Park City student wins statewide essay competition for piece on Japanese-American internment camps
When Arden Louchheim was told the prompt for an essay contest was the importance of the freedom of the press, she immediately thought of her grandparents being denied the right. Although they were Americans, their Japanese heritage was vilified by the news media and they were stripped of their rights to publish stories of their struggles while they were placed in internment camps during World War II.
Louchheim, an eighth-grade student from Park City who attends Rowland Hall in Salt Lake City, recently won the statewide essay contest for her report answering the question “Why a free press matters in a democracy.” She was awarded a $1,500 prize.
The contest is put on by the McCarthey Family Foundation and is in its 13th year. College students, high school students and sixth- to eighth-graders participate in three separate competitions. Winners were announced at a lecture in Salt Lake City on press and politics the foundation put on last week.
Tom McCarthey, vice chair of the essay competition, said the goal of the lecture and the essay contest is to help students and the general public better understand the state of the press and the importance of the First Amendment. College and high school students have traditionally participated, but this was the first year students between grades six and eight were invited to participate.
McCarthey said he was happily surprised by the quality of work from the younger students, particularly Louchheim’s essay.
“It just did my heart good to know that there are young people out there that really care about what is going on in the world and are interested enough to write and put down these really thoughtful words,” he said.
He said Louchheim was selected because of the connection she made between her own family’s struggle with censorship and the U.S. government’s discrediting of the news media today.
Louchheim said it was interesting to learn about what her Japanese-American grandparents and other people went through while living in internment camps. She discovered in her research that newspapers produced by Japanese-Americans in the camps were censored and were not permitted to be written in Japanese.
In her essay, she said the U.S. media presented Japanese citizens as dangerous, which influenced the public opinion of them. She said the Trump administration using the term “fake news” is another example of the U.S. government discrediting information it does not agree with.
While writing the essay, she said she gained an appreciation for the First Amendment, which McCarthey said is the exact outcome he hopes for with the contest.
Louchheim plans on using part of her award money to donate to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
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