley


Justice puts us together

Unfairness tears us apart.

If we don’t do anything

We are left with broken hearts.

We are treated like animals

That are forced to follow orders

There is hope though

In this vat of darkness

If we stand up for ourselves

That might be the glue

To put us back together

So come with me!

We can become legends if we try hard enough!

We will have resistance through these unfair rights

We will shout run, run! Run for Glory!

When this war is won

We will tell our story!

When this war is won

We will hear the people cheer

We are free! We are free!

When this war is won

We will be glad we are here!

When this war is won

We can be birds freed from our cages!

For all this to happen though

We have to fight our hardest

So we can know

When this war will be won.


3rd Place



By Jashaun Jacobs Jr., 4th Grade, Horizon Science Academy Springfield


If you try to do something individually

You’re gonna fail succeedely

Our community kept going down unusually

People getting tackled

Everybody getting put in shackles

But this is not actual

They never took down our capital

Our state is so valuable

We didn’t like getting put on our knees

But we got on our knees and said Jesus please

But now we are up off the ground

Our state is now found

Nobody in our state gets downed

Freedom is our destiny

Now no people have jealousy

Now e don’t breath heavily

Now we found our destiny

And now we have a legacy

We love our community

Now we all have equal opportunity

New we’re all walking and down the street with jewelry


Honorable Mention



By Abena Bonna, 5th Grade, Horizon Science Academy Columbus Elementary


Sweet taste of nectar,

pretty as can be.

Roses, daisies, and dandelions,

you can find some in a tree.


It smells of sugar,

feels like linen.

Its soul so pure,

biggest mistakes are forgiven.


Birds fly up, butterflies finish flowers’ fluids.

No more task, it’s looked up as useless.

Flowers are sure that they’re still useful though,

but nowhere to prosper and nowhere to go.


They go bullied, belittled, getting withered up.

That’s when the flowers thought it was enough.

They were no longer sweet and purse,

but angry and insecure.


Flowers were blessings and they still are,

but the animals didn’t want to look that far.

Flowers were done and they were now bitter.

and like their hearts, they began to wither.


Category: 6-8th Grade Winners


1st Place



By Za’Niyah Smith, 8th Grade, Noble Academy Cleveland


Glory, glory, we’ll all cry glory!

I ain’t the first to say these words and we all know the story.

The hate you give rains down like a shower.

We’re forced to steal it, when they won’t share the power.

My mom be scared for me to go outside.

My dad been in and out of jail my whole entire life.

Is it because I’m black, people see my skin as a weapon?

It’s been too many years we’ve had to deal with oppression.

We ask for equality and are met with resistance;

Can’t you see my people were built for persistence?

By “my people,” I don’t mean just African Americans;

I’m taking about people with different heritages;

They’re treated poorly because of their traditions & religions,

And sometimes just because they look different.

Our freedoms is decreased, other families’ sons are deceased,

And the last thing they seen was cop who saw them as a beast.

Hands in the air crying, “I can’t breathe.”

The injustice of the system only makes me seethe,

Infuriated with the hate that somehow was created.

C’mon now, I thought all of this was outdated.

I gotta question: why out of all the presidents was only one black?

You claim that we are equal, well, how do you explain that?

Obama changed the world and was called a clown and a rat,

Yet, our new president proclaims how he hates Mexican and blacks.

Instead of putting me down, you should try to inspire me.

I won’t treat you different; it’s a thing called equality

The time has come for us to make history.

True love and equality is the only victory.

It’s time for us to change the way we see each other;

See me as your sister, instead of just seeing my color.


2nd Place



By Alexandria Brock-Barnes, 8th Grade, Horizon Science Academy Springfield


They once thought these were ideas for legends.


That women were sins.


They they used their beauty as a weapon,


They said we weren’t destined for glory,


That men had all the wisdom,


They they weren’t smart enough for justice,


But that all changed.


We passed that mountain


With more power than ever before


Because we won this war.


A war without weapons.


3rd Place



By Donny Rodgers, 7th Grade, Horizon Science Academy Denison Middle School


Bang bang, shots fired

Goodbye dreams and desires

Police brutality starting the fire

In my heart

My soul

My family tree

All I ever wanted to be

Was someone who could be loved in the streets

But police keep putting labels on me

King said he had a dream

King made a victory be we didn’t come to a victory

All we have is hatred and misery

People started a movement to stop the violence

We’re starting wars when we should be in alliance

Put down your weapons

Give us our freedom

Stop all resistance and give us our justice

Stop all the violence, no need to be lethal

Let’s put up the protest signs and make this world peaceful.


Category: 9-12th Grade Winners


1st Place


Afraid of Blackness

By Kyree Hicks, 12th Grade, Michigan Math and Science Academy


                                             Play (Cassette Tape)

Pound his face

Hang him up

Dump his body

Break his jaw


That’s what white men did to Emmett Till

Due to a false claim bird call

I wonder if they were afraid of his blackness as well?

Listen up my brothers and sisters, to this mysterious up-bringing black tale


They prayed and prayed we didn’t catch on

To their “dramatic” crime that lead us on

Like Rosa they sat, the minute we stood

Now here’s my backlash, don’t you even make it seem like I’m misunderstood

                                             Fast Forward

Its 1964, it’s all going down

Our people thanked Jesus

These problems were not separate now

We were on the rise heading north bound

But the white man yelled down like a sad clown

“STAY DOWN!” black people, you don’t even have the right to stand proud

They said we were different because our skin didn’t match theirs

They said we were different because our black hair wasn’t blonde like theirs

THEY SAID we were different because our minds…. our minds didn’t match theirs

We didn’t match because of this, because of that, because of him and her–



One young black boy was tired of it and stood tall and said:

You must be afraid of my blackness

I knew that you were

Don’t ever disrespect my black crown or this God’s word


Maybe your mad that it was me and wasn’t you

Maybe it’s your rhythm, your people pop-lock and dance like fools

I get it, you’re probably tired from staying up with those reckless kids who cry all night

You should have had some common sense and disciplined them right

Instead you sit there and criticize my black light


Now once again the boy was tired of arguing

So, he began his ascend to the mountain top standing tall

Until a white teen boy decided to make his call

Beat it, you black imbecile, you’re not welcomed here!

Now that statement it was too much for him to bare


The boy turned and looked all around

Looked backed at this boy

Looked him and down

Then saw his outfit, bet he fo’sho was in for it now


Now his outfit looked as if he tried to mix Chris Brown with Migos


                           Gucci Hat-Fake


                           Nike Jogging Fit-Fake

                           That gold chain that was supposedly “five bands” FAKE!

I know you all love your star bucks

“Can I get a Carmel Macchiato with double exspresso with a green straw!”

Yeah little boy I bet you afraid now

Let these brothers and sisters sing their happy voices


Now he tried his hardest to cry

To make me look like the usual bad guy

I thought you knew this tongue was lethal

There is no part two there is no sequel

So, he turned around and began to walk

I turned around and held my head tall–





2nd Place


Hood Legends

By James Golden, 12th Grade, Michigan Math & Science Academy


No father figure so I had to learn on my own

Mom was there but she couldn’t control me

When she was all alone

No man in the house so I looked up to the OGs

I felt accepted in the streets I couldn’t help it

Fast money kept that roof over my head


Momma said get out the streets and get a job instead

I didn’t need a resume to be a hood legend

Just a couple bricks, I had to keep weapon

It’s a white man’s world and I surely got the message

The police beat on me and kill my people for no reason

But I’ll never turn my back on the streets, that’s treason


The OGs was hood legends to me

And that’s all I aspire to be

We suppose to treat each other like kings

But instead out here killing each other for false dreams

We don’t ask for help, we ask for smoke

We don’t go to church even if we need a pope

To be honest, we need to ask for hope


Everyday men and women become legends

But lord knows this path for me wasn’t destined

Kids getting killed from stray bullets

Other kids getting killed by police

Welcome to the story we call victory

But I don’t let it get to me

I’m serving zombies with the same skin as me

Destroying my community

But for the money I’ll let it be


But the movement is a rhythm to us

It’s 12-year-old kids waiting to bust

They waiting to kill because that’s all they know

No father figure, one parent home


It’s the same story just different name

We putting our ancestors straight to shame

The white man loving every moment

We putting ourselves through torment

What? because we getting money right?

Welcome to the story we call victory


A Hood Legend is all I wanna be

I’ll probably die before I’m 23

I wanna get out the hood but I love the streets

But then again I know they’ll kill me

With all the money in the world I’ll never be free

Don’t be a hood legend because it comes with the streets


3rd Place


We try and try again

By Corrine Cianci, 11th Grade, HSA Lorain


Frustratingly fighting from the fears of dying,

We walk on to make sure no soul is left behind.

Hands Up, they say, and insist to have their way.

Lethal tactics are used on crowds,

Spirits fly in the clouds.


They shove us down, we plummet to the ground –

We try and try again.


Jim Crow won’t win,

Let the justice begin.

MLK’s patience did not run thin.

We honor his wisdom,

Put hope into his system.


They shove us down, we plummet to the ground –

We try and try again.


A war between races,

Legends wearing bravery as faces

Surrendering serenity for all cases,

Resistance held throughout all places.


They shove us down, we plummet to the ground –

We try and try again.


We struggle on our way up to the mountain top,

But the peak is just the next stop.

We climb, and ascend the mountain of glory

until we arrive to the apex of freedom.


They shove us down, we plummet to the ground –

We try and try again.


Once there, we take a breath of fresh air,

fully extending our lungs.

We hold the freedom,

Taking a look at our kingdom.

For the hearts we wear on our sleeves,

Will finally receive the praise we long and wish for.


They shove us down, we plummet to the ground –

We try and try again.


We pull ourselves up,

with more than just luck,

And fiercely shove our way through.


