Students Explore Ideas, Make a Difference and Win Money in Teen Ink’s “If I Were Mayor…” Competition

LJ 1By Elizabeth Jorgensen

Teen Ink is a monthly teen magazine with over a half million readers. In addition to publishing student work online, Teen Ink also prints a monthly subscription magazine.

According to their website, Teen Ink is “devoted entirely to teenage writing, art, photos, and forums. For over 25 years, Teen Ink has offered teens the opportunity to publish their creative work and opinions on issues that affect their lives—everything from love and family to school, current events, and self-esteem. Hundreds of thousands of students, aged 13-19, have submitted their work to us and we have published more than 55,000 teens since 1989. Distributed through classrooms by English and Art teachers, and available in libraries nationwide, Teen Ink magazine offers some of the most thoughtful and creative work generated by teens today. We have no staff writers or artists; we depend completely on submissions from teenagers around the world for our content. Teen Ink has the largest distribution of any publication of its kind.”

In addition to publishing student work, they host writing competitions.

During the fall of 2017, Teen Ink editors asked students to compose an essay on this topic: “If I Were Mayor of My Town…” Students, in an essay of 1,000 words or less, wrote about which issues they would address and why. The winner, according to Teen Ink, would receive not only publication, but also $500 and the opportunity to interview Congressional candidate David Kim; $100 would be awarded to the second and third place winners; and seven honorable mentions would be recognized.

The deadline to submit essays was November 30th, 2017. And then, in the January 2018 issue, five student essays were published. One of my students, senior Cole Siepmann, was published. You can read his essay here. Readers were asked to vote for their favorite essay—with the winners and honorable mentions to be announced at a later date.

I want my creative writing students to engage in purposeful writing assignments. In this particular contest, I encouraged my students to first educate themselves on local government. We discussed the mayor’s role and read about famous mayors. In class, we spent time looking at the Waukesha County’s Mayor website. Students learned about what the mayor can and can’t do and made plans for what they would do in that role. As a class, we discussed how each student could use his or her passions to craft a successful essay.

I enjoyed hearing about what each student would change if they were mayor and I was impressed with my students’ ideas and passions. Each student had something to say—and something they wanted to contribute to their community. In addition to writing about their passions, the prize money and the chance at publication served as motivation for my students.

In his essay, Siepmann stated why he would be a good mayor: “I would improve the lives of Milwaukeeans by addressing the three major issues that influence our society most: drug abuse, education, and road repair.” Siepmann also stated how important the improvement of drug education is: “In addition to the drug treatment center, I will expand drug education and addiction programs in schools so children in our community know the lasting effects of drugs and addiction.” Siepmann also stated how roads are a major issue in the state of Wisconsin: “The amount of traffic in Milwaukee creates accidents, and is not what will bring our city future success. Rather than spending money on the inefficient and impractical trolley system, I will focus on decreasing traffic, making our roads safer, and making travel in and out of Milwaukee easier.

I am eagerly awaiting the contests results and even if Cole (or any other student of mine) doesn’t win, I am proud of his accomplishment.

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