AACI and NBC Bay Area Host Annual Growing Up Asian in America

Art, essay, and video contest for K-12 students in the Bay Area

AACI and NBC Bay Area are hosting the Growing Up Asian in America (GUAA) art, essay, and video contest for students (kindergarten – 12th grade) in the nine Bay Area counties. GUAA provides a unique platform for young people to creatively explore and celebrate their cultural identity. GUAA was started in 1995 by the Asian Pacific Fund and NBC Bay Area as one of the largest youth celebrations of Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month in the nation.

Photos: AACI and NBC Bay Area Host Growing Up Asian in America Contest

Every year, hundreds of Bay Area students - Kindergarten through 12th grade - submit artwork, essays, and videos in response to a specific theme. It encourages young Asian Americans to take pride in their identities while discussing dreams for their future, pride in their cultural heritage, challenges they may face, and other complex issues. Furthermore, it helps individuals (both Asian and non-Asian) understand the varied experiences of our youth growing up in the Bay Area’s diverse communities. The program is competitive. One (1) winner will receive the $1,000 Lance Lew Grand Prize Award and nine (9) winners will receive the $500 “Best in Class” awards, with Honorable Mention awards as well. All winners will have their entries showcased at the virtual awards ceremony and on the AACI website and have a chance to be featured on NBC Bay Area.

2023 Contest Theme: FREE TO BE ME

We want to know who you are. Today, with so many influences coming from friends, family and social media, it can be hard to determine your own beliefs, values and opinions or what it really means to be YOU.  For this year’s contest, we want to explore what it means to be free to be your true self.  This means having a sense of strength and pride in being who you are.  For some, this could be eating your favorite food that others might not like, being honest in your opinions, having a unique appearance or a non-traditional family.  The first step in being free to be yourself is finding an environment where you feel safe to do so. Please reflect and share what “Free to be Me” means to you and how you can create space for yourself and others to feel safe to be themselves.

Use the questions below to help spark ideas.  You do not have to answers any/all of the these specific questions:

  • What are some ways you are being your true self?  What makes you special and unique and why?
  • When do you feel safe to be yourself and why?  Who do you feel safe with? How do you help others to feel safe to be themselves? 
  • What are the important parts of your identity?  How are things like your neighborhood, age, special talents, cultural background, the languages you speak, disabilities, financial background, sexuality, and/or gender identity part of what makes you who you are?
  • When you are your true self, how does that also create a better neighborhood or community?

Please note: Participants must live and/or attend a school within the following counties: Santa Clara, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Marin, Sonoma, Solano, Napa, Alameda, or San Mateo County.

To access the online entry form or learn more information, please visit aaci.org/guaa.  For any questions, email guaa@aaci.org.

PRIZE INFORMATION One (1) $1,000 Lance Lew Grand Prize winner, nine (9) $500 Best in Class winners and ten (10) honorable mentions winners will be selected.All winners will have their entries showcased on the AACI website and have a chance to be featured on NBC Bay Area.


Contest Theme AnnouncedFebruary 1
Online Submissions OpenMarch 1
Online Submissions CloseMarch 15
Winners AnnouncedMay 1

Questions? Send an email to guaa@aaci.org

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