Honorable Mention


Sinful Skin

By Twylah Crutcher, 11th grade, Michigan Math And Science Academy


Justice, a concept of moral virtuousness

Meant to maintain the principle of righteousness

To remove the pedestal so that I stare my enemy in the evil eye while at war

The martyrs live within me, I am black history

Shown that Justice is not for me

Because they see sin in the color of my skin,

And sinful skin shall shed


I am Emmett Till

I became fruit on the popular tree

Condemned by the falsehood of a Caucasian woman

Drubbed black and blue, left for dead

Shackled by the ball and chain of Jim Crow

The blinding light of my young energy now dark as eternal night

But no justice for me,

Because sinful skin shall shed


I am Reverend Jimmie Lee Jackson

I marched through the bloody Selma streets

I shared a dream that one day glory will come 

Lain down by white weapons, Slain by the hands of every minister who remained silent

I walked with Jesus to instill the sweet religion of freedom

But no justice for me,

Because sinful skin shall shed


I am Roman Ducksworth Jr

I was a military officer

Lugged from my seat on that bus

Put to sleep by the very man who took an oath to protect me

Shots rang as bullets riddled my body

No respect by for my name or badge

No peace for my family

And no justice for me,

Because sinful skin shall shed


I see no sin in the color of my skin

Proud of who I am, I live for the elders before me

I walk with Martin and sit with Rosa and speak with Malcolm

The torch Harriet held guides me on my journey

I feel the power of my people

My skin is a blessing and until they see that

No justice for me



Poetry is a close relative to music.  The word lyric literally means words.  This year our focus is on how and why words matter.  We hope students will learn that we all have access to the same words/language, but what we do with them and how we create something generates a diverse tapestry of meanings as the study the lyrics to the song “Glory.”

Writing Contest Concept Guidelines 2018-2019 

TeachingIdeasForConcept 2018-19WritingContest

Rubric Justice Poems



Congratulations to all the winners of the 2016/2017 Concept Writing Competition!

Elementary Category

1st Place – Olivia Phlegar, HSA Springfield
2nd Place – Rikya Shirley, HSA Columbus Elementary
3rd Place – Tyrone Woody, HSA Columbus Elementary

Middle School Category

1st Place – Hana Samad, HSA Cleveland Middle
2nd Place – Safa Abdullah, CMSA
3rd Place – Zaire Ridgeway –Bogerty, Noble Academy Cleveland
Honorable Mention – Eboni Dunn, HSA Cleveland Middle

High School Category

1st Place – Olivia Costa, HSA Dayton High School
2nd Place – Alex Wilson, GSA Fyler
3rd Place – Stephanie Garcia, HSA McKinley Park
Honorable Mention – Mikenna Watts, HSA Cleveland


Look for our first ever book of writings: WordsWorthWriting 2017/2018



Here are the works of our first place winners:                                                                                                            

1st Place Winner – Elementary Category

5th Grade at HSA Springfield

Teacher, Michelle Thomas

Alice In Wonderland by Olivia Phlegar

Everyone knows the story of “Alice in Wonderland,” or so they think.  It starts with a little girl named Alice.  She was at a riverbank with her older sister, who was reading a book.  Obviously bored, Alice decided to wander.  As she walks, she spots a white rabbit wearing a red, corduroy jacket and holding an old and rusty pocket watch.  How peculiar, thought the girl.   As curiosity rises, she makes the decision to follow the rabbit.

“I’m late! I’m late!  For a very important date! No time to say hello!  Goodbye! I’m late!  I’m late! I’m late!” Alice heard the rabbit say.

“Rabbits cannot talk.  It’s impossible!  I must just be a bit tired, “ she thought.
She followed the white rabbit into a dark hole behind her favorite willow tree.  Alice, not watching where she was going, tripped over a root and fell into the strange hole.  She wondered why she hadn’t noticed it before.  The girl expected to land soon but it was a rather large hole.  While falling, Alice passed an assortment of vintage collectibles.

After going through all these crazy adventures to get home she finds herself in front of a Queen who has just ordered her beheading.

“Rule 49 clearly states that anyone who is caught trespassing into Wonderland is to be beheaded at once!” the Queen said with a roar.

Now, everybody thinks the fairy tale ends with Alice waking up and telling her sister about the crazy adventures she had just had in her dream.  Then her sister suggested Alice go inside and fetch some Raspberry Mint tea because she was hallucinating funny things.  And as Alice walked inside, her sister stays by the river with her book in hand and wonders about what Alice had just told her.

But that is not what really happened at all.  Instead of waking up from the dream, Alice found out it actually wasn’t a dream at all!  Turns out, what she thought was her real life was just her crazy imagination!  After she found out the truth, everyone in Wonderland made the decision to fire the King and Queen of Hearts and they made Alice the new Headmistress!  She was so amazed at how many people supported her.  I mean, she was 12 years old and she was ruling a kingdom that she happened to discover by falling into a hole! 

Once the throne was handed over, Alice decided to throw the former rulers into Dragon Jail for their foul behavior toward the residents of Wonderland.  Thought she missed her sister, she chose to be happy about the new position she had been given.  But as she was talking to the Knight, Sir Timmy Toes, someone came up behind her.  It was her older sister and the Mad Hatter!

“How are you here!?!” Alice asked her sister with clear excitement on her face.

“I knew about this place long before you were even born,” she said. “I’ve been coming here since I was seven!”

Turns out, they had just come to ask if they could make a new national holiday called Cheese Day!  Of course, Alice agreed to the idea because cheese was her favorite food! And ever since that day, Alice gave the orders and everyone followed them with no questions.

One day though, she said to herself, “Do the people of Wonderland find it peculiar that I do not have a King? Then she went around asking her people what they though.

“Alice, you are the best leader a kingdom could ask for.  I personally think you work well alone,” said the Cheshire Cat with a wicked smile. 

After thinking about it for a while, she realized she didn’t need someone to rule beside her.  She decided she was happier without a man by her side every minute of the day.  She still rules just fine without one.  Every day, she took care of her people like no other Queen could.  She connected with her citizens and had a special, personal bond with each and every one of them.  A common activity that they did together was grand tea parties.  She even made it so that they had a tea party every week!

It is said that Alice is still running Wonderland to this very day!  She is most likely still the kind, hopeful person that she was before.  Maybe she’s waiting for someone new to fall down the mysterious rabbit hole.

That, my dear reader, is the real story of, “Alice in Wonderland.”  I hope you enjoyed finding out what really happened.  Just remember, all women deserve respect, yet not all of them need a man.  Women should have just as many life opportunities.  If they want to be a Queen, then nobody can change that.

1st Place Winner – Middle School Category

8th grader at HSA Cleveland Middle School

Teacher, Christina Foschia

The 12 Dancing Princesses by Hana Samad

That night, after the long, late meeting he was obligated to attend as CEO of the largest electricity producer in the States, Mr. Solace found himself leaning on the cool wooden, steel reinforced door of his Chinatown Boston mansion.  Tiredly he place his thumb over the fingerprint scanner that opened the door, it glowed blue and said in a smooth British feminine voice,

“Welcome home sir.”

“Thank you madam,” he replied briskly.

He was not the kind of man who liked to dawdle in small talk, especially with artificial intelligence.

As he walked over the hardwood floor, black leather briefcase swinging in hand, the heels of his sleek dress shoes clacked smartly, the noise echoing across the human void room.

He tore at the constraining red tie around his neck, balling it up, he threw it angrily at the leather couch.  Stocks fell dramatically today, and yet the supposed geniuses he hired couldn’t tell him why.  He needed something strong tonight.

Walking behind the granite bar counter, specked in blacks, grays, pinks, and whites, he reached for the lock on his liquor cabinet.  Rummaging through, he finally decided on a shot glass, filled with the strongest stuff known to the world, Spirytus Delikatesowy; it would do the job nicely.  Looking down at his watch, he registered the time, 12:00.

Let me say goodnight to the girls before I drink this.

He could imagine what their mother, Cai, would have said about his drink,

She laughed her almond, amber eyes, evidence of her Chinese heritage, sparkling, brimming with laughter as she twisted away from him.  He tugged on her arm pulling back to him, breathless as the Tage, a traditional Chinese dance, tended to do.  They spun, clapping to the beat, stepped back from one another again, and gave a quick bow that signified the end of the dance. Cai’s inky blue-black hair hung like a curtain around her, brushing across the floor.  It was parted and she peeked at him, a sly smile playing across her face.

“We should do this again some time,” she said, her voice a bit raspy.

“We will,” he replied quietly, reaching over to brush a kiss over her knuckles.

Her lips quirked upwards and a modest schoolgirl blush crept onto her face.  “After twenty years of this you would have though the butterflies would have gone away.”

“Awww… you make us sound so old, we’re only 35 and you have at least 20 more years with me, maybe those butterflies will leave eventually…”

She hummed softly.  “Never.  You have 20 more years to get tired of me.”

He walked behind the dimly lit bar, brought out the drink shaker, and shook it encouragingly.

“What would the lady like to drink?”

She scowled playfully.  “You know I can’t drink, I’m pregnant you idiot!”  She punctuated her words with a light hit.

“Water then, and a margarita for myself.  Then we can head home.”  He paused and said, “I hope those 7 haven’t given that babysitter too much stress.”

Her face visibly darkened and she was alarmingly quiet as the result of his first statement.

“What’s wrong,” he asked as he reached across the table for her hand.  But she snatched it back.

Fixing her serious, swirling orbs to his, she stared, “Promise me you’ll never drink around the girls. Never,” she said, rubbing at a place on her forearm.

Understanding flooded in.

Cai’s father was an alcoholic, he used to come home a drunken mess and beat her up for the smallest things.  One time going as far as to break her arm in 3 places and cut a long gash on her face, from her left eye diagonally to her jaw, the gift of his broken beer bottle.

“You know I would never do that.  Ever. Right? he said fiercely.

“I know, but promise me anyway.  Keith promise me now you won’t!  Tell me NOW!!!” she insisted frantically, vehemently waving her arms around. “I just don’t want them to…”  She never finished that thought as sobs were ripped from her, her body repeatedly jerking from the ferocity.

He sat next to her, holding her as she grasped at his shirt, rubbing soothing circles between her shoulders.  He rocked her back and forth, comforting her, then whispered,  “I promise okay? I promise.”

