by: submitted photo, Vivian Chen took first in an essay contest

The Chinese American Citizens Alliance has announced that Lakeridge High School junior Vivian Chen has won first place in its 2012 national essay contest.

Each year on the first Saturday in March, thousands of high school students across the nation participate in the Alliance's national essay contest, which is intended to foster creative thinking and self-expression and encourage an awareness of current local and world events.

'You don't know what the topic is in advance. It's a timed impromptu essay,' said Chen. 'When I arrived (at the test location) I was given a packet and had to write the essay in two hours. It was intense.'

Helen Ying, a spokeswoman for CACA, said the essay prompt is a highly kept secret until it is presented the day of the competition. Students handwrite their essays into bound books, which are collected at the end of the two-hour period for judging. Each of the organization's 18 regions selects its top winners; from these top entries, the national winner is selected.

This year's essay prompt was the following:

'Electronic media such as Facebook, Twitter and texting have now become mainstream ways of meeting friends and connecting with peers. Discuss whether you use Facebook, or text or tweet extensively, or know other people your age who do so on a regular basis.

'In addition, share your thoughts on how these technological innovations have affected your relationship with members of the older generation, particularly with more traditional and conservative Chinese/Asian-American parents.

'Expand your thoughts by commenting on what effects these media have on parental supervision and guidance, and your relationship with others your own age.'

'I felt really comfortable about writing about the topic,' said Chen. She explained that she regularly uses social media to communicate with her grandparents in China. 'I wasn't expecting to win, so it was just a fun exercise for me. I was really surprised that I won.'

Chen's essay earned her a $1,000 scholarship.

The competition is open to any high school student. For more information, visit

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