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2023 LUW Essay Contest

The Connections and Misperceptions Associated with Homelessness and Mental Health is the topic for the 2023 student essay contest sponsored by Lifting Up Westchester, a nonprofit agency committed to providing individuals with food, shelter, and support, and lifting them to greater self-sufficiency with dignity and respect.

Open to Westchester students in the 7th through the 12th grades, this year’s contest invites students to think about importance of mental health, which impacts how we think, feel, and act, and how we cope with life.

Mental health influences how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Did you know that family illness, job loss, divorce, not doing well in school, being bullied, hunger, poor housing and becoming unhoused are just some of the things that can trigger mental health issues? This can result in emotions such as anxiety, depression, or loneliness. We invite you to consider how important and serious mental health is for our wellbeing and to consider how individuals experiencing homelessness might face particular mental health challenges.

This year we are adding something new. You have the option to include song lyrics, lines from a favorite poem, or a quote that speaks to you about the importance of mental health and why that particular song, poem or quote resonated with you (the specific quote will not be counted in the mandatory word count between 750 and 1000 words). Consider including this option if you feel it can help you enhance your essay with an overarching theme and personalize it.

Essays must explore and discuss:
  • What are the connections & misperceptions associated with mental health and homelessness? How might becoming homeless impact a person’s mental health? How can events that are out of our control impact our mental health? How might this be different for adults and kids? Does everyone who has a mental health issue become homeless?
  • Why do you think people experiencing homelessness are often stigmatized or stereotyped as having a mental illness or poor mental health? What has influenced your opinion? What might be done to help end this stigma or change this stereotype?
  • Why is it important for organizations like Lifting Up Westchester to provide support for individuals experiencing homelessness?
  • Has the process of writing this essay changed your thinking about mental illness/poor mental health? Do you believe poor mental health automatically leads to homelessness or do people develop mental health issues as a result of homelessness? Could both be true? 
Here are some links to help you begin researching about mental health. Feel free to consult other resources as well.

https://www.mhawestchester.org/our-services/behavioral-health-information

https://invisiblepeople.tv/mental-health-care-for-homeless-people-is-essential-especially-during-the-pandemic/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIvdix383x-QIVg82zCh1vFQYqEAAYAiAAEgIcSPD_BwE

What Being Homeless Has Taught Me About My Mental Health - Invisible People
 
Improving Mental Health Systems Could Help Curb Homelessness - Invisible People

https://www.nyclu.org/en/news/we-cant-police-our-way-out-homelessness-and-mental-health-crises  

https://www.bbrfoundation.org/blog/homelessness-and-mental-illness-challenge-our-society

https://www.preblestreet.org/2022/05/24/mental-health-and-homelessness/#:~:text=Living%20in%20high%2Dstress%20situations,co%2Doccurring%20substance%20use%20disorders.  

https://amsterdamnews.com/news/2022/03/24/nycs-homeless-population-grows-amid-mental-health-crisis-that-predominately-affects-people-of-color/



THE ESSAY DEADLINE IS FEBRUARY 17, 2023

Winners will be announced the week of March 13, 2023:
Essays will be judged by grade group or as an ESL student as follows:
  • 7th & 8th grades
  • 9th & 10th grades
  • 11th & 12th grades
  • ESL (submissions from grades 7 through 12)
Twelve prizes in total will be awarded including first, second and third prize winners in each of three grades and in the ESL category
  • 1st prize - $500
  • 2nd prize - $250
  • 3rd prize - $100
A panel of judges has been assembled to read and score each essay.  At least three judges will read the essay and score based upon criteria outlined below.  Students can go online to Lifting Up Westchester for resources to help them write their essays.  Questions can be submitted to luwessaycontest@gmail.com 
 

This contest has been funded in loving memory of Beth Massey Rubens, a lifelong teacher, tutor, and mentor with a particular love for language arts.
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Rules & Regulations
Essays are due February 17, 2023, by 5 PM
  • Any student in grades 7 through 12 who is a Westchester County resident or goes to school in Westchester can participate in the contest. 
  • Students must include their name, grade, school and contact information (mailing address, telephone number and a personal email for either themselves or parents/guardians).
  • Essays must be original work of the student.
  • Essays must be between 750 and 1,000 words.
  • If English is the student’s second language, student can enter the ESL category.   
Parent or guardian consent will be required as part of the submission.  This constitutes permission for publication of the submitted essay, the student’s name, and photograph.

Questions can be submitted to luwessaycontest@gmail.com 
 
This contest has been funded in loving memory of Beth Massey Rubens, a lifelong teacher, tutor, and mentor with a particular love for language arts.
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