A Voice for Animals Contest Winners Inspire New Crop of Advocates

Contest winner Reagan Frye with shelter dog and dog toys
photo by Reagan Frye

Washington, DC—From shuttling India’s street dogs to veterinary offices to writing a children’s book about how plastic pollution harms marine life, the winners of the 2021 “A Voice for Animals” contest show they not only care about protecting animals and safeguarding their habitats, but also are willing to get involved, make a difference, and educate others.

The annual contest, in its 31st year, offers high school students ages 14 to 18 the opportunity to win cash prizes for essays, videos, or photo essays that explore strategies to mitigate animal suffering. The contest is sponsored by the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the Humane Education Network, with additional support from the Palo Alto Humane Society.

This year’s 17 winners explored timely topics across the globe, such as the mistreatment of tropical fish in Thailand, the harmful impacts of agricultural development on wildlife in Manitoba, and the inhumane live plucking of geese in Hungary and China to produce down pillows, sofas, and jackets.

“Several of the prize-winning submissions showcased not just the actions of the authors, but also their drive to reach other young advocates and involve their communities in efforts to improve the lives of animals,” said Regina Terlau-Benford, AWI’s humane education manager. These young leaders are contributing their talents to inspire a more compassionate society.”   

The first-place winners are:

  • Natalia Celis of Ringgold, Georgia, for her essay, “Exposing SeaWorld — The Fate of Captive Orcas,” which details the exploitation and suffering of captive orcas at SeaWorld.
  • Jordan Dearsley of West St. Paul, Canada, for her essay on coordinating a series of  e-waste disposal drives to properly discard toxic chemicals and improve the future for wild animals. Dearsley also won an honorable mention for her essay, “The Impact of Development on Wildlife in Manitoba: How We Must Move Forward.”
  • Grace Feng of Winchester, Massachusetts, for her essay, “Bird Boxes and Bogs,” which explains how she helped erect bird boxes in the cranberry bog near her home to increase bird populations. Feng also led student field trips to the site and designed a first-grade curriculum on local bird migration patterns and feeding habits.
  • Manya Oswal of Ludhiana, India, for her documentary video, “Indian Street Dogs: Their Plight and How We Are Changing It,” which describes her efforts to raise $15,000 for a taxi to transport homeless dogs to veterinary facilities. Oswal also established a telephone hotline to report injured animals and recruited young people to her There For U Foundation.
  • Sydney Summerville of Refugio, Texas, for her essay, “Animal Transportation Regulations,” which highlights her advocacy for stronger regulations and enforcement governing farm animal transport. Summerville, who lives in a farming and ranching community, spoke to cattle haulers about providing adequate food, water, and rest to animals during transport, and circulated a petition to promote more humane treatment of farm animals.

For more information on the “A Voice for Animals” contest and to review all the winning entries, visit hennet.org/contest.

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
[email protected], (202) 446-2128