After hearing that, her sobs slowed and quieted and they sat holding onto each other in a show of quiet understanding. They rocked back and forth until the moon started its slow descent to the horizon.

She died later that year.

When he went up to their room to say his goodnight, just as the night before, they were gone.  Their Converse, flats, and in case of the older ones, heels, vanished without a trace.  Beds made, pillows (fluffed) plush, curtains blowing from the soft summer breeze, in front of the opened white-rimmed windows of the second floor mansion.  Not a sign that 12 young women occupied the floor during the day.

Their father sighed and rubbed his face half-heatedly.  It was times like this when he missed his wife’s presence more than ever.  She would’ve known what to do, how to talk to them.  He wasn’t cut out for this, one 60year old widower with 12 daughters; 8 were adopted during their travels having been left to die in trash bins, 4 were conceived by the couple.  The oldest (24) finished medical school, the youngest (8) is in the 3rd grade.  His middle children are on their way to college and the other one is in that awkward, moody teenager drama stage.  He honestly can’t remember who his playgirl daughters latest “flavor” was – whether it be boy or girl.  When people asked when she would commit to a steady relationship, Daiyu just laughed, flicked her long, black hair over her should and claimed, she’d like to, “broaden her horizons,” which in girl language meant: never.  He had no doubt by the time she finished high school she’s has dated the entire student population, maybe even the younger, available teachers.

Heavens no, he thought again, shaking his head as he gripped the railing and started the long descent down spiral staircase.  In the pale moonlight, his hair glowed silver as a testament to his next statement:  I’m too old for this.

He was worried about them, but at the very least they had Yue, his oldest and motherly one of the girls, so at least what they were doing was legal… Good lord let it be legal.  Mr. Solace sure as heck wasn’t going to bail them out, at least for a while.  I’ll teach ‘em a lesson, jail build character.  It had been like this for the past month, MIA during the night and in the morning nothing but exhausted eyes and knowing smiles and “Pass The Coffee” all around.  He knew they left because each morning before the early rays of dawn, he hauled himself out from under his warm covers and checked to see if they had returned.  When he sleepily cracked open their door, he could see the glow of charging phones, all ranging anywhere between 5030% as if they had been used vigorously throughout the night.  Oddly enough, sums of money were disappearing from Yue’s bank account as well.  He couldn’t trace where it was going either, because the hacker in his family, Wing, who was recruited by the CIA at 15, made sure there was no trace or trail to track where the money was going.

What are they up to?

11:30 the day previous

Wing wondered how exactly she got herself into this.  One minute she was obliviously clickety clacking on her amped up, modified MacBook, gaining the security codes to all North Korea’s deepest, darkest, dirty secrets and the next she’s being dragged out a winder, told to “be quiet” in less than kind… “cough” terms by her seemingly innocent 8 year old sister, Rou.  Ironically her name is Chinese (as is all of the sister’s names), it means gentle, and yet she had the vocabulary of a sailor.  Wing could tell your from first-hand experience, what came out of that mouth was anything but gentle.  She mused over what their father would say if he knew what came out of his “previous little angel’s” mouth.  He probably wouldn’t believe it anyway.  Now she was sitting in one of 3 glossy, black limos driving up the brick paved streets of one of the oldest districts in Boston.

For the most part though the hacker had known what she had been getting herself into, when her older sister, Anguo or Angie, recruited her for the project saying, “It’s your civic duty as a citizen of the world.”  For the past month, her sisters and she had been sneaking out and, ahem, borrowing money from their Dad’s bank account, he had plenty, and the US Treasury; all for good reasons of course.

It would be “fun” they said, “We’ll be helping people” they said, “you won’t have to do much,” they said.


Wing ended up being stationed in front of a computer, fingers flying furiously, pressing keys hard enough to break them.  She was working 11:30 – 4:30 on nothing but coffee and sheer willpower.

Oh this had better be worth it.

 8.A.M. a week later

Mr. Solace was fed up.

Another week of not knowing had passed, and he was tired of being kept in the dark.

His Armani suit clad body moved with a purpose, walking in a clipped fashion down the spotless, blinding white hallways of the hospital Yue worked in.  It had that weird hospital smell – a blend of instant coffee, sterilized needles, and the inside of his leather briefcase.  He wanted answers and he knew just where he was going to get them.

He paused outside the rich chocolate covered wood door that bore a golden plaque inscribed with the names Dr. Yue Solace and R.N. Kleitos Myles.  Looking at it he felt a surge of overwhelming pride.

She’s finally made it, her childhood dream of becoming a doctor was true, it had been for 2 years, but the fatherly pride rushed back every time.  Her remembered when she used to call him late at night, over the phone telling him how exhausted she was because of the internal surgery she just conducted, that everyone there was so much older than her, and how, after 3 years of being at Med school, she finally met a friend.





Friend bah, for such a smart girl Yue could be quite oblivious at times.  He wasn’t a fool, he knew a man in love when he saw one, and that boy, that Myles kid, was head over heals for his Yue.

He just knew it.

It wasn’t just a father’s overly protective paranoia either; he had seen it firsthand with his own two peepers.

One day he walked into Yue’s office, lunch in hand, ready to surprise her since his sweet girl often forgot to remember to take care of herself because she was so worried about everyone else.  It was her birthday – she was turning 25.  He had walked through her office door smiling… and was greeted by a dark, still, empty room.

Maybe the secretary would know?

The secretary said that Yue and her partner, Kleitos, went out for lunch and she was unsure when they would return, but could take a message.

Keith Solace prided himself on being a man in control of emotions, he rarely lost his temper – even less when he was in public – and he seldom raises his voice.  In the case however, he was ashamed to say he saw red.

He ignored the receptionist and stormed away in a one-track mindset.

Find that boy and rescue his innocent daughter from out of his vile clutches.

He found them at a small Greek café, laughing over a plate of gyros and fries.  Kleitos said something and Yue, smiling, picked up her gyre and offered him a bite, which Kleitos took in stride.

Of course he would.  Mr. Solace shifted his newspaper so he could see well.  They were getting up now, packing up their leftovers and went to the register to pay.  He saw Yue reaching in her purse, drawing out her maroon wallet to pay, Kleitos was faster though.  The boy (he’d always be the boy in Mr. Solace’s mind, it didn’t matter that he was 26), set a 20-dollar bill on the counter.  He had to hand it to the kid; for all his faults he was a least chivalrous.

He could make out his daughter protesting, gesturing to her money as they squabbled for a bit and finally the boy was relenting and they both paid.  Thatta girl he thought.

They strode off down the snowy avenue, Yue balancing on the edge of the sidewalk, holding her arms out to the side to steady herself.

Mr. Solace followed, putting his head down, he started to walk a decent distance away from the friends.

Kleitos suddenly stopped and pulled Yue gently to his side, he pulled something out of his coat and Mr. Solace strained to look at it.

It was a box.  A small black box.

He started to panic.

That had better not be an engagement ring, boy.

 Yue opened it and even from his place behind a wall he could see the grin that lit up her face in a breathtaking smile.  It was a necklace.

Mr. Solace exhaled.

A thin silver chain that held a shimmering crescent moon studded by diamonds, and inside the curve was  a pure silver sun hanging from the tip.

Yue Solace.

Yue, the moon. Solace or Sol, the Spanish word for sun.

It was perfect.

She flung herself into Kleitos’ arms giving him an enormous hug.  He hugged her back.  His lips moved and he seemed to be saying happy birthday.  Yue stepped back and held out the necklace, prompting Kleitos to hold it.  She lifted her waterfall of black hair revealing her neck, waiting for him to put it on her.  Suddenly the R.N. stiffened and Mr. Solace was close enough to hear why.

Yue practically crushed the boy’s heart in just a few sentences and even Mr. Solace had to feel sorry for the kid. 

Kle, this is… gorgeous.  I…I…I don’t know what to say… You know I love you right?  You’re my amazing best friend… I didn’t think anyone remembered. God, what did I do to deserve a friend like you.

She just… what did the kids nowadays call it… ah, friendzoned him.

Twice.  Ouch!

At the unexpected pause, Yue turned around to see what the hold up was,  and Kleitos hastily put it around her neck.

There.  Solid proof of the boy’s affections.

As much as he was going to regret this, he needed answers, and was about to make the boy a deal he couldn’t turn down.

Mr. Solace brought his hand down on the door and knocked twice before stepping back and waiting.

The door cracked open and a handsome man in white scrubs walked out holding a clipboard.  Kleitos Myles was a looker. Based off his name alone Mr. Solace knew the boy had ancestors from Greece, he had the features too.  Myles had white teeth that were a stark contrast to his bronze Mediterranean skin that exerted a faint glow.  His aqua eyes were positioned above high cheekbones, and his hair was medium brown, like flax.  He supposed his daughter could do worse.

“How may I help you?,” asked the boy.  He started out with an easygoing smile but that  disappeared as he stood up straighter and practically saluted when he realized who it was.  “Hello Mr. Solace, are you looking for Yue?  She called in sick today.”

“No. May I come in?”  Mr. Solace said more demanding than asking.

“Of course sir.”  Kleitos was falling all over himself, pulling out chairs and offering him instant coffee.

“Do I look like I drink that stuff?”

“N…no sir.”

“Good, now let me get to the point.  I know you love my daughter.”  Mr. Solace said this bluntly.

“Yes – what sir?!  I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Not this Kleitos sir.  Haha…. Trying to pull a fast one on me sir – hilarious.  We’re just friends…”  The boy fumbled with his denial and Mr. Solace continued as if he hadn’t heard.

“Now I don’t like the idea and to be honest,





“You.”  He paused and sighed deeply as if it pained him to admit his next statement.

“However, I need your help and I’m gracious enough to help you with your miserable love life and set you two up. Don’t let it get to your head either, you will never be worthy enough for her and if you make her sad at all,  I’ll send my security after you and rest assured they will find you.   Are we clear?  Also, I want you to name your first daughter Cai after her late grandmother, and that will be all.”

“Children sir  But I’m only 26, and…”

A glare stopped him.  “You are planning on marrying her eventually correct?”

