Introducing the 2022 Writing Contest Winners

Hotel Voice, Fall 2022

We received over 100 fascinating and beautifully written entries from children of our members in the Union’s Annual Writing Contest. Every year we are more delighted by the incredible creativity and thoughtfulness of the young adults in our Union family.

This marks the 20th anniversary of the Writing Contest, which was initially made possible by a donation from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation. Laurel Rubin, the daughter of Donald Rubin and granddaughter of the first president of the Hotel Trades Council Jay Rubin, generously donated the money for this year’s contest. Winners were awarded prizes ranging from $1,000 to $3,000.

Though not every student who submitted an entry received a cash award, know that each and every one of your entries was read carefully by the panel of judges and appreciated deeply by our Union.

Here are the six winners from 2022, with short excerpts from their pieces. You can read their full submissions here!

Tenzin Choezom, Overall Winner

Parent: Sonam Choesang, Hyatt Centric Times Square

Tenzin’s non-fiction narrative, “How I plan to change the world,” ponders the question posed by Czech writer Milan Kundera: “is heaviness truly deplorable and lightness splendid?”

“What seemed apparent at first no longer feels right…although weight is a load I must carry, it stands for all that is who I am—it keeps me standing, grounded, and ready—and there is nothing more splendid than that,” writes Tenzin. “At times, I will tread carefully, with steps light as a feather. However, where it matters most, I will make sure that my steps are beneficial to others, confident and heavy.”

Tenzin, your rich imagery, musical language, and commitment to community are truly splendid. We will carry your words with us, more grounded and wise than we were before.

Christina Anto, 1st Place in Fiction/Non-Fiction

Parent: Johnson Anto, InterContinental New York Barclay

Christina’s fiction narrative, “The Beauty Within You,” introduces us to Ebony Ashanti Jackson, an elementary schooler who contemplates racism, beauty, and self-love after a classmate calls her “pretty for a black girl.”

“Sweet-heart never feel you are not enough within your own skin. Your melanin is stronger than medicine,” writes Christina, through the voice of Ebony’s mother. “Rejoice and remember ‘look in the mirror, see the beauty in you.’

Christina, we see the beauty of you in this incredible piece of art, which is full of heart and humor. Thank you for sharing your natural storytelling abilities with us. 

Taskin Arisha, 2nd Place in Fiction/Non-Fiction

Parent: Kamruzaman Bhuiyan, InterContinental Times Square

Taskin’s narrative, “What My New York Is,” takes us on a walk through Jackson Heights, Queens—eating, shopping, and people watching through the streets.

“I will always be intrigued by how a single place could bring so many Desis together. Growing up, the air was always tense with the everlasting bitter legacy left by the British colonization and the partitioning that has bled through generations,” writes Taskin. But in the moonlit sky above her New York, “The joy of the young, hearty laughter of the Bengalis, Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalese, and Punjabis mixed together in harmony.”

Taskin, that gorgeous final sentence gave us chills. Your writing is so vivid, attentive, and full of love. Your New York is as beautiful as your language, and we thank you for taking us there with you. 

Ivy Gomes, 1st Place in Essay

Parent: David Gomes, W Union Square

In her essay, “The Land of Opportunities and Sacrifice,” Ivy writes an unflinching letter to a fellow immigrant preparing them for the realities of living in America. 

“Some days, you may look to your left and then to your right, to your front, and to your back. Yet, you may not find yourself in any of the passing faces,” Ivy writes. “I do not mean to discourage you, but it is important that you know. […] no matter how lonely it gets, you are never alone.”

Ivy, sharing your truth with others is an act of love and solidarity. Thank you for sharing your voice with us—we hear you loud and clear.

David Davitt, 2nd Place in Essay

Parent: David Davitt, Thompson Central Park 

In his essay on the topic “Why my parents’ union membership is important to me,” David draws a line of connection through the history of American union organizing to the benefits he experiences as a member of a union family today. 

“More blood, sweat, and tears went into creating a stable and fair union than people know of,” David writes. “Coming together in unison and protesting for change in society may not have been rewarding for the people that sacrificed their lives, but today all Union members are rewarded with a large scale of benefits that can then open up opportunities for their children, which I feel has occurred for me."

David, your essay was well researched and your conclusions incredibly astute. We’re glad you’re a member of our Union family, and thank you for this short and informative piece of writing on our collective history. 

Mahana Joseph, 3rd Place in Essay

Parent: Harry Joseph, Wyndham New Yorker

In her essay, “Content ‘Heroes’,” Mahana Joseph indicts social media influencers and “voluntourists” who portray themselves as “saviors” and spotlights true heroes using the same platforms.

“The problem with voluntourism is that it’s oftentimes focused on the volunteer’s quest for experience, as opposed to the third world community’s actual needs,” Mahana writes. “My background is proudly Haitian. […] My people have a voice and shouldn’t undergo pity or judgement. If we can help Haitians share their stories through social media, we will all see it from a different perspective.” Mahana highlights Project Haiti Speaks, an organization who’s doing just that.

Mahana, your dissection of a complex topic feels effortless, and your language shrewd and unique. Our minds were expanded by your essay, and we will heed your direction to question our own definitions of “hero.”