SpiRIT Writing competition

About the Competition

The SpiRIT Writing competition is for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in grades 10-11 as of spring 2023. To participate, students can submit a writing project of up to 2,000 words based on the theme of the competition. This year the theme is... anything! Students may write a fictional story, a research paper, an autobiography--any topic they'd like. The sky is the limit!

Registration for the SpiRIT Writing competition opens on September 9, 2022 and students have until March 15, 2023 to submit their original written works. The winner of the competition will be selected and will receive a cash prize!

Teachers are encouraged to get their students to sign up. Each school district or school for the deaf may submit up to two entries from deaf or hard-of-hearing students enrolled in grades 10-11. 

Big Read: NTID

In addition to the theme for SpiRIT Writing this year, we are partnering with Big Read at NTID to offer students an opportunity to submit writing works based on Ilya Kaminsky’s Deaf Republic. Students are encouraged to explore themes of language, power, and community in Deaf Republic. 

Students who create and submit writing works on Deaf Republic are invited to participate in Big Read at NTID, which kicks off on April 1, 2023. For the month of April, students will have an opportunity to view art exhibits, a live stage play of Deaf Republic, participate in a poetry workshop, and more. 

Visit the Big Read website to learn more.

Rules and Eligibility

Am I eligible?

  • You must be deaf or hard-of-hearing
  • You must be enrolled in 10th or 11th grade as of spring 2023

This year's theme is: write about any topic that interests you. You could write anything, as long as it is under 2,000 words.

What do I need to do?

  • Register using this entry form
  • Submit your application package, which must include ALL of the following:
    • A copy of your entry form
    • A copy of your high school transcript
    • Your written work
  • Send your application package to:
    • Rochester Institute of Technology
      SpiRIT Writing Contest
      52 Lomb Memorial Dr
      Rochester, NY 14623
    • Email to: writingcontest@rit.edu

Enter your best work today! The deadline for submitting all materials is March 15, 2023

If you have any questions or concerns, contact us:
Voice: 585-475-7695 • Videophone: 585-286-4555 • Email: writingcontest@rit.edu


There will be up to four winners—two 10th graders and two 11th graders. The entries for the competition will be evaluated after March 15, 2023 and the winners will be selected and announced.

Winners will receive a plaque commending their work as well as a choice between two prizes:

A scholarship and paid travel expenses to the Explore Your Future program!


$500 cash!

History of SpiRIT Writing

Formerly the National Dalgarno Essay Contest
The SpiRIT Writing Contest owes its existence to an earlier writing competition sponsored at RIT/NTID entitled the National Dalgarno Essay Contest. This competition was established and personally sponsored for ten years by the late Professor Emeritus Edward Scouten, and his wife Eleanor, who shared a passion for English literacy and the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Professor and Mrs. Scouten originally named the essay contest after George Dalgarno, a Scottish school teacher and the inventor of the first sign language alphabet. In 1680, Dalgarno published a book in which he presented many theories about the different ways to teach language to people who were deaf. Among those theories was Dalgarno’s firm belief that deaf children could learn to understand and use written English if given the opportunity. Mr. Scouten, in his many years of teaching English at NTID, based much of his philosophy of teaching on Dalgarno’s original theories of the relationship between English, language and deafness.

Established in 2004, this endowment provides support for an internship with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, a college of the Rochester Institute of Technology. The purpose of the internship is to provide mentoring in best teaching practices to promote English literacy. Learn more about the Scouten Endowed Internship in English Literacy.

Contact Us

RIT SpiRIT Writing Contest
Rochester Institute of Technology
National Technical Institute for the Deaf
Lyndon Baines Johnson Building
52 Lomb Memorial Drive
Rochester, New York 14623-5604
585-475-7695 (voice)
585-286-4555 (videophone)

You can also contact us by email at writingcontest@rit.edu.