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Growing up Asian in America

DEADLINE: MARCH 15, 2023 at 11:59 PM PST


Today, with so many influences coming from friends, family and social media it can be hard to determine your own beliefs, values and opinions or what it really means to be YOU.  For this year’s contest, we want to explore what it means to be free to be your true self.  This means having a sense of strength and pride in being who you are.  For some of us, this could be eating your favorite food that others might not like, being honest in your opinions, having a unique appearance or a non-traditional family.  The first step in being free to be you is finding an environment where you feel safe to do so.  Please reflect and share what “Free To Be Me” means to you and how you can create space for yourself and others to feel safe to be themselves.

Use the questions below to help spark ideas. You do not have to answer any/all of these specific questions.

  • What are some ways you are being your true self?  What makes you special and unique and why?
  • When do you feel safe to be yourself and why?  Who do you feel safe with? How do you help others to feel safe to be themselves?  
  • What are important parts of your identity?  How are things like your neighborhood, age, special talents, cultural background, the languages you speak, disabilities, financial background, sexuality, and/or gender identity part of what makes you who you are?
  • When you are your true self, how does that also create a better neighborhood or community?

Please note: Participants must live and/or attend a school within the following counties: Santa Clara, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Marin, Sonoma, Solano, Napa, Alameda, or San Mateo County.

Prize Information

One (1) $1,000 Lance Lew Grand Prize winner*

Nine (9) $500 Best in Class winners

We will be keeping the Grand Prize award, and one Best in Class winner will be selected to win this year’s Grand Prize and a $1,000 award. Honorable Mention winners will also be selected. All winners will have their entries showcased on the AACI website and have a chance to be featured on NBC Bay Area.

Eligibility Criteria

  • Students of all ethnic backgrounds are invited to submit entries.
  • You must be in grade K through 12.
  • You must live in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano or Sonoma County.
  • If you have won in previous years, you cannot submit an entry unless you are in a different grade/entry category now. The grade categories are grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. The entry categories are Art, Essay and Video. Grand Prize winners from previous years will not be eligible to receive the grand prize again.
  • Contestants cannot win a prize in more than one category (ex. Art and Essay).
  • Children of contest judges or screeners are ineligible to submit entries.

Entry Guidelines

All entries will be submitted online this year! Submission forms will open on March 1, 2023, at 8 AM. When submitting, please do not include any identifying information such as your name in your artwork, essay or video, as judging requires all submissions to be anonymous

Art (K-12)
Format: File must be no more than 250 MB and be in .jpg, .png, or .pdf.

Materials and Media: Anything two-dimensional. All paints, crayons, colored pencils, markers, photographs, computer generated graphics etc. are accepted. No sculptures, pop-ups, or framed canvases please. Please do not include writing on your art.

Essay (K-12)
Format: Entry must be no more than 250 MB and be in either .pdf or .word format.

Length: 500 words MAXIMUM. Hand-written essays accepted, but must be scanned and submitted online. You do not have to answer every question.

Video (6-12)
Format: Videos must be 1 minute MAXIMUM. 300MB (size) max. Video files must be in .avi, .mov, or .wmv.

Eligibility: Open ONLY to 6-12th grade contestants

How to Submit Your Entry

All entries must be submitted online! Submission forms will open on March 1, 2023, at 8 AM.

Other Information

  • You may send one entry in each category (e.g. one piece of writing and one piece of art, one video–if in 6-12th Grade). We will not accept more than one entry per category. Art is judged separately from essays, so please do not submit an entry that combines writing with art. Each entry must have a complete entry form.
  • Winning entries are selected based on creativity, originality and skill in the category. Winners are notified by the end of April.
  • Submitting an entry to the contest is considered a grant of license to AACI to use the materials in any manner, including the creation of derivative works without payment of a royalty. AACI is a tax-exempt non-profit organization and will only use these materials to further its charitable and educational mission.

Entries must be submitted by March 15, 2023, 11:59 PM PST. Entries will be not accepted by mail or fax.

Questions? Contact AACI at (408) 975-2075 or e-mail guaa@aaci.org.