2020 Graduate Kaya Crosby Selected as a Winner of New York Times College Essay Competition

Dunn School graduate Kaya Cerecedes-Crosby, a native of Ashland, Oregon, has been selected as one of four winners of the 2020 New York Times college essay competition. Since 2013, the newspaper has been collecting essays which high school seniors submitted as part of their college application process, and which address lack of money, work, and social class. Every year it publishes a handful of favorites.

Kaya describes her essay as “a kind of a poem about how I grew up”. In her essay Kaya reflects on her love of crocheting, which she learned “so that I could be closer to my mother who taught me how to power through everything”. In the essay, she uses the colors of each square of a blanket she is crocheting to describe her upbringing in rural Oregon and the opportunities she found while attending boarding school in California.

Following is an excerpt from Kaya’s essay reprinted with permission from The New York Times. The full text of Kaya’s essay can be read in this New York Times article.

Twist, bend, through the loop. Repeat.

It took me a month to crochet my first blanket. One month of twisting, bending, sending my hook through the loop, and repeating. It was an almost meditative pastime. I spent bus rides and evenings working on my blanket, determined to finish.

I learned to crochet so that I could feel closer to my mother. I poured my heart into every stitch. Each square of the blanket meant something different; the colors represented memories. It was a summary of my life.

Of her experience writing her essay and submitting it to colleges and the New York Times, Kaya reflects, “I’ve always been really good at writing. It’s something that’s always come very naturally to me. This essay is the best thing I’ve ever written.” 

Kaya says that when her Dunn College Counselor Liz Tying suggested that she submit her essay to the Times, “I applied, and then I forgot about it. I didn’t even consider it.”  When the New York Times called to tell her that her essay was chosen for publication and that she would be paid $1 per word she started crying at work. “It’s just all very surreal,” she adds.

Submitting the essay to the New York Times was not without personal risk. Says Kaya, “I had not let anyone in my family read it and I had not intended for anyone to ever read it.  We don’t talk about personal things. They responded really well, thankfully.”

Kaya’s essay along with a lot of hard work in high school was sufficient to gain her entrance into some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country, including Johns Hopkins and USC Viterbi School of Engineering. Kaya, who is half Hispanic and the first in her family to attend a four year college, will be attending Wellesley College this fall on full scholarship.

Congratulations Kaya from all of us at Dunn!

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