Winners of the 19th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest

May 17, 2016

Washington D.C. - The American Immigration Council is pleased to announce that the first place winner of the American Immigration Council’s 19th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest is Eliana Jaffee from the Pardes Jewish School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Eliana’s poem was chosen from among thousands of entries nationwide. Her poem “Why We’re Here” describes America as a place of freedom, hope, and refuge for new arrivals. Eliana writes:

That morning when the sun had risen,

my shores, my seas,

my hopes freed from prison,

the poor,

the rich, and

all the forgiven came to me.



ask that girl to compare,

a life of despair to a breath of free air,

ask her why are you here,

not somewhere over there?


To read the entire piece and the other winning pieces, click here.

In an interview, Eliana said she was inspired to write her poem by the famous Emma Lazarus poem, “The New Colossus,” which is engraved on an interior wall plaque of the Statue of Liberty's pedestal and by the poems her mother hung up on various walls of their house. Reflecting on her family’s immigration heritage, Eliana recounted how her family left Germany after Hitler rose to power and that her grandfather took advantage of the opportunities in the U.S. to become an electrical engineer. She considers herself “lucky that I live in a nation where people are allowed to practice their religion and express their culture without being punished. I am proud to be a part of a nation that opens her doors to those in need and provides opportunities to people who may not otherwise have any.”

The second place winner is Yuyao (Jasmine) Liu from Brookline, Massachusetts and the third place winner is Nikhil Kothari from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Honorable mentions were awarded to Austin Novosad from Austin, Texas and Kate Cesario from Downer’s Grove, Illinois.

Eliana will read her poem and receive her award at the American Immigration Council’s annual benefit in Las Vegas, Nevada and it will be read into the Congressional Record. All top five winners will have a flag flown over the Capitol.

The celebrity judges of the national contest include Gerda Weissman-Klein, founder of Citizenship Counts; Edwidge Danticat, author and National Book Award finalist; Valentino Achak Deng, Minister of Education in South Sudan; Arun Toké, Founder of Skipping Stones: A Multicultural Literary Magazine; and Anya Frazer, our 2015 Grand Prize winner.

Twenty-eight chapters of the American Immigration Lawyers Association participated in the contest. The top entry from each participating Chapter was judged by a panel of immigration experts who chose the top five entries sent to the celebrity judges. The contest receives about 4,500 student entries per year. 

2016 marks the American Immigration Council’s 19th Annual Celebrate America Creative Writing Contest, a national contest for fifth grade students. The contest provides youth with an opportunity to learn more about immigration to the U.S. and to explain, in their own words, why they are proud America is a nation of immigrants. 


For more information contact Claire Tesh at [email protected] or 202-507-7518.

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Elyssa Pachico
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