Back in 2011, Utah Valley University hosted the first ever Utah high school ‘Youth and the Mountains’ essay contest. This contest focused on academic research and introduced the importance of Sustainable Development. From its conception, the essay contest has been a great asset to the academic community and has helped to introduce young adults to their surroundings.
With topics ranging from women of the mountains to energy, essay contestants have dealt with and postulated solutions for important socio-economic factors being discussed and improved upon globally. The relevance of which should not be lost or ignored.
Utah Valley University’s essay contest provides a firm foundation for the next generation of leaders; to create new ideas and promote innovative thinking. This says nothing of the $300 cash prize for first place; a much appreciated bonus for one of these students.
This year’s contest, being held March 28th, will be drawing from an ever expanding pool of high schools and the competition will be fiercer than ever. The topic of this year’s contest is, ‘The Family Farm in Mountain Communities’. The topic draws from the important work that is being done globally to end world hunger and promote more sustainable farming practices. It is also the topic of discussion for this year’s 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Students draw from Utah’s rich cultural and religious history to provide a unique perspective on sustainable development. Previous submissions have proposed alternative means of development and have done much to inform others of dangerous materials, working conditions, and poorly constructed policy making at the government level.
Of true significance is not the cash prizes or the publication of those papers written but the positive influence and introduction of policy making which this essay contest promotes. Students are able to research effective and ineffective decisions made by government officials and provide insights from a different perspective. Additionally, students learn more about their history and culture, promoting activism to the future leaders and makers of change.
A great source for inspiration and a resource which should not be overlooked is Utah’s culture and history. Coming to this, at the time, desert state Utah’s settlers had to introduce new farming methods and agricultural techniques. This same level of intuitiveness and creativity has been applied to the previous essay contests. It will be no surprise to witness such ingenuity in the coming contest.
The schools being represented will not only be showcasing the quality of their students and the efficacy of their instructors, but the idea that there is still much that can be done to promote change and that it is never too early, or late, to start. Likewise, the students will not be simply writing words down on a piece of paper. These research papers are the end product of a desire to make the world, whether that be personal or global, a better place.
Joseph McCain, President of UIMF