“Yes, but – “

“Then I expected grandkids.  And quit with the sir, you may call me Mr. Keith, now to the plan.”  Mr. Solace’s voice left no room for argument.

“My 12 daughters are up to something, and as you are,”  Mr. Solace coughed lightly and stared accusingly at Kleitos, “close to my daughter I am inviting you over to the mansion for dinner.  You may spend time with Yue and after you  “leave” you’ll sit in the parking lot in the invisible car.”  Mr. Solace tossed Kleitos a pair of keys, which he caught smoothly, and said, “you are to follow them tonight, the address is attached, and I’ll expect a report tomorrow.”

Mr. Solace strolled out of the room, veiny hands in his pockets, quietly whistling a tune that sounds suspiciously like Here Comes The Bride, leaving Kleitos alone and looking dumbstruck.

After 5 minutes of sorting his thoughts, Kleitos pulled out his iPhone 7, unlocked it (the password was 12358) and pressed a set of numbers he was very familiar with.  He looked at the screen for a moment contemplating whether to dial.  She’s never going to let me hear the end of this, but… he did need help.  Sucking in a deep breath he lifted a single digit and pressed the green button.  His mother’s smiling face filled the screen.  Here goes nothing.

That night at 8:30 outside the Chinatown Mansion

 Kleitos was nervous.

Sitting outside your soon-to-be-maybe-girlfriend-who is-currently-your-best-friend-and-had-no-clue-how-you-felt-about-her’s mansion for dinner and afterwards spying on her, tended to do that to you.

He was ecstatic when he first heard the news that he had his friend’s father’s blessing and did a little impromptu air-guitar solo in the middle of his office… then reality sunk in.

He was going to spy on Yue, who was doing what exactly?

 He didn’t know, and didn’t know if he wanted to know.  Well it’s too late now.  Turns out the invisible care was also a self-driving car, which proceeded to open the door and eject him outside the front doors, then parallel parked itself between the other sport cars.

Standing in front of the manor doors he pressed the intercom and announced himself to the AI.

“Kleitos Myles here, by request of Mr. Keith Solace.”  He waited a beat and then added, “could you tell Yue I’m here.”

The white orb flashed blue twice indicating it understood. 

“Come in Romeo, Juliet says she’ll be done in a minute; please take a seat in the dinning room.”  The AI sounded amused.

“I’m not-“ he started. 

“I can tell when you’re lying…” it said singy-songy.

Kleitos mumbled something under his breath that sounded like, “Bloody AI… good for nothing piece of BS… we’ll see who’s laughing when I upload a virus…”

These thoughts comforted him and with a smile on his face he strolled in.

The entry hall was huge.  Actually, it was more of a courtyard than an entry hall.  It had bamboo floors and smooth white marble pillars with ornate golden dragons curled around the top and bottom.  Their scales looked like each one was individually carved with the loving hands of an aged and experienced master, and if you looked close enough you could see sparkling ruby eyes glittering like they knew a secret.  There was a waterfall that flowed into a Koi fishpond that was the true centerpiece of the room.  The Koi swam leisurely, about 10 of them, a combination of gold, spotted, black and pure white, and the pool lights shone from underneath the rippling water illuminating it softly.  Fire colored Lotus flowers floated on top, the skylight allowed the light of the moon to kiss the surface of the water and paper lanterns lit the rest of the room.  It was gorgeous, and it sucked the breath out of his lungs and served as a reminder of who his friend really was.

While he was lost in the land of thoughts, he failed to notice said friend sneaking up behind him.  Kleitos felt hands touch his shoulders and he was startled out of his thoughts, turning around to face his best friend and partner.

His face broke out in a grin.

“Hey,” he said mentally slapping himself.  Very smooth Kleitos. Hey.

 “Hey yourself,” she said with her adorable lopsided little smile.  “Fancy seeing you here of all places.  Sorry, but we can’t hang out tonight, my Dad’s having someone over for dinner and wants all of us here to greet him.”  She rolled her eyes a little bit.

“It’s me.”  He cleared his throat but with her puzzled expression he decided to clarify himself. “The person you’re expecting, the guest, the guest is me, I mean I am the guest.”  He was getting frustrated with the way he could not form a coherent sentence.

Her eyes widened evidently shocked.  He could relate to the feeling because he was dumbstruck when Mr. Keith extended the invitation.  Even more so after he learned his mission.  It made talking to Yue hard because somehow it was betraying her trust, but he was only doing it, to in essence, gain her trust.  Oh the morals of it all.

 He massaged the back of his neck gingerly.

“He never does anything without a reason you know.  He has a reason for inviting you over and I want to know why.”  She sounds determined and has that glint in her eyes he’s come to fear.

“Gee thanks,” has says dryly.

“Come on, let’s go get some food.  My Dad awaits.”

Dinner went by uneventfully, aside from the knowing glares from Mr. Keith, the occasional well-aimed flying meatball (he suspected the little one, Rou?) and the amazing 8 course meal he just completely indulged himself in, or course.

Look at you.  Have you no shame?  I know that is not how I raised my boy, you are a guest young man.  Are you trying to kill me?  The over dramatic nagging voice of his mother chided him and he remembered his manners immediately.

Mr. Solace made eye contact and he knew that was his cue.

Clearing his throat he stood up, politely thanked the chefs for the meal, said goodbye to everyone and made an excuse about catching up on paperwork.  He showed himself to the door.

Once outside he walked to the invisible car that he had taken to calling his Burglar.  Kleitos sank into its leather chair with a sigh, pulled out his phone to watch Lord of the Rings, and prepared for a long wait.

12:00 am outside the Chinatown Mansion

After an hour and a half of waiting he finally saw 3 sets of lights backing out of the driveway.

He slowly started driving behind them, not too close, not too far.  That was his first mistake.  At 9:00 in Boston the roads are busy and hard to navigate unless you are familiar with them.  But trailing is never a good idea as it is easy to get stuck in traffic and the first night that was exactly what happened to Kleitos.

He sat defeatedly in traffic behind more than 10 cars that were moving at a crawl (he disabled the invisibility earlier) and all he could do now is watch as 3 limos sped off without him.  He took out his phone and snapped a picture of his surroundings as proof for Mr. Keith that he had been tailing them.  He took several pictures of the glittering silver freedom trail seal.  After waiting 15 more minutes he finally got out of line and made a U-turn and returned home unsuccessful.

Same time as the day previous

 Kleitos was ready this time.  He would follow so closely you could slip a piece of paper between the last lime and his car.  Well, maybe not that close but still.

When the cars pulled out this time, Kleitos started the ignition quickly and what he thought was quietly, until he heard a small voice come floating in through the window.

“Don’t you hear that?  Wing, I heard a car do you think it’s Dad?” Said Rou in a high, breezy voice.

“Ha, I thought you said you weren’t scared of the dark anymore? Chicken?” Wing remarked smugly.

“I am,”  Rou protested.  “And I am not a chicken.  I hear something…”  She trailed off and was silent.

They cruised past the place where Kleitos lost them last night and he began to think he would get to the bottom of their midnight disappearances.

 Alas fate seemed to be favoring the girls.

They were driving through the slums now.  Abandoned buildings all spray-painted in bold neon colored letters adorned the walls of the empty streets.

Suddenly Kleitos heard a crunch crunch as he rolled down the street.  Almost like… glass, he thought as the tire light came on.  He looked back and forth between the dashboard and the cars he was close to.  Making a choice the R.N. slowed the car to a stop, waited till the lights receded, and then he got out to replace the tire.

Once again he pulled out his phone and started snapping pictures of his location.  His most important picture was of a trendy store called Glitzy Gold.  Lowering his phone he rolled his eyes, as if gold would be anything but glitzy?  He was close this time, and tomorrow would be the day.  He just knew it.

12:01, 2 days after the unsuccessful first attempt

The moon glowed brightly in his mirror reminding him exactly why he took on this mad task in the first place. 

Yue.  God.  Dang it she’d better realize how deep his feelings are and she totally needed to invite him over more often.  What other gadgets did her father have?

After another 20 minutes of driving and successful tailing, the limos ahead finally stopped in front of an old brick hotel.

The girls got out and he couldn’t tell which one was his friend until he say the distinct shimmer of Yue’s moon sun necklace and then he couldn’t stop that grin that made is way onto his face.

She was wearing it! Score.

The group of 12 unlocked the hand-worked iron door and stepped inside.  As they did, he could see something fall off a girl and roll across the floor stopping at his foot.  He picked it up and examined it.  It was a diamond earring.  He would use this as proof tonight, since Mr. Solace would know which daughter it belonged to and count find its missing twin.  Swiftly pocketing the jewel, Kleitos shoved a foot in the doorway to keep it from shutting.  He slipped in and was surprised to see a fully furnished reception area.

The room had marble floors, with a red velvet carpet leading the way to the elevator.  Men stood in circles sipping out of glasses, and women held the hands of impatient children.  A homeless looking guy with a scruffy duffel bag and a tent (?) stood in line with several other people, waiting to talk to the receptionist and receive, what looked like, a room key and a stack of 100 dollar bills.  It was finally the man’s turn and he chatted quietly, thanked who he was talking to and hurried off to a restaurant area.

A giant poster with a smiling woman dressed in black formal attire read,

Need help finding a job?  Need help getting back on your feet?  Head up to the front desk and ask for Solace.  Thanks for staying at Hotel Solace!

Was this a homeless shelter?  Is that what they are doing?

 Kleitos walked casually up to the front desk.  He asked the receptionist a couple questions and found out that this was indeed a homeless shelter.  They provide food, shelter, monetary assistance, medical assistance, and help provide an education and a stable job for those seeking help.

After leaving his contact information offering his services as an R.N. he walked away from the desk and saw a teenage girl – one of the Solace sisters maybe? – helping a sickly looking old Mexican woman with her plastic bag get into the elevator, and, presumably to her room.

This is what they had been doing and it was amazing.

Boston was known as a homeless hotspot and what these girls were doing was unprecedented, if not a little unrealistic.  To do this for the entire city would be a challenge but they could sort out those details later.  They were already helping almost 200 people and families and the moment, that’s what matters.  And this is his Yue, always doing something to help her fellow humans.

