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Stanford University freshman Jessica Yu receives national recognition for nonfiction essay

COURTESY PHOTO - Jessica Yu, a 2019 WLHS graduate, received writing awards for two essays she wrote in high school.What Jessica Yu loves most about writing is the ability to release her thoughts onto paper when she feels like her head might explode.

"It makes it easier to be able to analyze my experiences and my opinions," she said.

The 2019 West Linn High School graduate was recently awarded third place for her creative nonfiction piece, "Transience," by Bennington College's 2018-19 Young Writers Awards competition.

The college's competition recognizes writing at the high school level in poetry, fiction and nonfiction and gives cash prices to the top three finishersin each category. Yu received $125 for her piece.

But this wasn't the only writing award Yu took home since graduating high school.

At the end of the school year, Yu received two Gold Keys for "Transience" and "A Cap For Our Future," which also won a national gold medal, by the 2018-19 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, a national program that honors young artists and writers.

The National Medalist art and writing is displayed at the annual Art.Write.Now. national exhibition in New York City. National medalists were also invited to celebrate at a ceremony last June at Carnegie Hall in NYC, but Yu was unable to attend.

"I felt really honored that a panel of judges read the essays and deemed them worthy of those awards," Yu said. "These awards just validated my writing abilities."

Yu's piece "Transience" was a personal essay that told the story of how her mother and her traveled to China to visit a mountain her mother climbed in childhood. But when they arrived, the area had been transformed by pollution. The essay was a personal reflection about change and the value of memories.

In Yu's favorite passage, she wrote: "This mountain has a meaning to my mother that it will never have to me. Likewise, the things, people, and places I treasure now may slip out of my life in the future. While we cannot still the passage of time, we can live our experiences to the fullest now, when they are still here, and create brilliant memories that will eternally remain within our hearts."

She called this moment her "epiphany."

"In an emotionally charged moment, I finally come to understand the futility of chasing after something that is gone and immediately begin applying this newfound knowledge to my situation," Yu said in an email. "By ending the essay on this note, I hope to leave the reader with this idea and make them consider the role idealistic thinking plays in diminishing their enjoyment of the present."

Yu's essay "A Cap For Our Future" was written in 2017 about the discussion regarding a potential cap and trade bill in Oregon. In her writing, she talked about the pros and cons of a cap and trade program.

"I know cap and trade has been a more major thing recently," Yu said, adding that things might have changed since the piece was written, but overall she is in favor of a cap and trade bill, which would help control carbon emissions and other forms of pollution.

In Yu's piece she wrote a passage she thinks properly connects her personal experience to the debate: "Today, we are facing the point of no return: a group of researchers, led by former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, predicts that we have only three years to save the world from the worst effects of climate change. These next three years, though a blink of an eye in Earth's history, will be crucial in deciding what kind of a world future generations will live in. The spectacular wilderness I cherished as a child can either be preserved in all its glory, or wiped out by the greedy and shortsighted minds of human beings."

Yu is attending Stanford University this year and plans to continue taking writing courses. She is also thinking of joining the school newspaper.

"This is something I am going to continue pursuing. It's an important medium no matter what field I eventually choose to pursue," Yu said. "It's (writing) a way of communicating your thoughts. It's important to be able to communicate your thoughts and expand your ideas in every field."

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