We’re delighted to announce the winners of The Nation’s sixth annual Student Writing Contest. This year we asked students to send us an original, unpublished 800-word essay detailing what they think is the most important issue facing their generation. We received close to 1,000 submissions from high school and college students in forty-one states. We chose one college and one high school winner and ten finalists.

Congratulations to the winners, Bryce Wilson Stucki, from Virginia Tech University, and Hannah Moon, a 2011 graduate of Brooklyn College Academy in Brooklyn, New York, and to our ten finalists. Each winner will receive $1,000; the finalists will receive $200. All will receive Nation subscriptions.

Stucki’s essay movingly details the horrific mass murder of students at Virginia Tech from a personal perspective: “Some days it does seem like the shooting is just another catastrophe in a long line of catastrophes, albeit with a more personal tinge. Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, the Towers? I sometimes think we log so many hours on Facebook just so we don’t have to deal with the bad news we are perpetually bombarded with….

“But a catastrophe is different when it is personal; it is easy to numb yourself when death is anonymous. But when a sweet, straw-headed girl from your dorm, whom you know, is shot just because she was around, you are forced to deal with it. When fear is no longer abstract, it is no longer possible to deal with it abstractly, no matter how long it takes.”

Moon eyes the recession with keen powers of observation: “I take the bus to school, and I witness the most alarming and heart-wrenching scene, which leaves me asking myself, ‘Is the economy that bad?’ There is an employment agency right next to one of the bus stops we pass, and most days I saw a long, meandering line in front of that building. I saw them through the harsh winter snowstorms, waiting in front of that door, and I saw them through the scorching summer mornings, waiting in front of that door—that door that may lead them to the help they need to pay for the next phone bill, gas bills, rent.”

Read all the essays here.