Lifting Up Westchester Announces
Sixth Annual Student Essay Contest

Anahaita Kotval

Lifting Up Westchester, a non-profit agency committed to helping individuals experiencing homelessness and hunger achieve self-sufficiency, announces their sixth annual high school student essay contest. Open to all students attending school in Westchester in the 7th to 12th grades, this year students are invited to think about the connections between, and misperceptions about, mental health and homelessness and how we might end the stigmas attached to both.


The essay contest was established in 2017 in memory of Beth Massey Rubens, a lifelong teacher, tutor, and mentor who had a love for language arts.


Mental health impacts how we think, feel and act and how we cope with life. Mental health also influences how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Did you know that family illness, job loss, divorce, not doing well in school, being bullied, hunger, poor housing and becoming unhoused are just some of the things that can trigger mental health issues? This can result in emotions such as anxiety, depression, or loneliness.


“There are many stigmas and stereotypes attached to people experiencing both mental health challenges and homelessness.” said Anahaita Kotval, CEO of Lifting Up Westchester. “For example, there is a myth that mental health issues are a primary reason people become homeless. We hope this contest helps students understand more about both issues and share their thoughts on how we can do better to educate ourselves and work towards a better future for everyone.”


First, second and third place cash prizes will be awarded in each of the three grade groups: 7th and 8th grades, 9th and 10th grades, and 11th and 12th grades. An ESL category has also been established and any student from grades 7 through 12 can choose to enter the ESL category. First prize in each category is $500, second prize $250 and third prize $100.


The contest kicks off November 1, 2022, and students can enter through February 17, 2023, at 5 PM. Students can enter the contest through this dedicated portal and upload their essays here. Winners will be announced in early March 2023 and an awards ceremony will take place March 26. Students, teachers, and parents can learn more about how the contest works and review the judging process and criteria by visiting Lifting Up Westchester’s website.


Lifting Up Westchester ( is a 501 (c)(3) organization whose mission is to restore hope to Westchester County’s men, women, and children in need by providing them with food, shelter, and support – lifting them to greater self-sufficiency with dignity and respect. It is one of the largest social services agencies in Westchester County and has been fulfilling its mission since 1979 through the operation of eight community-based programs. The agency serves 2,500 men, women, and children each year and provides 100,000 meals to people who are hungry, 21,000 nights of shelter to people who are homeless, and academic enrichment and support to 450 youth experiencing homelessness and extreme poverty.


For more information about Lifting Up Westchester, visit or contact Lauren Candela-Katz at or (914) 949-3098 ext. 9737.