The Leopold Writing Program in white font on forest green background

The Leopold Writing Program announced the winners of the 2023 Aldo Leopold Writing Contest this week. More than 170 students from across New Mexico in grades 6-12 entered this year’s contest. Students were asked to submit original essays in response to the following question: “After reflecting on [author Robin] Wall Kimmerer’s and [Aldo] Leopold’s thoughts about our relationship to the land, what do you see as your role in returning the Earth’s gifts?” 

In the 10th -12th grade category, Bodhi Lewis, 10th grader at the Santa Fe Mandela International Magnet School, is the winning essayist. Honorable mention award winners are (in alphabetical order): Sofia Alexandrescu, 11th grader at Santa Fe Preparatory School; and Madeline Hostetler, 11th grader at Rio Rancho High School.

In the 8th - 9th grade category, Frances Anderson, 8th grader at the Santa Fe Girls School, is the winning essayist. Honorable mention award winners are Maiya Brock, 9th grader at the New Mexico School for the Arts in Santa Fe; and Mary Helen Brown, 9th grader at Rehoboth Christian High School in Rehoboth.

In the 6th - 7th grade category, Alessandra Seawright, 6th grader at Santa Fe’s La Mariposa Montessori School, is the winning essayist. Honorable mention award winners are Aliana Hardy, 7th grader at Albuquerque’s Native American Community Academy; and Evelyn Lemon, 6th grader at Santa Fe’s La Mariposa Montessori School.

This year’s writing contest, the 15th annual, was chaired by New Mexico environmental educator Elena Kayak, with a team including Sayre Gerhart, Vice President of the Leopold Writing Program, and sixteen volunteer judges.

“Each year, we create an essay topic to challenge students in their thinking of how the Earth may thrive, and then they gift us with lyrical expressions of their fresh ideas,” said Kayak. “Every judge can tell you how we are uplifted by their writings.” The students will be honored at an awards ceremony on Earth Day—with cash prizes totaling almost $3,000 to the winning writers—on April 22nd at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. The ceremony will be followed by a lecture by Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass. The event is sold out.

The Leopold Writing Program is a New Mexico nonprofit dedicated to building on Aldo Leopold’s legacy as a writer by inspiring the next generation of environmental leaders to help advance environmental ethics through the spoken and written word. Leopold is best known for A Sand County Almanac (1949) in which he articulates his lifelong philosophical search for how humans could “live on the land without spoiling it.” This search culminated in “The Land Ethic”: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

For more information about the Aldo Leopold Writing Contest please visit The Leopold Writing Program website.