Kleitos smiled fondly, putting his hands in his pockets, toying with the earring, and exiting the doors of the Hotel Solace.  He had a father to talk to.

Mr. Solace was relieved to find out that his daughters would not become fugitives and that they were actually doing something beneficial – their mom would have loved it!  That said, it didn’t stop him from grounding all of them for 3 weeks, though Wing, somehow, managed to retrieve her laptop.  He was beyond proud of them.  They had grown up to be generous and caring girls, just like princesses.  His 12 blessed princesses.  He thought he must be the luckiest man in the world.

Epilogue or 3 years later

The narrator is pleased to announce the midnight escapades of the sisters 12 ended, a while ago actually, and to Wings great joy, her work takes place between the reasonable hours of 9:00 and 9:00 pm.  Wing is successfully working as Director of the CIA; her hacking skills still unmatched.  Though she will not admit it, she is often the recipient of mysterious pay raises, online lottery wins and travel sweepstakes vacations.  Wing pleads the 5th.

Ah, the beautiful Daiyu, is now in her last month of her senior year of high school and in the early edition of the school yearbook was given the title Boston’s Most Available Bachelorette.  She broke the unspoken record of dating the entire high school + all the young, available teachers.  She also went on to become a model and upcoming Hollywood star.  Currently she is dating the most eligible athlete, 19-year-old Alexander Chase, who is praised to be the next LeBron James.  They have been in a record setting steady relationship, for 7 months, which is the longest for either of them.

Yue finally woke up from whatever state of oblivion she was in and has realized her feeling for Kleitos are more than just platonic after Kleitos had told her first about his feelings.  Regardless they started dating almost 3 years ago and became engaged 2 years ago.  Today they are happily married and expecting their first children – twins – Cai and Shaun Myles.  Kleitors and Mr. Solcace’s relationship has improved greatly as well.  After one and a half years, they decided they must try for Yue so they have formed a tentative “friendship” over their love of the Red Sox, new techie gadgets, and gyros.

Mr. Solace is very busy.  After the spying mission carried out by Kleitos he was so proud to hear of the work of his daughters that he immediately called in his PR advisor to advertise the Hotel Solace.  Hotel Solace soon received and anonymous donation of a half a billion dollars.  But apparently the donor didn’t know the meaning of the word anonymous and signed the donation – YOUR DADDY WHO IS PROUD OF YOU GIRLS.  Thanks to that donation, chains of Hotel Solaces are popping up all over the US of A.

Rou, “Daddy’s little angel,” has sadly, never been cured of her sailor tongue and most importantly, she has never been caught.  Daddy’s little angel turned out to be the criminal of the 12.  She ended up the world’s most wanted criminal for releasing all the rocket ships in the world and stealing one of her own and using it to successfully hijack the International Space Station and turn it and its residents into the galaxy’s first dictatorship.  Angie had quite a lot to say on this subject.  She claimed it was tarnish on her political record and would ruin her chances of being elected as President in 10 years.  She is currently serving in the Senate. 

The other 7 sisters have assorted careers as follows:  a chef, dancer, engineer, real estate agent, activist, archaeologist, and a high school student.

The Solace-Myles’s live happily, popping in for impromptu visits to the ISS, watching Red Sox games, running Hotel Solace, eating gyros and most importantly, they love each other.  And that is pretty darn close to a real life happily ever after.

The End

1st place – High School Category

9th grader at HSA Dayton High School

Teacher, Rachel Logsdown

Little Red by Olivia Costa

I wiggled into my corset, not tying it very tight.  After all, it was for costume purposes.  After adjusting it slightly, I slipped on my dress. 

Halloween was my favorite holiday.  My Gran and I always made my costume together.  This year I was Little Red Riding Hood, which was ironic since I have flaming red hair and my name is Scarlett.  I hated my name, and the color red, but she insisted, and honestly, how could I say no to a sweet, little old lady? Didn’t think so either.  It’s not just her, though.  My family lives and breathes irony.  My cousin was born with almost white blonde hair, so they named her Ivory.

After tying the dress, with some difficulty I might add, I looked into the mirror and was shocked.  I looked older.   Not exactly like an adult, but definitely a teenager.  I’m fourteen years old, but I developed rather later, so I always looked about twelve.  But now I looked older, more mature.  I took the homemade cloak from my bed and went downstairs.  I found my Mom in the living room, looking for something, with much frustration.

“Hey, Mom.  What do you think?”  She barely glanced at me from where she was kneeling and looking under the front of the couch.

“Looks great, Hun.”  I suppressed the urge to force her attention on me.  I know how busy and stressed she gets.  That’s actually one of the reasons I’m so close to my Gran.  She basically had to take care of me while my parents worked.  They are the definition of workaholics.  I have tried to be understanding but sometimes it hurts, like it does now.

“Thanks, Mom… do you know where Gran is? “ I asked, hoping she was paying enough attention to at least hear me and answer.

“The garden I think,” she said distractedly.  “Hey do you know where –?” she cuts me off.

“Try your coat, the fridge, and the car. If not then check your office,” I said, interrupting her.  I tied my cloak to my neck and started heading for the door.

“Oh, right.  Thanks Red.” 

I was out the door before I could respond.  Gran was by the lilies, watering and talking to them.  She always told me that talking to plants or playing them some music, helps them grow.  I walked over and gently touched her shoulder.

“Hey, Gran,” I said, speaking softly.  She’s a feisty lady, but sometimes the pain of old age gets to  be too much.  She usually comes to that garden when that happens so it is best to keep everything gentle so not to startle her and let her get her bearings.

“Hi, Red. Oh let’s get a look at you!” she said, happily, but having slight trouble standing up.  I gripped her arm gently as she finally stood.  She stepped back and grinned brightly, her pale, blue eyes twinkling. 

“Oh, Red you look wonderful!”  I grinned and twirled around.

“Why, thank you.  I had a great seamstress,” I said happily.  She laughed in agreement.  Her expression changed briefly before coming to rest on a small smile.

“Come with me, I have something for you,” she said, gently taking my hand.  I let her lead me back to her house.  I helped her kneel beside her bed, knowing she keeps her private or precious things under her bed.  She slowly but surely brought out a medium black box with gold trim and red swirls all around.  I’d never seen it before but it seemed familiar.  I helped her up and then we sat on the bed together.

“So what is it, Gran?”  I asked, my curiosity going crazy.  She gave me a small smile and opened the box.  Inside was a beautiful, silver dagger with a ruby rose on either side of the handle along with emerald vines originating from the roses and wrapping out and around it.   “Oh, wow,” I whispered, tracing the vines with my finger.

“That’s what I said when I first got it, too,” she said with her almost smile.  I giggled a bit.

“May I?” I asked, gesturing toward the box.   She nodded and handed it to me.  I lifted the dagger gingerly while examining it.  It fit perfectly in my hand. “Is it mine?” I asked in a whisper.  She again nodded.  I received presents from her quite often but this seemed more personal and intimate.  She patted my hair softly and stood up.

“I need a favor from you, Red.”  Shocked by her suddenness, I nodded.  “I need you to run some books down to your aunt’s for me, please,” she said, sounding weak.  I stood up quickly and moved closer to her.

“Yeah, of course.”  I was surprised that she was allowing me into the words for the first time, but the weakness in her voice stopped any questions that I had.

“Thank you dear.  I’ll go get them,” she said as she walked into the next room.  She came back moments later with a handful of old books, and a bag.  He handed me both so I set the box down.  “No, take it with you.  The knife I mean,” she said quickly.  Again, surprised by her actions I simply nodded, took the dagger from the box, and put it in my book in a way that insured it would not cut me.  Then I headed for the door.

“Bye, I’ll be back soon,” I said before walking out.  I heard a loud, hard sigh before shutting the door.

I screamed in pain.  My stomach felt as if it was going to swallow itself, except that feeling spread throughout my body, and became intensified by a hundred.

“Max!” I groaned at my Father’s voice.  I knew a punishment was coming.  Another more intense wave of pain came, my body coiled into a ball.  Another scream escaped my throat.

“Max, you have to hunt.  Why do you do this to yourself?  To me?” my Father asked, saying the last part in a whisper, tears falling from his eyes at the sight of me.  I have to hunt for myself now since he’s far too old to hunt for two.  The typical age for people like me to start hunting is 15.  I, however, hate the feeling of killing something with my bare hands.  It makes me feel so evil and disgusting.

“I can’t,” I managed to say through clenched teeth.

“But you will, my son.  You will,” he said, through his tears.  There was something else in his voice.   Even through my pain, I heard it.  Before I could respond or even process the actions unfolding before me, I was carried to my father’s car and strapped down.  I howled in pain and started to growl.  No, this can’t be happening.  “My son, I love you, but you have to learn.  I will not lose you like I lost your mother,” he said, in a terribly sad voice.  I began to thrash and howl.  I stopped when the pain became too much.  The only sound in the car was my screams.  The anxiety almost distracted me from my pain. Almost.  I had no idea what my father was planning, but I knew he was going to force my hand.  I just wished I knew how.  The car stopped moving, but I barely registered it until my father got out and unstrapped me.  I tired to thrash against him, but I couldn’t manage any movement.  He laid me on the ground and kissed my head.

“I love you,” he whispered before getting in his car and driving away quickly.  I took a deep breath and stood up.  I could only manage a crouch.  I stumbled through the forest until I found a trail.  There was a young girl, dressed in an old fashioned dress and a bright, scarlet cloak, her red hair flowed over her shoulders.  She looked beautiful. And delicious.  I tried to back away, but the pain became more than I could handle.  I yelled out.  She jumped up and stared at me, her brown eyes meeting mine.  My vision blurred. Oh no!

The walk wasn’t bad.  There was not any sign of animals.  I can’t figure out why they were so strict and would not let me come here.  I walked in silence, taking in my surroundings.  I was almost halfway there when I heard a scream.  I turned toward the noise to find a handsome, blonde boy crouching in pain.  His blue eyes looked into mine before shutting tightly.

