Think for Yourself Scholarship

Thank you to our over 5,000 entrants! Here are the 2022 Winners…stay tuned as we work on having their essays published!

Grand Prize: Brianne Parker from Geismar, LA

Published here in the New York Daily News, Oct 23, 2022: “‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ changed my life — so don’t ban controversial books from high schools”

Runner-Up: Sarah Guerrette from Bow, NH

Runner-Up: Ethan Cavacas from Wareham, MA

Runner-Up: Sydnee Orr from West Bloomfield, MI


Let Grow’s annual “Think for Yourself” high school essay contest awards $8000 in scholarships for college or post-secondary programs.

High school students write about the value of free speech, curiosity, and open-mindedness in their everyday lives.

Last year’s contest received over 5,000 entries. High school students wrote about the value of free speech, curiosity, and open-mindedness in their everyday lives.

Since launching in 2018 we have received over 25,000 entries and awarded $40,000 in college scholarships. The  winners’ essays have been published in USA Today, The New York Post, The New York Daily News, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New Jersey Ledger, Quilette, and EdWeek.

WINNERS, 2021

FIRST PLACE, $5000 SCHOLARSHIP:

Cherie Fernandes, West Windsor, NJ,

The Day I Discovered My Own Prejudice…in My Teenage Book Club” (Published in the NJ Star Ledger)

RUNNERS-UP, $1000 SCHOLARSHIPS:

Nana Afia Boadi-Acheampong, Malden, MA, “Torn Between Two Worlds”

Madeline Christensen, Puyallup, WA, “Where Would I Be Without Censored Books?” (Published in hard copies of the Orange County Register/Los Angeles Daily News)

Daksha Pillai, Lexington, KY, “Why High School Kids Should Read ‘A Clockwork Orange‘ and Other Disturbing Books” (Published in the Lexington Herald-Leader)

Winners, 2020

Danyere Francis, Stratford, Ct: “Texting the Kid Who Assaulted Me.” (Published in the NY Daily News)

Lola Jean Benjamin, Salem, OR: “Black and White in the Classroom.” (Published in Quillette)

Maggie-Isabel Seabrook, Greenwich, NJ: A Teenager Spends Time with The Breakfast Club.” (Published in the NJ Star Ledger)

Zewditu Nora Herring, Oakland, CA: “When Is A Black Student Not Black?” (Published in the San Francisco Chronicle)

Winners, 2019

Eilise McLaughlin, Tucson, AZ: “A Student’s Plea: Don’t Shield Me from Problematic Conversations.”(Published in Education Week.)

Carter Moore, Anchorage, AK. “A High School Lesson in Seeing Beyond Political Differences.” (Published in The New York Post.)

Madison Scroggins, Decatur, TX. “An Early Lesson in Fighting Political Polarization.” (Published in The New York Daily News.)

Elande Abate, Olathe, KS.

And here are the winning essays from the 2018 contest.

Let Grow will award one $5,000 and three $1,000 college scholarships to U.S. high school students who exemplify independence of thought in their everyday lives.

Past Scholarship Winners

Elande Abate, Olathe, KS

“Sometimes you have a moment and something just hits you, and that’s what happened to me…I was a black girl. He was a white male. Instead of debating, I felt compelled to listen.”

Carter Moore, Anchorage, AK

“The hateful rhetoric surrounding political discussion in our country has gone too far. I have experienced firsthand how it can ruin a relationship.”

Eilise McLaughlin, Tucson, AZ

“The only way to properly form an opinion on an issue is to have all the information. This can sometimes mean being exposed to unpleasant or controversial issues.”

Winning Essays Have Been Published in:

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