They may be young, but they’re already tackling life’s big questions.
KidSpirit, an online magazine that encourages teens to write about topics like faith and spirituality, is featuring some of its best young writers at the non-profit’s 2014 award ceremony in New York City on November 9.
The international group of teens have used the online space to share their thoughts on everything from wearing the hijab to confronting gender roles in the Hindu scriptures.
This year’s winners were selected by 50 teen editors working on seven editorial boards. Since KidSpirit’s inception, submissions have come from hundreds of writers in 15 different countries, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal, and China. This international reach creates the opportunity for cross-cultural conversations, since a writer in rural America may have articles edited by a teen editor in China.
The award categories included feature writing, poetry, and artwork, among others. The most popular pieces are featured in KidSpirit’s annual print magazine.
KidSpirit’s Interfaith Connections column was honored by the Religion Newswriters’ Association earlier this year.
The magazine’s founding editor, Elizabeth Dabney Hochman, said that hundreds of writers have contributed since KidSpirit began publishing in 2009. In her experience, many of the writers involved are surprised that others want to know what kids think about the big questions.
“Kids sometimes feel marginalized when it comes to these big issues,” Hochman told HuffPost. “But if you make assumptions about kids when they’re growing up, they won’t be equipped as adults to take issues about their own lives seriously.”
Hochman hopes the writers attending this year’s award ceremony will leave with a deeper sense of their common humanity and feel empowered to continue having these important conversations.
Here are four young award-winning teens who were brave enough to use the written word on KidSpirit to explore their spirituality.
Nimai is a 10th grader who attends Stanford University’s Online High School. He has been writing for KidSpirit for the past three years and enjoys the opportunities the magazine has given him to learn about others’ viewpoints. Nimai practices Vaishnavism, a monotheistic tradition within Hinduism, and much of his writing for KidSpirit deals with his relationship with his faith. He tells HuffPost that he spends at least one hour deep in meditation every day.
“Religion is a way for me to look at the world and look at myself,” Nimai said. “It explains the world in a way which makes sense.”
In his award-winning poem, “What Is A Hero?” Nimai writes about how every hero needs to conquer his soul before trying to save the world.
To face oneself takes strength of mind
And to accept one’s faults and flaws of kinds,
The true enemy is within,
The greatest hero can look inside.
Nimai isn’t sure yet what career path he’ll take. What he does know is that he’d like to find a way to combine his favorite subjects — writing, history, and art. The teen has been working on a fantasy novel for the past few years and hopes to have it published soon.