What’s In Your Backpack?

Maury County Students Speak Out

on Diversity and Social Equity

Write your essay about diversity and get published in a book!

Finish your college essay this summer!



What’s In Your Backpack? Maury County Students Speak Out!  is a student-anthology sponsored by Diversity Leadership Project, a Maury County-based nonprofit dedicated to teaching teens skills in empathetic communication and respectful confrontation.

We want to hear from students in Maury County!



What’s In Your Backpack? will be published as a softbound book by Guild Bindery Press in December, 2018. It is anticipated that the top 12-15 essays will be chosen for inclusion and also be featured on the Diversity Leadership Project website.

A great way to add to your extracurriculars when applying to colleges!



Diversity Leadership Project wants your essay about diversity, social equity, and the challenges you face as a student here in Maury County.



How do I submit?  What are the rules?

Submit your essay, no more than 600 words, using one of the first 5 essay prompts from the Common Application.  

  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
  2. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
  3. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
  4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
  5. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.


Your essay should use, as an inspiration or starting point for discussion, issues of diversity and social justice in your own life, at your school, and in your community.  If you are a rising senior, this can be used as your Common Application essay.



Rising Seniors can use this as their college essay!



Who can submit an essay?

All Maury County high school students can submit an essay for the book. 

Where can I get inspiration?

Visit and read the essays written by your peers.  Most of these were college admissions essays that gained students acceptance to top colleges across the country.

Please review the following essays on the main page of to give you a good idea of types of essays we are looking for.  Most of these essays were used as Common App essays with our Diversity Leadership Project students receiving a significant amount of scholarship money for their involvement in diversity and social equity issues.

  1. My Glimmer of Hope (Teen suicide)
  2. Dirt Floors, Diversity, and Determination (Travel to third-world countries and working with poor)
  3. Spices and Lives (Hindu girl who prepares restricted-diet meals for cancer patients at a Christian churchMix It Up Day in the Cafeteria (the one project that all clubs should do)
  4. Some Things Never Change (African-American girl at wealthy prep school—implicit bias)
  5. Why I Joined Diversity Leadership Project (white privilege)
  6. Which Box Do I Check? (Student of Native American and Japanese descent discusses historical trauma and stereotyping)
  7. What Grows Best In This Heat Is Poverty (Indian student returns to his place of birth to reconnect with heritage)


Who is Diversity Leadership Project?

Diversity Leadership Project: A Student Journal of Diversity and Respect, is a local nonprofit dedicated to empowering students to learn and use Nonviolent Communication (NVC), pioneered by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, as a means of dealing with conflict in their lives. 

Last year, students who partnered with Diversity Leadership Project did amazing things: Julia Cook, a senior at Franklin High School started the Got Consent? Teen Sexual Assault Awareness campaign that is now statewide and Meredith McMillan, a rising senior at Brentwood High School, started a community-wide petition to name a new elementary school in Brentwood after an African American—Sgt. George Jordan, a slave-turned-soldier from Williamson County who was the state’s first African-American Medal of Honor recipient.


This year, Phillip Young, a rising junior at Columbia Academy, has chosen to spearhead the creation of What’s In Your Backpack? Maury County Students Speak Out!, and invites all Maury County high school students to submit their essay and be a part of making a contribution to school and community.

Our contributors will write on issues of race, gender, religion, sexuality—issues that are important to high school students—that need to be heard!


How do I submit my essay?

Email your submission to:,by midnight on Monday, October 31, 2018. (All submissions will be acknowledged). 

Please send your essay as an attachment in Word format.  Times New Roman, 12pt, double-spaced.  Include as the header on the top, left-hand side, your name, grade, high school, and email address.



How will you choose the essays to be published?


Over the summer, Editor Phillip Young will assemble a team of student advisors who will select the essays to be published.


This is going to be in a book? Really?

Yes! In fact, we are in the planning stages for a big community-wide book launch the week before school starts.  We are currently talking to a number of local sponsors who believe in the project and in the power of students to change the world. Let us know if you are interested in volunteering.


How does this help me for college?

Imagine how inclusion in the book and on the Diversity Leadership Project website will differentiate you from other students who are competing for admission and scholarship opportunities. Published work! Blog post! A no brainer!




All questions are welcome! This is a new project for Maury County students and it’s likely there are details we need to clarify! Contact Randall Bedwell, Executive Director, Diversity Leadership Project, for clarification or additional questions.

All photos of Maury County, courtesy of Debbie Smartt.  All rights reserved.