Student Essay Contest Organizer Seeking Applicants

Lifting Up Westchester, a local non-profit committed to helping the homeless and the hungry achieve self-sufficiency, announced its fifth annual high school student essay contest. Open to all students attending school in Westchester in 7th to 12th grades, students are invited to explore the role housing plays in influencing their personal future, the future of their community and how it impacts all of Westchester.

The essay contest was established in 2017 in memory of Beth Massey Rubens, a lifelong teacher, tutor, and mentor who had a love for language arts.

“This year’s essay challenges students to reflect broadly on the issue of housing in Westchester,” a press release from the contest states. “Today, there are 1,800 individuals living in shelters every night in Westchester. There are tens of thousands of Westchester residents living in homes where their tenancy is unstable. Even more individuals and families have to couch surf or live within overcrowded quarters just to have a roof over their head. There are negative physical, mental health and educational consequences for those experiencing inadequate housing and all forms of homelessness. The pandemic has exacerbated the housing problem for a much broader socio-economic group who lost jobs and/or had salaries reduced at the same time that rents and mortgages have risen faster than income and earnings.”

Anahaita Kotval, the CEO of Lifting Up Westchester, noted how stable, adequate housing is a “critical foundation on which all other individual and family success can be built.”

“This year’s essay contest challenges our students to reflect deeply on how we can ensure adequate housing for all our neighbors,” Kotval said. 

First, second and third place cash prizes will be awarded in each of the three grade groups: 7th and 8th grades, 9th and 10th grades, and 11th and 12th grades. New this year is an ESL category. Any ESL student from grades 7 through 12 can choose to enter this category. First prize in each category is $500, second prize $250 and third prize $100.

The contest kicks off Oct. 15 and students can enter through January 17, 2022, at 5 PM. Students can enter the contest through this dedicated portal and upload their essays here. Winners will be announced in late February. Students, teachers, and parents can learn more about how the contest works and review the judging process and criteria by visiting Lifting Up Westchester’s website.

About Lifting Up Westchester

Lifting Up Westchester ( is a 501 (c)(3) organization whose mission is to restore hope to Westchester County’s men, women, and children in need by providing them with food, shelter, and support. It is one of the largest social services agencies in Westchester County and has operated since 1979. It has eight community-based programs. The agency serves 3,000 men, women, and children each year and provides 56,000 meals to people who are hungry, 21,000 nights of shelter to people who are homeless, and academic enrichment and support to 450 youth experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty.

For more information about Lifting Up Westchester, visit or contact Lauren Candela-Katz at or (914) 949-3098 ext. 9737


Community Events