With a one week notice and two days to outline and write, junior Tuong-Phi Le earned a trip to Washington, D.C. and a cash prize with her four-and-a-half page, single-spaced essay.
“It was called the Gulen Youth Platform and this year’s topic was about forced migration pertaining to refugees,” she said. “The relationship between refugees, their communities, their tendencies, what they do, when they move to another country, how their home country and politics works, and how they interact.”
In addition to the all-expenses-paid tour of Washington on April 8 to April 12, Le earned a $50 prize from the Gulen Youth Platform. This contest awards up to $3000 worth prizes to the top essays submitted from around the country. The amount of money award is based upon the rank of the individual student.
Before the actual writing of the essay, Le started with researching about her country and the refugees from there to learn more about a refugee’s experience. In addition to the research, Le is an immigrant herself, which made the topic more personal. Le’s introduction came from her own experience; she says it was s politically charged as well as delicate on the issues pertaining to migration, something she believes led to her be one of the top 30 winners.
“It was a protest that I participated in when I was about 12 and I thought it worked,” she said.
The accomplishment alone was hard to achieve, but she didn’t feel happy about it.
“I wasn’t as happy the way I would be if I was at UIL because [at UIL], you have all your friends around you and the suspense, she said. “I know that there are other people who worked harder than I did so I felt awkward. I can attribute to being lucky that they liked my intro enough. It was one of the better flubs that I did.”
Despite not feeling the way she should’ve, there is one thing that Le is proud of. It is that she didn’t submit her essay at 11:59:59.
“I was outlining on Thursday and I had two people, [senior] Shimei Nelapati and [junior] Princess Adentan, look over my outline to see if it was solid,” she said. “On Friday, I spent third period Calculus and Communication Applications working on it. I [also] spent a little bit of time working on it afterschool with Ms. [Jan] Kolk. She was helping me look over, edit, and finalize it. I turned it in at 5 PM.”
The whole experience brought out a side of her father that was implying his encouragement in her ambitions, something that was not too regular, arguably the best part about the whole thing.
“He said, ‘you know, sometimes the profession chooses you.’”she said. “That was the closest thing to a blessing he has ever said to me. This is the first time that I actually got encouragement from him to actually maybe go into something other than the science and math fields. Getting 50 dollars and a trip to Washington was cool, but getting the encouragement [from my parents] was coolest.”