Nearly 300 essays were submitted for this year’s competition and the top five writers from each grade were recognized at the event. The winning entries will also be featured in the Third Volume of the “Young Writers Journal” which will be published by the U.S. Embassy in July 2017.
US Ambassador Dana Shell Smith congratulated all the students who participated in this year’s competition and commended the efforts of teachers, especially, for their invaluable support. “I’d like to extend my gratitude to all the amazing teachers who make this program possible for their students. The work of teachers is so often overlooked and undervalued, but without them our societies would fail and our youth would never realize their full potential.” She added that “the theme of this year’s competition – Shaping our World for the Better – speaks directly to the importance of education in shaping our world, and particularly our youth, for the better.”
Dean Akel I. Kahera said: “We humbly appreciate Ambassador Smith and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s steadfast dedication to the Young Writers Program in its efforts to encourage Qatar’s youth to read, write and think critically about important topics in society. In our eyes, all of the students are winners, and we champion each one of them on pushing towards their goals.”
The Young Writers Competition is the central component of the larger Young Writers Program, which strives to encourage Qatar’s youth to read, write and think critically about important topics in their society, while improving their English literacy skills. Since the program’s inception in 2014, students from more than 120 government schools in Qatar have participated. The program is a joint partnership between the U.S. Embassy and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, with substantial support from Virginia Commonwealth University Qatar
The Program consists of four programming strands that take place throughout the academic year: teacher capacity building sessions, student writing workshops, the Young Writers Competition and the Young Writers Journal. The themes for the 2016/2017 program focused on “Shaping our World for the Better.” Students from grades 5, 8, and 10 were asked to write a personal essay, story or poem (fiction or non-fiction) on one of the provided topics for their grade using this theme as inspiration.
Sadia Mir, a member of VCUQatar's faculty was the primary instructor and curriculum developer for the teacher professional development sessions and the student writing workshops. She said, "I was approached in 2014 to serve as the writing specialist for the program. At the time, U.S. Embassy and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education was launching the Young Writers Competition. Since then, as the writing specialist, I have collaborated with the Embassy to expand the program to what it is today: teacher capacity building sessions, student writing workshops, the Young Writers Competition and the Young Writers Journal."
According to many students who participate, the writing competition improves their imagination and gives them ideas on how to change the world through writing.