“Oh my god, are you okay?  Oh, what am I saying?  You’re obviously not.  Can I help you at all?” I asked, rushing over to him.

“No,” He yells, “Stay away,” he warned me.  I frown at the boy who obviously needed help.

“Don’t be silly, you can’t even stand. Here, let me help,” I reach for his arm, and he looks at me again.  This time, his eyes are bright yellow.  Like a cat stalking its prey.    His teeth began to grow and he began to growl.  I stepped back instinctively.  Before my eyes, his body transformed from a beautiful, young man to a frightening beast.  I didn’t have time to react before he lunged and I end up in his mouth.  He’s not even chewing me, just swallowing me whole, his teeth scraping my sides as I go down.  I began to scream, but who would hear you scream in the belly of a beast?  It was just then that I remembered the dagger Gran gave me.  I reached for it, but it was difficult.  There wasn’t a lot of room.   Finally, I felt the slightly warm metal with the touch of my fingers and inspiration pushed through the terror in my mind.

I was the beast in control.  I felt her slim body slide down my throat.  The satisfaction of her tender skin being torn even a little pleased my wolf so greatly.  I, on the other hand, felt completely and utterly disgusted.  I tried to throw her up, but the beast wouldn’t let me.  This is what happens when you starve him.  He will have what he wants and you won’t have a choice in the matter.  I couldn’t live with that.  I loved my life, but I didn’t deserve it after such a heinous crime.  I would end it all myself if I had to.  I just knew I wouldn’t want to live with what I had done.  A sharp pain from my stomach took me from my thoughts.  The pain just grew and grew.  I was on the ground, howling in pain and before I knew it blood started pooling around me, and my vision began to blur again.  I stayed conscious though just long enough to see the beautiful girl crawl out from me.  Tears of pure happiness formed as I slipped into oblivion.

I pulled myself out and crawled away from him.  His body turned back to normal as he died.  Before I could react, he turned to dust, leaving his clothes behind on the ground.  I pulled my fists to my chest and wept.  I wept with an pain I’ve never known.  I had killed a man.  Not just a man, but a beast.  He was man nonetheless.  I should have heeded his warning.  I should’ve listened.  We both might have been just fine if I had done what he demanded.  He must have family, I thought?  Someone who’ll miss him, right?  I did this.  I laid down, still in a ball, and wept more than I had ever wept in my life.


We have announced the theme selected by our Concept Schools’ network for 2016/2017

Wear Your Imagination Inside Out


1st, 2nd, and 3 place prizes will be given in 3 categories – high school, middle school, and elementary; $100, $75, and $50 respectively.  And wherever applicable a $25 for honorable mention.  In addition, winners will work with the Director of English and their teachers to finalize their winning entries for publication. 

Winners will be announced in March.

Click On Image to Download Poster



2016/2017 Writing Contest

Theme:  Wear Your Imagination Inside Out

Rationale:  We are inspired by different things.  Our inspiration is as diverse as the people and environments that we inhabit.  The word imagination implies we go inside and bring what is there out for the world to see. We want to know how this process works for you. So, please, select a prompt and start writing. 


  • Imagine that you have some magical capabilities.  Explain what you would do with them to inspire the world.
  • Re-write a fairy tale.* Give it a new ending and change it to make it even more inspiring.
  • Use a picture that inspires you and describe it to your reader.
  • Inspiration is often portrayed as a bright light.*  Describe a time that you came out of the dark and followed the light of inspiration.
  • Describe a time when you were inspired by music and explain what happened.


Grade Level Differentiation – Essays:

3-5th grade, expository and narrative essays or fairy tale minimum of 300 words

6 – 8th grade, expository, narrative essays or fairy tale minimum of 500 words

9 – 12th grade, expository, narrative essays or fairy tale minimum of 600 words

Grade Level Differentiation – Poems:

*These two prompts may also be written as a poem 

Poem for 3 – 5 grade, 5 to 10 lines minimum

Poem for 6- 8th grade, 15 – 20 lines minimum

Poem for 9 – 12th grade, 20 to 30 lines minimum

Rules and Guidelines:

  1. Contest is open to any student (grade 3 or higher) who is part of Concept Schools.
  2. Teachers may submit as many entries as they wish as long as student work has been written, revised, and edited.
  3. Work is submitted as follows:
    1. Teacher submits all student work via email with a list of students they are attaching: name/grade level.
    2. All entries must be formatted as follows: name, school name, grade level, and name of prompt with the words “poem” or “essay.” Entries must be typed (minimum 18 point font – max 22 point font) or neatly hand-written. Teacher rubric must be attached. See sample
  4. Entries may be submitted to aflaherty@conceptschools.org from November 14th – February 24th.
    1. Entries will not be returned, so please keep a copy for your records.
    2. All decisions about winners are subject to the judgment of the Concept judging panel. Scoring will be done with the same rubrics as two attached (expository/narrative will use the same).

Note:  Please encourage your students to check out the list below and support them in submitting their work to other competitions!

Rubrics below


32 Other Writing Competitions for Students

33 Writing Contests for Teens (Publication & Cash)

Download the attached prompts and requirements:


Poster Design Coming in December 2016!  If you need any information, contact Andy Flaherty at aflaherty@conceptschools.org



2015/2016 Concept Writing Competition Winners


Concept Schools’ annual writing competition continues to grow and evolve each year.  This year we had a record number of submissions; students in grades 3-12 wrote on a variety of topics and in a variety of genres.  For the first time we linked the competition with our new writing assessments in the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) Journeys and Collections texts that our schools have purchased. This achieved two goals – allow teachers and students to focus on writing in the classroom  as laid out in our curriculum and focus on the enduring understanding and essential questions that connect classroom learning to the real world.  It was successful as we saw improved entries and depth of thinking.  This year’s winners are:

3-5th Grade Band

1st Place – Gabby Jolei Munoz, 5th Grade HSA Lorain, Fictional Narrative: No Title, 2nd Place – Lilianna Vaughn, 3rd Grade HSA Lorain, Personal Narrative: My Community and How It Helps Me, 3rd Place – Hamdi Rashid, 3rd Grade HSA Columbus Elementary, Personal Narrative: No Title

6-8th Grade Band

1st Place –  Lily Bell, 8th Grade GSA Fyler St. Louis, Personal Narrative:  No Title, 2nd Place – Amya Washington, 7th Grade HSA Belmont Chicago, Opinion Essay:  The Time Is Now… Stop!, 3rd Place – Jylan Webster, 7th Grade IMSA South Indianapolis, Opinion Essay:  Is Seeing Really Believing?

9-12th Grade Band

1st Place – Justin Wilton, 10th Grade MMSA Michigan, Speech:  Nutritious and Delicious? Or Wasting Lunches in Bunches?  Are Schools Foods Really Healthy?, 2ndPlace – Rowan Elliot, 9th Grade GSA Fyler St. Louis, Argument:  Freedom, 3rd Place – Shagufta Khan, 10th Grade CMSA Chicago, Speech:  Citizenship = Equality

Winners received  their prizes at the Speech and Spoken Word Competition award ceremony in Indianapolis on March 19th.


The following student works has been revised, re-editing, and in some cases changes made prior to publication.

Writing – 1st Place 3-5th Grade

Gabby Jolei Munoz

Grade 5, HSA Lorain

On August 6, 2014, my grandmother was labeled with stage three cancer.  The nurses taking care of my grandmother told her that if treated correctly, she could live longer than what the doctor thought, which was 6 months.  Before they left the room, the nurse told us that they were going to try their hardest to help.  She also told us not to be too sad, because these kinds of things happen all of the time. I didn’t hear what else she said, because my face was buried deep into my mom’s shirt, tears spilling over my face.

My mom and I left two hours later; my grandmother had to stay at the hospital for the night.  When we got home my father was just pulling in, he had not yet heard the news.  When we go inside, he took one glance at my face and stood up.

“What’s wrong,” he asked.

My mom told him, and the look on his face showed pure sadness. He grabbed his jacket, while shedding tears, grabbed the car keys, and ran out the door.  He came back an hour later and went straight for the kitchen.  He grabbed his plate dinner and went to his bedroom.  Instead of turning the TV on like usual, he ate his dinner in silence. I was so sad, but not too sad.

“Well, go to bed Lily,” my mom said.  “You have school tomorrow.”

That reminded me of the fun yet to come at school tomorrow.  I just couldn’t wait to see my friends and to go to the ice-cream party with them.

When I got to school and got out of the care and into the school, there was a new boy that sat in the desk next to me.  My teacher, Mrs. Kaskline, told us all to say hi to the new boy.  She said to tell him all about ourselves.  I found out his name was Daniel Hampson and that he was born in Western Virginia.  No one in the class wanted to be friends with Daniel besides me.

I told Daniel about my grandma, the way my dad acted after he got back from the hospital, and how I carry these problems with me, everywhere I go.  He told me not to worry, not to be sad, and that all he has left is his mother, because his father, grandmother, grandfather, and his baby brother died in a car accident.

“I’ll try,” I said.  “Oh, and Daniel, thanks.”

“You’re welcome” was all he said.

When I got home, I found that my grandma had died at 11:02pm, during the surgery.  I decided to actually try to do what Daniel had told me to do.  I told mom all about Daniel, the new boy, and how he told me to try not to be sad and over-emotional.

“Well, you do that sweetie,” she said with a cheery smile on her bright face.

I went to my room, and soon I feel asleep, falling into a deep dream.

The next day as I went to school, all I could think about what what I would tell Daniel. What would he say? I thought.  Will he try to comfort me like he did yesterday?

When I got to the cafeteria, I saw Daniel waiting for me me.  I wish he wouldn’t do that! I thought.

Instead of going with him to breakfast, I went straight to class.  All day I ignored Daniel and all day I ignored his comforting comments, because every time that he talked to me I just felt all those depressing moments start to flow up my throat.  Later, he cornered me.  Now I can’t run, I thought.

“Get away,” I told him.  “I don’t have time for it.”

“You don’t have time?” he asked. “Don’t have time for what?”

