Carnegie Mellon University
August 06, 2013

Carnegie Mellon MLK, Jr. Writing Award Winners to Read at Chautauqua Institution

Six recent winners of Carnegie Mellon University's annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards will travel to the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., to read their winning pieces.

For 14 years, Carnegie Mellon has invited Pittsburgh-area high school and college students to compete in the contest, which encourages students to explore personal experiences with race and discrimination through poetry and prose. Created by Jim Daniels, the Thomas Stockham Baker Professor of English, the awards program prompts students to think about MLK and race in the context of their everyday lives.

The Chautauqua Institution is a nonprofit organization that serves as a community, a center, and a resource where the human spirit is renewed, minds stimulated, faith restored and the arts valued. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards reading is part of the institution's lecture series on "Emancipation: Where Do We Go From Here?"

"Chautauqua has a long history of focusing on bridging differences across cultures, and it fits perfectly with the theme and aim of the writing awards," Daniels said. "We have a very interesting range of voices participating in the reading. It should be fun and a great experience for the young writers."

Daniels and Kristin Kovacic, a teacher at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 who has been involved in the awards program from its conception, will introduce the students. CMU's Division of Student Affairs, its Department of English and the Chautauqua Institution are sponsoring the trip.

The student winners who will read their award-winning works are:

  • Maya Best, a CAPA student and 2013 award winner for her poem "Stranger";
  • Laura Condon, a CAPA student and 2013 award winner for her poem "Star";
  • Jesse Lieberfeld, a Winchester Thurston student and 2012 award winner for his essay "Fighting   a Forbidden Battle: How I Stopped Covering Up for a Hidden Wrong";
  • Erika Drain, a Winchester Thurston student and 2012 award winner for her essay "Anomalies: My Struggle for an Identity";
  • Emily Nagin (DC'11), a CAPA graduate who received her bachelor's degree from CMU in creative writing and won the poetry contest from 2005-2007 for her poems "Keeping," "Eye to Eye" and "Giving Up the Ghost"; and
  • Jamar Thrasher (HNZ'14), a CAPA graduate enrolled in CMU's Heinz College's School of Public Policy and Management and 2003 award winner for his essay "An Unforgettable Journey."

To find out more about the winners, click here.

For more information on CMU's Martin Luther King, Jr. Writing Awards, click here.

To watch highlights from the 2013 awards ceremony, click here.