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Student Essay, “No One’s Girl,” Wins National Writing Award

Student Essay, “No One’s Girl,” Wins National Writing Award

Friday, June 13, 2014
Categories: Happenings @ TDSB, School Web Stories

A Vaughan Road Academy student has been named winner of the inaugural Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Student Nonfiction Writing Contest. 

Grade 12 student Ashley Ash won $2,500 for finishing first and her school will receive an additional $1,000. Her honest and moving essay about her experience with foster care, “No One’s Girl,” was selected by an esteemed jury panel out of more than 400 submissions from grade 9 to 12 students from across Canada. “I had entered my piece at the suggestion of my teacher and didn’t think much would come out of it. I am so grateful to the Writers' Trust for granting me this honor,” said the modest 18 year old. 

Ash said she wrote the piece because she wants to encourage discussion about difficult topics, “the things no one wants to say because they are too afraid or ashamed.” She especially wanted others in similar situations to read about her experience and realize that they are not alone. “We need more hope in the world and if my story manages to give anyone who reads it some, I will feel as if I have accomplished something.” 

Teacher Dirk Beck knew exactly what his student was capable of achieving. “I tell all my writing students what all writing teachers tell theirs: Write what you know. And the more honest you are, the more affecting your writing will be.” That is much easier said than done, but he noted that Ash does so with “a certain stoicism and wry humour, managing to avoid the overly sentimental and melodramatic tone that confessional writing can so easily slip into. I'm not even sure she realizes how much of an accomplishment that is, for any writer, let alone an 18-year-old.”

In a statement, the Hon. Hilary Weston said that “The outstanding quality of submissions to this inaugural student nonfiction contest exceeded our expectations, and suggests a happy narrative for the future of nonfiction writing in Canada.

To read “No One’s Girl” by Ashley Ash, visit

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