I told him about yesterday, that grandma died and what I think about his pathetic sayings, how they don’t comfort me, and that all they do is make me feel worse.

“Well you could have told me before,” Daniel said.  “How was I supposed to know?”

I didn’t answer him back. I just kept walking to class.

When I got picked up, my mom handed me a black dress and drove to my grandma’s funeral. When we got there, I had to help set up the chairs for the guests that were coming. After I was done setting up the chairs my mom told me to stand by the door and welcome the guests when they arrived.  My Aunt Rosa and Uncle Sam came, as well as my Aunt Deanna and Uncle John, and my cousins Rosalie, Clarrisse, and Kiera.

After the funeral, I understood that it wasn’t my fault that my grandmother had been labeled with stage three caner or that my grandmother had died.   I also decided to try harder than ever to overcome that challenge, knowing that instead of running away from it, I could just get over it. I know that if I hadn’t gotten over it, that it would be hard for me to go places that reminded me of her. If not for Daniel, I wouldn’t have learned.


Writing 1st Place 6-8th Grade

Lily Bell

8th Grade, GSA St. Louis

When you’re in the second grade, the things that seem important really aren’t: being the teacher’s pet, being line-leader. Those things don’t really count in the long run.  When I was in second grade, those things mattered to me, but what mattered most was having my very own book so I could read along with the teacher.

At this particular point in time, we were reading The Magic Tree House (probably the most impressive chapter books to read when you are eight).  The teacher would sit back in her purple chair, that sometimes, if you were lucky enough, a student would get to lounge in.  Her hair was always tied tightly in a bun, pencils stuck inside, giving her almost-antennae while also giving her the look of every teacher stereotype there was.  She was strict, her face covered in frown lines.  She towered over me, and all the other tiny, not-fully-developed second graders.  Naturally, she was my favorite teacher. She impressed me, showed her tough side, almost as if there wasn’t another side to her at all.  She was the epitome of an adult in my adolescent eyes. I wanted to show that kind of adulthood.

Chase was one of my classmates.  He was the tallest kid in the class, holding that title well above our (much closer to the ground) heads, just in case he needed to use it against us. He was my rival in the classroom: quiet, collected, always go the classroom jobs I so yearned for.   He wanted that sense of sophistication that only came from knowing that you were the teacher’s favorite.  Only, contrary to myself, he was not only the teacher’s pet, he was also the tallest kid in the class.  Giving him two great, honorary titles, to my one.  Chase had an advantage, one thing that I didn’t have, that put him ahead in the polls.  And it all came back to The Magic Tree House.

English class rolled around. Back then we didn’t switch classes so we all stayed sitting while the teacher switched subjects. I loved reading, but more than that I loved reading with the teacher.  Listing to her voice as my eyes traced the black inked words.  It was my favorite thing.  At the time, I was spending the beginning of class fretting when it would be time to read.  I didn’t have a book.  As desperately as I wanted to be able to see the words not just hear them, I couldn’t.  A few students had one, students that I probably would’ve been better off choosing in this particular situation. Students that didn’t have anything of mine they could take away.  They all sat happily at their desks, thumbing through the pages to find the one we had left off on.  I watched them, a strong sense of jealousy building up.  I looked around the room, watching, scoping, searching in a way.  That’s when I saw it.

During this time in which people are getting books out, adjusting to the change in subject not scenery, students were allowed to get pillows. Why that was, I do not know.  It was reading time. Quiet, cozy, reading time. I suppose some students just wanted it to feel more like they were t home under blankets on their second-grade-sized ben that at schools with their legs tucked uncomfortably under a wooden desk.  Chase, was, unfortunately for both of use, one of those students.  He had gotten up, walked over to the area covered in pillows to choose from, when my eyes landed on the shining, soft-covered book laying on his desk.  It seemed to be calling my name.  It sat, waiting to be opened, read, and carefully handled.  It lay there, gleaming, begging for me to come and take it.  And that’s exactly what I did.

Taking a book from a desk in the front of the classroom, with the owner only seconds away from returning to it, and the teacher watching the commotion of the room under a haw’s eye was no easy job.  It took strategy.  But, instead of strategy, I walked up, glanced around, and took the book right off the desk.  No one saw.  Of course, in my young mind, that’s all I had to do.  I didn’t think about what would happen once we really started reading, once Chase returned to his seat, once the annoying girl next to him decided to snitch.  I didn’t think ahead.

All of a student, all the kids in the room were told to stand up.  I watched the room rise, everyone standing, only I was wobbling on shaky legs.  I had, on a last escape, thrown it to the back of my desk.  But, it wasn’t hidden from my teacher. As she pulled it from my desk, I felt that crown slowly fall from my head.  That hard work of always getting the best classroom jobs, gone.  I knew Chase was standing smug at the head of the class.  It wasn’t worth it, taking his book.  It wasn’t worth his smug face as the crown rose to his head.  And now, he was the tallest kid in the class and the teacher’s pet.  And all I was, was embarrassed.


Writing 1st Place 9-12th Grade 

Justin Wilton

10th Grade, MMSA Michigan

Nutritious and Delicious?  Or Wasting Lunches in Bunches

It is simply amazing to hear about how many positive programs the United States government is implementing into American’s lives.  One example of this is the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (or HHFKA), which was dedicated to ensuring that students have healthy and nutritious meals while they are in school.  This program changed school lunches, and student diets, from the day it was introduced. There is a very vocal majority of students who are grateful for the new, healthy lunches because it gives them something to complain about to anyone who will listen along with allowing them to throw more food away in the garbage cans due to it’s quality. It’s true, students across America are throwing away many meals provided by the schools under the government’s standards. These meals are so healthy that a childhood obesity might actually see a drop (that was the plan right?) due to most students having nothing desirable to eat at school.  We see this trend in public, private, and charter schools across America, where students are throwing away food for their appealing aspects.  It should surprise no one that ever since HHFKA was started in 2010 students learned a new social skill and application, complaining about school lunches.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services, the HHFKA was founded by Michele Obama and other supporters who saw a problem of a high and rising childhood obesity levels among students in America’s education system.  HHFKA changed school food guidelines so that nutritious foods were provided by schools in order to benefit childhood health and lower childhood obesity levels.  It makes sense that this program was an excellent solution to combat the problem of obesity, because it “involuntarily” is starting a number of students.  HHFKA must be considered a success since it seems as if obesity levels are on track to start falling.  If the goal of HHFKA is to have students healthier, how is it doing its job if students do not want to eat the food that they program provides?  Thumbs up to Washington!

Studies show that students are wasting food due to the lack of appealing and appetizing quality.  This must surprise HHFKA, who provide foods that were supposed to benefit students.  The Washington Post reports that 60% of vegetables and 40% of fruits are being wasted by students.  This obviously should raise red flags in Washington, but we hear nothing of it.  It is obviously not healthy if students do not eat their school lunches, especially when they go to school depending on their lunches to get them through the day.  Furthermore, a news station from Cleveland, Ohio found that 81% of schools have seen an increase in food waste in the last two years of serving  food by HHFKA rules and guidelines.  This cannot be a good indication that the program is positively impacting student health since more food is being wasted each year.

The problem with this government program, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, is that the food being provided for the students through the government into the schools is not appealing, appetizing, or even good tasting.  Some of the food is not even identifiable.  HHFKA was intended to give students healthy to each, which they have, but they also limited other types of food schools can serve, and then limited students’ diets.  If students aren’t eating food provided to them by the government, how is it healthy?  How is it nutritious?  It must be having some sort of positive impact on childhood obesity, because students are definitely not eating as much as they used to, but is this the way we want to fight the problem, by starving our kids?  I propose that the government back off schools and the varieties of foods they provide, in order to allow for students to get foods that can really fuel their bodies.    However, I do encourage the government to provided optional  but promoted resources for students, so they can learn to make healthy decisions in their everyday lives themselves rather than having the government do it.  Additionally, optional public programs, targeted to families, could be introduced that encourage parents to teach kids to stay healthy and provide nutritious, delicious food in homes and schools.  That way, healthy lifestyles are encouraged, not forced, leading to healthy, happy students and families.  Because we all know food is only healthy when you eat it.


Writing – 2nd Place 3-5th Grade

Lilianna Vaughn

Grade 3, HSA Lorain

My Community and How It Helps Me

I live in the wonderful city of Lorain, Ohio.  Lorain, Ohio is such a great place because it has so many great people, so many great things to do, and so many great places.  Some of these places are; Horizon Science Academy, hospitals in my community, The Lorain Police Department, The Lorain Fire Department, and St. Peter’s.  I love all of these places. I love my community.

Horizon Science Academy does not only protect me, but it teaches me.  HSA Lorain prepares me for a better future and a better life.  Everyone there makes me want to learn, and they all make me feel safe, and like I belong.  HSA Lorain provides me with food, water, milk, and fruit.   It provides me with clean restrooms and clean classrooms.  My school is a very important place for me, not to mention my teachers and friends!

Hospitals in my community are very important to me because, they are always there in case of emergency.  They don’t just take care of me when something is out of the ordinary or wrong, but they help and take care of everyone in my community.  They make other people happy and healthy, which makes me happy and healthy.  All hospitals around the world are important because they help the people in their community, and make another kids just like me happy and healthy.

I am very thankful for St. Peter’s because it is my school’s safe house.  In case of emergency, I would evacuate to St. Peter’s to keep safe. It is very welcoming and warm, so if it were cold outside, I would stay warm.  It doesn’t just keep ME safe, but it keeps the rest of my school safe.  St. Peter’s is a place I respect and am always toing to be a part of.  I am grateful for St. Peter’s very much, for I depend on it to keep me safe.

Lorain Police Department, I have many things about their special services.  The officers who work there protect all fellow citizens from harm.  I look up to the officers who are part of the Lorain Police Department.  They are always there when needed and I respect that.  The Lorain Police Department is now, and will always be, a great reminded of how to be a good citizen, and that makes me a good citizen, which helps me help other people… and that makes me feel good.

