Winning Essays

First Place: “The Fight for Gordon Plaza” by Tu’Morrow Howard, sixth grader at Bricolage Academy in New Orleans, LA

Second Place: “A Changing World” by Adrian Ayestas, sixth grader at International School of Louisiana in New Orleans, LA

Third Place: “Gun Violence” by Elizabeth Northup, eighth grader at International School of Louisiana in New Orleans, LA


Honorable Mentions

Kahli Carter, seventh grader at Morris Jeff Community School in New Orleans, LA

Shydae Collins, seventh grader at Morris Jeff Community School in New Orleans, LA

Max Densen, sixth grader at Bricolage Academy in New Orleans, LA

Skylar Fragala, eighth grader at Beekman Charter School in Bastrop, LA 

Demarcus Green, eighth grader at Beekman Charter School in Bastrop, LA 

Psevynn Hill, seventh grader at Morris Jeff Community School in New Orleans, LA

Patrick Landry, seventh grader at Stuart Hall School for Boys in New Orleans, LA

Bryce Martin, seventh grader at Morris Jeff Community School in New Orleans, LA




The Fight for Gordon Plaza 

by Tu’Morrow Howard


My name is Tu’Morrow Howard. I am 12 years old, and I live with my grandmother, Shannon Rainey. She is the President of the Residents of Gordon Plaza. Gordon Plaza is a black neighborhood that is fighting the city. They are asking for a fully funded relocation. We live on top of a toxic landfill that has toxic soil. Because the soil is not safe, the drinking water is not safe. People are dying from cancer because of the contamination. This event I have witnessed in my neighborhood has inspired me. 

There are family members whose words and actions have touched my life. My grandmother has lived in Gordon Plaza for more than 30 years. My grandmother said she was excited about the opportunity to own her own house. No one told her that the land was contaminated. I’ve grown up watching my grandmother fight for relocation. At first I didn’t know what was going on, but as I’ve gotten older, I realized she is fighting to save lives in our community. She is fighting to save her life and my life. 

There are ideas that have shaped the way I think about the world today. I watched my grandmother on national tv! It took me by surprise to hear how the producer of Queen Sugar recognized what my grandmother is doing. They had a shout out to my grandmother on the last series of Queen Sugar. This shows me that what my grandmother is doing is inspiring people. Working hard in our community can make a change in the world. 

When I watch my grandmother fight for relocation, it makes me feel proud. She is making a change, and what she is doing is right. I have seen our story in news articles, in artwork in museums, on signs at protests, on t-shirts, and on television. In the future I hope that we finally get a fully funded relocation. When I think about my future, I think of the strong women who have come before me. My role as a changemaker is to grow up and be an architect. I will build homes and structures on lands that are safe. I will honor my grandmother’s work by not giving up. 



A Changing World

by Adrian Ayestas  


My name is Adrian and I live in Harvey, Louisiana. I can see myself being in the history books for protecting a world fighting with climate change. Living in an area that is directly affected by climate change through rising oceans makes taking action more important than it is for most people. When I grow up I want to be an environmental conservationist. When I see trash on the floor outside I always come to pick it up. I am enthusiastic when it comes to saving energy and reducing my carbon footprint.

Some ways I make changes are by doing anything I can around the house to save energy. I also participate in energy-smart, a program dedicated to helping my city save energy. In addition, I  pick up trash anywhere I see it on the ground. I also use renewable energy ( solar panels and a small wind turbine ) which powers my home without creating or causing greenhouse gasses which lead to global warming. Another thing I do to save the planet is recycling, I put my trash in my trash can and every recyclable in a recycling bin.

I always enjoy a trip to the swamp to observe the beautiful creatures that live there. I love animals and I have read so much about them.  I regularly go to my backyard to find some animals such as garter snakes and green anoles. One beautiful thing about nature is the fact that it can be found anywhere in the world. Since climate change affects the whole world I feel responsible as a change-maker to protect nature all over the world.

Another thing that has inspired me to make changes for the good are my parents who make me feel proud of my changes. They admit that they kinda messed up the planet but they believe it’s up to my generation to fix it. Also as a kid, I take a lot of inspiration from Greta Thunberg who is a sixteen-year-old climate change activist who has risen an army of activists including me. When I grow up and maybe right now, I can inspire thousands of other people to change and have a huge impact just like Gretta.

Lastly, I ask everyone who is reading this essay to make changes to protect the future of humanity and the natural world. Participate in local conservational events and cleanup events or instead simply just pick up trash on the floor. Recycle and never litter, also try to look into solar panels or other ways to get renewable energy. Avoid unnecessary plastic use and unplug unused chargers and turn off the lights also, tell friends and family to do these things. I know some people think that doing these things won’t make that much of a difference and but after a while, you would have made a huge impact.


Gun Violence

by Elizabeth Northup


Every day in the United States, 100 people are killed by gun violence and another 200 are shot and injured. Access to a gun doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk of suicide. Not only are the people who experience gun violence suffering, but so are their friends, family, and those who care about them. Gun violence hurts everyone involved and is currently hurting thousands of people around our country. These statistics and thoughts overwhelm me when I think about them. I find it incredibly sad that these problems are so relevant to the place we live in, a place where people are supposed to be free, respected, and safe. I shouldn’t have to go to school and fear for my own life and the lives of my friends. Gun violence has to decrease, and if that means I have to be the one to do something about it, I will. I can make a change through peaceful protest and using my social media platform.

After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February of 2018, my generation was left feeling devastated. Our peers’ lives were lost because of an event that could have been prevented. Around the country, students decided to do something called “walkout day.” It was a day in which everyone would walk out of school as a reaction and protest to what had happened. I thought about this deeply, and decided to participate in a slightly different way with many other students from my school.  We came together and stood in silence for 17 minutes, in remembrance of the 17 lives that were lost. United in our sadness, we wanted to honor those who had experienced gun violence first hand. I felt that even though I could not personally save them, I could come together with others to celebrate their lives and highlight the shame of what had happened. This still impacted the world by showing everyone how passionate my classmates and I are about guns and their danger.

Secondly, I use my platform to make a difference. Social media has brought the ability to share things in an instant, and in the appropriate times, I use this to my advantage. I post things to raise awareness about gun violence and get people thinking about it. Therefore, it is my goal to make it known and to get others on board. Hopefully, through my posting I can help people understand gun violence more and truly impact people’s opinions. 

Through peaceful gatherings and protests as well as using my social media platform, I believe and hope that I am making a difference. It is terrible and things have to change. I’m willing to help bring change by lifting my one voice in a chorus with a million others. I believe this will create a deafening roar that cannot be ignored. I hope to see other students rising up and use what they have to help impact gun violence, and end it.  

Works Cited:

“Gun Violence in America.” 20, February, 2020., 9 Mar. 2020,