Live Deliberately Essay Contest

We are excited to announce the winners of the 2015-2016 Essay contest!


“Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”  

–Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Prompt: Thoughtfully convey a time when you either experienced or witnessed the type of “miracle” that Thoreau describes in the quotation above. 


For the first time, in 2015-2016, we added a Visual Essay Contest track.  View the winning submissions of both the traditional and visual Essay Contests below:


Traditional Essay Contest:

Abdullateef Abdul, 21

Winner, 19-21 Age Group
Ajah, Lagos NIGERIA

I wasn’t always an enthusiast of traveling. I saw traveling as an unnecessary venture which merely compelled travellers to live awkward lives. Growing up in fact, I never went past the boundaries of my hometown. This however changed sometime during the 2012 summer holiday when I felt choked by my immediate environment. I wanted a fresh breath of life much as I yearn to meet new people, interact with new cultures and see new worlds. Like Thoreau, I wanted to experience my own ‘Walden’ and live deliberately. I therefore prepared for a voyage to a rather unusual destination (Northern Nigeria) – unusual as it was then engulfed in security crisis. But I remain resolute. Thoreau after all was not perturbed by the solitude and insecurity of the wilderness. Read more


Emyli Bassett-Humble, 17

Winner, 17-18 Age Group
Harlem High School
Machesney, Illinois

"New Versus Blue"

Life is both mesmerizing and terrifying, full of endless miracles that are both spectacular and abhorrent. Among those miracles is one that is almost never taken seriously until it is experienced. The ability to view the world from the perspective of another has opened my eyes countless times and given me insights about life that shape the very foundation of my being, and my appreciation for what I have. Even when I was a toddler, I was experiencing this miracle and digging into the depths of what empathy can show one’s self. Read more



Anita Onyimah, 17

Honorable Mention, 17-18 Age Group
Concord Academy (Concord, Massachusetts)
Acworth, Georgia

In Jasmina Dervisevic-Cesic’s autobiography The River Runs Salt Runs Sweet, Jasmina depicts the devolution of Visegrad, her home town, into the Bosnian War of 1992. At the beginning of her book, Jasmina tells tales of swimming competitions, social cafes, and a community that loved each other regardless of gender, religion, or ethnicity. Jasmina’s descriptions of Visegrad’s initial peace make its slow descent into hate and extremism all the more confusing. Jasmina introduces her readers to children that grew up as friends, but eventually turn against each other to perpetuate hostilities forged long before they were born. At the beginning of her book, Jasmina, seventeen and in love, worried about dances and graduation and her future with Suljo, her betrothed. By the end of her novel, she had lost an arm, two brothers, her husband, and an innocence that will never be restored. Jasmina writes: “The killing went on and on. Perhaps reading of this is numbing. Certainly we were numbed by it.” (Dervisevic-Cesic, Page 122) Read more


Tracy Robinson, 18

Honorable Mention, 17-18 Age Group
Fort White, Florida

"Miracles...And Fat Cats"

A warm breeze licked around the house, brushing my hair against my cheek. I had been in Turkey for five days, and the group I was traveling with had been invited to a local family's house for dinner. I was nervous, and slightly terrified. The culture I had seen over my short stay was incredibly different from my own, and I was fearful that I would not be able to connect to our host family. Leaving my shoes by the front door, I walked gingerly toward the living room, following the bobbing hijab of one of the daughters. She was eager to be friendly, and she even spoke a few words of English, but I found myself answering only in smiles and monosyllables. I had never had any Muslim friends at home, and I wasn't an expert on their faith, myself, so I was petrified that I would say or do something that would offend these gracious people who had invited me into their home. Read more


Richa Gupta, 16

Winner, 15-16 Age Group
The International School Bangalore
Bangalore, Karnataka INDIA

"A Flood of Perspective"

I remember my roommate crying because she couldn’t contact her family in any way; courtesy of the flood that had ravaged her city, the phone lines and signal towers were down. We were students in a boarding school in Bangalore, India; my friend lived in Chennai—a city which had been devastated by torrential rain. I consoled her, since I could partially understand the pain and worry she must have been undergoing. But my sympathy for her stopped there—after all, the flood couldn’t be that dangerous. Her family lived in a high rise apartment, and were well-off, resourceful folks; they would barely be affected by the flood! The phone lines would be fixed soon… Given the amount of help Chennai was receiving from external sources, someone would rectify the issue soon enough. Read more


Raven Davis-Bailey, 16

Honorable Mention, 15-16 Age Group
Sacopee Valley High School
Hiram, Maine

"The Miracle of Life"

To fully convey the moment that I wish to, I have to elaborate on what I perceive the quote is given to mean. I do not believe that the meaning of the quote stops at simply feeling empathy for someone. Although that would in itself be a miracle, there is a slightly deeper meaning than just empathy for one person. This would be empathy for all, understanding everyone in the world, what some would call enlightenment: to truly understand the existence of everyone at once through their own perspective. So I perceive this quote to truly mean there is no greater miracle that could exist than understanding humanity. That seems to have been the yearned-for knowledge of many throughout history. Read more


Penelope Sanchez, Age 14

Winner, 13-14 Age Group
Academy of Our Lady of Peace
San Diego, California

Tijuana is not what I imagine when I think of a hometown. There are no cute quirky buildings, no grassy parks where children can safely romp around, no sense of community. Whenever I think of this city, my city, I always think of crumbling gray walls and the reek of poverty. I see ten year old girls spending their afternoons working in convenience stores rather than playing or doing homework in an effort to gain a few extra pesos for their family. I see the rich and privileged mocking and showing contempt for the people on the streets, thinking them dumb for “choosing this lifestyle.” Read more


Visual Essay Contest:

Tyler Thomas, Age 18

Winner, Combined Age Group
Marshall, Texas

"The Shed"




At eighteen, I am starting to see the world differently.  There are new responsibilities, most of which require me to act as an adult, making decisions that will affect my future.  Deadlines and daily demands often rap at my door, reminding me that it is time to put my childhood away like the boxes of stored wooden blocks and painted pictures Mom has stored high on the shelf in her closet.  Most of the time, I wear this rite of passage much like a badge of honor pinned on a soldier’s uniform, my head held high and proud to say I have come this far.  However, on occasion, when an opportunity presents itself, I lose myself again back to my boyhood, seeing the world differently, a magical place where I can make a simple box my racecar or a blanket my parachute. 

Entering the woods transforms me completely, almost as though I return entirely to eight or nine years old.  Sticks become swords.  Trees become fortresses.  Creeks become roadways.  In the winter, all I see is Narnia.  In summer, everything is more like a war zone.  My imagination runs wild with the adventure and exploration that surrounds me as I blaze new trails and find hidden treasures.

To come across a hidden structure, though, is absolute bliss.  An abandoned abode to a child is like gold to a leprechaun or like finding a winning lottery ticket.  Jackpot!  Yes, age brings new perspectives, but with any luck, I will never see just an old, worn down shed.






For further inspiration, consider reading our previous winning essays!