Walgreens’ Expressions Challenge gives teens a voice and outlet

Photo Credit: Rogelio Gazga
Last year’s winners of the Expressions Challenge – Photo cCredit: Rogelio Gazga

Walgreens is currently running a contest for high school students to speak their minds and express themselves regarding issues that affect our communities daily. The Expressions Challenge is an opportunity to delve into the minds of our youth and get a glimpse of what they are thinking and the kinds of solutions that they will provide. We spoke with Walgreens Director of Community Affairs John Gremer about the Expressions Challenge and what it means to our youth.

Tell us who you are and what you do.
My name is John Gremer. I am the director of Community Affairs for Walgreens. My role is to ensure that our community outreach and corporate philanthropy support our mission to champion everyone’s right to be happy and healthy.

Talk about the importance of the Expressions Challenge.
The Walgreens Expressions Challenge is an incentive based contest for current high school teens to showcase their perspective on social issues that are relevant to them. The challenge seeks to motivate teens to voice their opinions on topics that affect them most, such as bullying, cyber-bullying, self-esteem, body image, teen pregnancy, STD/STI prevention, abstinence, sexting and sexual responsibility, just to name a few.  While students can receive awards from this opportunity, the challenge reaches beyond the contest period through the Expressions Gallery Tours. Students’ submissions are displayed in several locations such as other schools to promote peer-to-peer healthy choices. In short, the work the students submit can have a positive influence on other students who view the work. Over the years, Expressions has reached more than 500K teenagers through the Challenge and Gallery Tours.

Why is it important to get the youth perspective when it comes to making healthy choices for their future?
We want to provide a platform for students to look within themselves and help find their authentic voice to creatively express themselves. Today, teens are influenced by all kinds of messages through social media, websites, television, and their personal relationships with friends and family.  These messages are impacting their lives far beyond what we can imagine.  With that said, Walgreens started this program to encourage positive behaviors that lead to positive outcomes, and we found that for many, art and prose are means to unleashing positive behaviors.

What does this contest say about the Walgreens brand?
Walgreens is dedicated championing everyone’s right to be happy and healthy, and to us, this mission extends beyond our stores and into the communities we serve. The Expressions Challenge is just one of several programs we bring to communities and we are happy to provide a platform for teenagers to express their creativity that will help them develop a healthy lifestyle.

What message are you ultimately looking to share with the world?
We hope to guide students to make good choices about their personal health and wellness. We encourage students to take advantage of an opportunity to develop a process of self-awareness and positive expression.

How can a teen enter the contest?
The Expressions Challenge is open to all high school students in the Chicago and St. Louis metropolitan areas. We award students in each city and students are only judged amongst other students in their perspective cities.

Teens can enter the contest by following three simple steps.

  1. Pick a topic.  Some topics may include bullying, abstinence, self-esteem, sexual responsibility, cyber-bullying, sexting, STD/STI prevention, teen pregnancy, and body image.  However, this is just a short list of topics that students can explore.  We want them to pick an issue that is important to them.  It could be something that they are dealing with personally, or it could be something they see a friend or family member deal with as well.
  1. Choose a category.  Teens may submit their response to the topics using any of the following three mediums:
  •  Creative writing (essay, poetry, short story, etc.)
  •  Visual arts (Graphic design, painting, sculpture, drawing, etc.)
  •  Multimedia (video, audio recording – i.e. a recording of a song/rap/speech)

Each participant can submit one entry per category as an individual or group up to five people.

  1. Upload your entry on ExpressionsChallenge.com

Upload your entry on ExpressionsChallenge.com
This year’s Challenge goes through November 30, 2016, and we will announce plans for 2017 soon. We highly encourage students, parents, and teachers to review the official rules (http://www.expressionschallenge.com/contest/official-rules/) before submitting.

Of all the submissions, we have a panel of expert judges to select first and second place winners in each of the three categories.

First Place Winner

$2,000 for the student

$500 for the student’s school

$500 for the student’s teacher

Second Place Winner

$1,250 for the student

$500 for the teacher

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