"I Belong" Essay Contest

Pictured: Yavaniy Garraway, overall winner (left), and Temple James, runner up winner (right).

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you." -Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

You have a story to tell and we want to hear it. In 1,000 words or less, describe how you have discovered where you belong at the University of South Alabama. The judges will be looking for an eloquent, reflective, and creative account of your journey to belong in the Jaguar Family. A thoughtful analysis of your experiences is encouraged. A committee of Honors College, English Department, and Student Academic Success professionals will complete the judging process to determine a winner, runner-up, and honorable mentions. 

Submission deadline is October 10, 2020 at 11:59pm.

Prizes will be awarded to the overall winner and runner-up. These essays will be featured on various University of South Alabama websites and social media. 


We are not accepting essays at this time.


 November 30, 2020

On the occasion of the 1st “I Belong” essay contest, the University of South Alabama English Department, Honors College, Student Academic Success, and Counseling & Testing hosted a contest open to all University students. We are pleased to announce that Yavaniy Garraway and Temple James wrote the winning essays.


Many students answered the call to provide a creative self-reflection on their journey to belonging at the University of South Alabama. Both winning essays were eloquent and reflective, providing a deeply thoughtful analysis of their sense of belonging at USA. 


Yavaniy Garraway, a first-year student in the Music Department, has been named the overall winner. In Garraway’s essay, she reminds us of the importance of connecting with student organizations that align with one’s interests. The overall contest winner is a member of USA’s Baptist Campus Ministries (BCM), and the National Residence Housing Honorary (NRHH). Garraway recently received the honor of NRHH Candidate Member and aligns with  the organization’s core values of service, leadership, and recognition. “Through these organizations, I have been able to grow spiritually, professionally, and socially,” said Garraway.


Temple James, a junior studying marketing in the Mitchell College of Business, has been named the runner-up winner. In her essay, James explores the connection between finding her passion in organizations and using that as a springboard to professional development and career readiness. “Pursuing my degree and engaging in extracurricular activities on campus have allowed me to discover a career I had never considered before: student affairs.” She continued, “My experiences at the University of South Alabama have made me into the person I am today and will continue to form me into a respected member of society.”


Congratulations to both Yavaniy and Temple! We are enriched by your journey to discover how you belong in the Jaguar Family.