For the past two years, the Palo Alto Humane Society (PAHS) has held a writing contest for seventh and eighth graders in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. And this year, the contest will expand to include students in Santa Cruz County as well.
The Ambassadors of Compassion Story Writing Contest invites young people to write a fiction or nonfiction piece, between 800 and 1,000 words, about how animals and people help each other—whether it be through pet rescue programs, animal therapy, farm work or anything else.
According to a press release from PAHS, writers must illustrate “a sense of kindness in their characters.” The winning author will receive a prize of $500 and two runner-up winners will receive $200 each. The winning stories will be published, join PAHS’s library and will be a highlight of the organization’s 2021 Creating Compassionate Communities campaign.
Carole Hyde, Executive Director of PAHS, said she was inspired to bring the contest to Santa Cruz County after being a guest on KSCO’s Pet Radio. Host David Coursey liked the sound of the contest and asked if she would consider expanding.
“I was like, ‘Yes, of course!’” Hyde said. “We’re so happy to open it up to Santa Cruz County students this time around. We look forward to and hope for many submissions.”
The first contest winner in 2019 was Vandana Ravi, whose story followed a lonely girl who befriended a donkey. Her story, along with information about donkeys, was turned into an original PAHS book, “Snapshot,” which is available for purchase on Amazon.
The winning story in 2020 was “The Sun,” written by Aaron Huang. It depicts the life of a mother dog trapped in a puppy mill, from the dog’s point of view.
“It was absolutely lovely—honestly, it made me weep,” Hyde praised. “Young people have such natural empathy, and so much imagination.”
The writing contest originally grew out of one of PAHS’s many education and outreach programs. The organization offers programs in everything from veterinary assistance to animal welfare. They are currently in the middle of a campaign about the importance of vaccinating puppies against parvo, a highly-contagious and often deadly virus that mostly affects dogs.
During Covid, PAHS has also been creating virtual programming for teachers and parents, which is part of a mandate from the State of California about teaching children to care for animals.
“We try to create a sense of empathy and compassion towards animals, and how that intersects with how we act towards other humans,” Hyde said.
According to Hyde, last year’s Ambassadors of Compassion Story Writing Contest saw a smaller turn out. But she predicts it will grow this year.
“I think that Covid last year took the energy out of people, so we had less submissions,” she said. “But things are better now, and with adding Santa Cruz… I think it will keep growing.”
Submissions for the contest will be taken until May 31. Each contestant will need to answer a small questionnaire along with their work.Visit bit.ly/3v5kHxp to submit work and learn more about PAHS.