Gregg Rogers (third from left) presents awards to the 2016-2017 Penn State PWR High School Essay Contest winners.

The Penn State High School Essay Contest is a writing competition that takes place in 11th grade English classes across Pennsylvania each fall. Students are presented with a writing prompt that asks them to read a recent news article and write an argumentative essay—recent prompt topics have been about student protests, social media, and technology in the classroom. After the essays are submitted, a committee of writing teachers and administrators in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric at Penn State choose a collection of winning essays, the authors of which are honored at a luncheon each spring. The top essay’s authors also receive a cash prize.

If you are a high school teacher who is interested in having your class participate in the Penn State High School Essay Contest, please contact Lynn Setzler ( We announce the contest’s prompt in October, collect submissions in December, and announce winners in February.

For the 2016-2017 contest, students read the New York Times article “Protest Started By Colin Kaepernick Spreads to High School Students” by Julie Turkewitz and crafted arguments about what makes for an appropriate and effective protest.

Our 2016-2017 honorees:

First Place
Makenna Dudley, Newport High School

Second Place
Lily Day, Emmaus High School

Honorable Mention
Twisha Bhardwaj, Hershey High School
Teresa Christensen, North Allegheny Senior High School
Emma Ellsworth, Bishop McCort Catholic High School
Jack Fletcher, Penncrest High School

Nikhil Behari, North Alleghany Senior High School
David Bukowski, Huntingdon Area High School
Leonard Chen, Conestoga High School
Lauren Connelly, State College Area High School
Jackson Doyle, State College Area High School
Anastasia Dziekan, North Penn High School
Lucas Maake, Emmaus High School
Danica Merrill, Conestoga High School
Meghan Nardella, Cumberland Valley High School
Manasi Nawathe, North Penn High School
Tessa O’Donnell, North Penn High School
Riley Smith, North Alleghany Senior High School
Henry Strobel, North Penn High School

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