Can’t forget The Lorain Fire Department!  The Lorain Fire Department is a very special, important, respect place.  In our community there are fires that start in houses, parks, hotels, anywhere really.  The Lorain firemen are always there risking their lives to stop any fire, big or small, they’re there… no matter what.  I respect the Lorain firemen, and the Lorain Fire Department, because they will always be there to protect me from a devastating fire.


I respect, encourage, and trust Horizon Science Academy of Lorain, the hospitals in my community, St. Peter’s, The Lorain Police department, and the Lorain Fire department.  They will always be there by my side.  These places will also be a great part of my life, my hopes, and my dreams.  I respect these places very much and will always trust and encourage them.


2nd Place 6-8th Grade

Amya Washington

Grade 7, HSA Belmont

The Time Is Now…Stop!

“Self-harm –the world will come at you with knives anyway.  You do not need to beat them to it.”  These are the words of a self-harm veteran.  Self-harm is something that affects many teens worldwide.  Some think that it’s a good idea…until they really think about what’s happening to them.  Self-harm isn’t a good idea because it’s irrelevant to solving an already stressful problem.  Self-harm brings on misconceptions, false assurance, and mental disfigurement.

First off, when we think of self-harm, we think of people cutting their arms and leg, in some cases.  What we don’t think about is the million other ways to self-harm.  Running into walls, purposely hitting yourself with objects, are also way that people display self-harm.  Burning and sudden clumsiness too.  When you think of the different ways to harm yourself, you realized there are so many.  Self-harm is caused by many things.  Bullying and sexual abuse are two very big problems.  Now I know some people may say that people who do this are crazy or they want to die.  Well, let me squash this theory.  When people self-harm, they do it to cope with the stressful times that life brings.  They try to give themselves the one thing that self-harm can’t give: self-assurance.

Secondly, when someone self-harms, they think that they are coping with their drama. This, unfortunately, is not the case.  When self-harm occurs, you are actually hurting an already broken image.  If you were being teased for being fat, performing self-harm makes you seem “uglier” in their eyes.  Even if you try to hide it, they’ll start calling you a freak.  People don’t like to feel this way, but they feel that it is their only escape.  If only it was.

Finally, when kids self-harm, have you ever thought about what they were thinking?  They are convinced that hurting themselves is the only solution to keep their drama from killing themselves.  All the drama running in their minds makes them feel like they’re going to split in two.  Everything in their minds just spell “HATE, HATE, HATE” a million times over.  All they want is to be left alone.

In conclusion, self-harm brings on misconceptions, false assurance, and mental disfigurement.  No one should have to go through this, but we can’t really avoid it.  In the United States, 13% of adults and teens admit to committing self-harm.  This may not seem like a lot, but when calculated it equals 41,457,000 people.  Think twice when you think self-harm is safe.


2nd Place 9-12th Grade

Rowan Elliott

Grade 9, GSA St. Louis

Freedom Argument

Bloodshed, war, conflicts.  These are the words that come to mind when I think of freedom.  This sadly makes sense.  Every country, race, or really any group has had to demand their freedom, which usually causes violence.  We have heard many examples of this too:  From the American Revolution in Social Studies to the Arab Spring in English.  Freedom has to be demanded, unless what I described sounds like freedom was just given to those people (which I may add, includes us).

First, when I think of giving, I think of getting something for someone without much trouble.  If freedom is given, then why is it so troublesome to obtain this “free” gift?  When Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, people were being denied this freedom.  Dr. King states: “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations.  Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells.  Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.”  If freedom is given, then why are people who want it getting injured and prosecuted?

People do not have to die or fight for things that are given to them.  In the Iranian Revolution, people’s lives were at stake for taking their freedom back.  In “Cairo: My City, Our Revolution,” by Ahdaf Soueif, we learned how an act of rebellion can cost your life.  “On 28 January, standing at the momentous crossroads, the Nile behind us, the Arab League building to our left, the old Ministry of Foreign Affairs to our right, seeing nothing up ahead except gas and smoke and fire that stood between us and our capital, we stood our ground and sand and chanted and placed our lives, with all trust and confidence, in each other’s hands.  Some of us died.”  It’s kind of like getting a gift from someone you trust.  They say, “Here have this… but you’ll need to risk your life and kill me first.”  Then, you would have to risk your life and do incredibly dangerous things for something that you might not even want.  Your may think that, of course, everyone wants freedom. But what if you don’t know what it will look like to obtain it?   You may know what you think freedom is like, but what if freedom brings chaos or maybe even worse a dictator or regime?  What if you would have to risk your life for even more uncertainty?  It might be that a world where freedom is counted as being given is a world where freedom wouldn’t be given at all.

Also, there may be times where, to make everyone happy, freedom cannot be given.  If one person is free, it may upset another person or enrage them.  This is because the freedom of the person might upset the everyday life of the other, therefore upsetting their freedom.  This cycle can continue forever.  We know the full extent of this cycle after reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.  In the story, Atticus is almost successful freeing a black man named Tom Robinson.  This case was started by the Ewell family, who claims that Mayella Ewell was harmed, to put it politely, by Tom Robinson.  Even though Tom was accused of guilt, Ewell is furious at the prospect of him not being charged and thereby innocent.  This then escalates where he threatens Atticus and physically harms his family.  Basically, one person’s freedom affects another’s.  Due to our bias and hate toward one another, it is impossible for freedom to be given to everyone.  Sadly, this is the way our society works.

However, according to Dr. King, freedom should be given to all people.  He refers to a promissory note from when the Declaration of Independence was written.  He refers to how freedom was promised to everyone because “all men are created equal.”  This is how freedom should work.  But, it doesn’t. Freedom is an ideal, an ideal that many people fought for and still do.  The declaration was written so that people did not have to fight for their freedom in the future.  Somewhere, something went wrong.  America is not what it promises us it would be.  Freedom has forgotten its promises.  Freedom should be given, but it is not.

In conclusion, the world is a place where freedom must be demanded and fought for.   We have all seen many examples of this, from court trials and protests, to revolutions and wars.   Once we have gotten freedoms we secure it for everyone.  It then becomes a societal norm.  So, when we are no reminded of our given freedoms, we are also reminded of the years of pain and bloodshed that we had to work through and how we had to demand it.






From Idea to Concept, Sharpening Our Classroom Writing

Concept English Writing Competition 2015/2016


 3rd Grade Personal Narrative: Students will describe their local community and how it helps them.

Opinion/Personal Speech:  Students will write a speech on a personal opinion of a school rule.

(These are embedded in the 3rd grade Interdisciplinary Units)  For more information contact Don Shanahan at shanahan@conceptschools.org

4th Grade Journeys – Informative Essay, students write a news report about a school-wide event or activity that happened in their building.  Pages T52-55

Journeys – Persuasive Letter, students write a persuasive letter to convince financial backers in the community to donate to a possible project or need in their classroom. Pages T206-209

For more information reach out to Don Shanahan at shanahan@conceptschools.org

5th Grade Journeys – Fictional Narrative, students write a fictional narrative about a main character that overcomes a challenge that would change their life. Pages T284-287, T358-361

Journeys – Informative Essay, students write a cause/effect essay about something humans do to contribute to the habitat destruction of animals. Pages T208-211

For more information reach out to Don Shanahan at shanahan@conceptschools.org

6th Grade Collection # 1 – Expository Essay, students chose a fear and write about it. Page 67

Collection # 2 – Expository Essay, students write about how animals exhibit intelligence. Page 133

7th Grade Collection #1 – Oral Commentary (submit written work), students write and present their opinion about the rewards and risks associated with bold actions. Page 57

Collection #2 – Opinion or Expository Essay, students write about how a single action can create a dramatic change.  Page 131

8th Grade Collection #1 – Personal Narrative, students write a narrative based on their own experience adjusting or fitting into new situations. Page 83

Collection #2 – Literary Analysis, students select a story or stories in the horror genre and write an analysis.  Page 137

9th Grade Collection #1 – Speech (submit written speech), students write and present a speech about how the anchor text discusses how individuals struggle to unit for a cause. Page 37

Collection #2 – Argument, students make a claim about whether or not freedom is given or must be demanded.  Page 97

10th Grade Collection #1 – Speech (submit written speech), students write and present a speech about how our relationships with others define who we are.  Page 41

Collection #2 – Research Report, students write a report that develops their findings about our relationship with nature.

11th Grade Collection #1 – Argument, students write an essay with a claim and evidence that support their beliefs about how immigration changed America, and how America changes those who come here. Page 103

Collection #2 – Informative Essay, students write an essay detailing information from their anchor texts and how it relates to balancing individual and group rights.  Page 169

12th Grade Collection #1 – (NOTE: Seniors are doing research paper) For submission to competition choose Compare/Contrast Essay, students compare/contrast the sacrifices made by individuals in their anchor texts. Page 71

Collection #2 – (Note:  Group Discussion is the assessed task in this unit) For submission to competition choose Informative Essay rubric Page 144), students write an informative essay explaining how gender roles have evolved over time based on the result of their group discussions.


Rules and Guidelines:

  1. Select the top 2 pieces from each of your classes from the options listed above. If you have strong writers you may submit for each.
  1. Submit student work as follows:

Submit email that must include:  A list of students you are attaching as well as their grade level.  Student writing must have student name, school name, grade level, and from which text the Prompt came on every page of submission and file. Type size must be minimum 18 maximum 22 font. If these submission requirements are not met, work will not be read.

For example:  John Andrews, HSA Toledo, 9th grade, Collection #1

  1. Entries can be submitted to aflaherty@conceptschools.org from September to January 29th as you finish your classroom work.
  • Contest is open to any student (grade 3 or higher) who is a part of Concept Schools.
  • Entries will not be returned, so please keep a copy for your records.
  • All decisions about winners are subject to the judgment of the Concept judging panel. Scoring will be done with the same rubrics used by teachers throughout the network for their classroom instructions.


1st, 2nd, and 3 place prizes will be given in 3 categories – high school, middle school, and elementary; $100, $75, and $50 respectively.  And wherever applicable a $25 for honorable mention.

Winners will be announced in March.

NOTE:  Your work must be original and without obscenities, gratuitous violence, or other questionable material.