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Teen Trend Report

Unsung Heroes

Quote about Unsung Heroes"In our world of big names, curiously, our true heroes tend to be anonymous. In this life of illusion and quasi-illusion, the person of solid virtues who can be admired for something more substantial than his well-knownness often proves to be the unsung hero: the teacher, the nurse, the mother, the honest cop, the hard worker at lonely, underpaid, unglamorous, unpublicized jobs.”
--Daniel J. Boorstin

Report Background:

Unsung Hero Writing ContestFor our January 2015 writing contest and international teen trend report, we revisited one of our most popular essay contest topics ever, our 2010 September contest “Who Is Your Hero?” But rather than the recognized heroes in our world, we wanted to hear about a special kind of hero: The Unsung Hero.

Unsung heroes come in all shapes and sizes - from Moms to teachers, from coaches to best friends, from the people in your local community that make small or huge unrecognized differences in the lives of people every day to the individuals in history that took a stand against oppression or cruelty.

Over 6,950+ teenagers reviewed the writing prompt materials and hundreds participated in the survey and essay contest.  Below you will find the statistics, essays, and results of's teen trend analysis on the Unsung Hero report. would like to personally thank Papa John's, Applebee's and IHOP for helping to sponsor this writing contest!

Applebee's - Education Sponsor   IHOP - Education Sponsor   Education essay sponsor - Papa John's

Teen Trend Report Overview:
  • Trend Report about TeensVISITS:  Over 6,950 teens and college students visited the writing contest during the month's writing prompt (Jan. 2015) from across the US (all 50 states) and dozens of international countries.

  • ESSAY THEMES:  Out of all of the topics discussed, several major themes were collectively revealed by teens in their essays about unsung heroes. 
  • Writing contest for high school students

    125 teen bloggers submitted a qualifying essay to the writing prompt that asked them to share a story about an unsung hero 
  • ESSAY WINNER:  Place winners, along with Runners Up and finalists were selected. 

PART I Statistics about Teens and Unsung Heroes

Before submitting their writing contest essay, teens were asked to complete a survey containing some questions about unsung heroes.  Here are the teen statistics from the survey from the hundreds of students who fully completed the poll...
  • A Parent ranked #1 out of several key roles that teens voted as the type of person who best fits the description of an "unsung hero."  Here are the rankings of other roles...
    • #1 Parent
    • #2 Soldier
    • #3 Teacher
    • #4 Strangers Who Do Something for Someone They Don't Know
    • #5 Nurse
    • #6 Religious Volunteer
    • #7 Coach
    • #8 Unrecognized Artist
  • 53% of teens say that "Putting the needs of someone else above your own" is the #1 trait of an Unsung Hero.  Here are how some other traits ranks (students were allowed to select two (2) traits that most exemplify an unsung hero:
    • Fighting for the rights of others:  38%
    • Everyday love and care:  31%
    • Being a revolutionary thinker / doer:  10.5%
    • Random acts of kindness:  18%
    • Standing up for what you believe in:  40%
    • Putting your needs aside for someone else’s benefit:  53%
  • 70% of students believe they are (or have been) an unsung hero
Statistics about Teens and Unsung HeroesTo read the full survey results, click the PDF icon to view or save the free download.

SOURCE:  All statistics above were collected by as part of its monthly teen trend reports containing statistics and writing contest prompt responses from teens on real world issues.


After taking the survey, students submitted their writing contest essays to  From the qualifying teen essay submissions, several themes emerged:

Themes and Trends from the Unsung Hero Essays:
  • Teenagers and Unsung HeroesFamily: Teens overwhelmingly agreed that members of their family—including their parents, siblings, and grandparents—were all heroic. Parents and grandparents took care of them and contributed to their positive lives, while siblings and cousins made growing up all the more entertaining.
  • Role Models: Teachers, coaches, and even doctors inspired these teens to try harder and dream bigger. These writers admitted they learned more and did more than they thought they could thanks to an extra push.
  • Blue Collar Workers: Interestingly, several teens nominated workers such as janitors, garbage workers, and security guards for their often unseen and underappreciated work. These people work extremely hard for necessary work that is often looked down upon.
  • Heroism is Inside Us: Although we may look up to others for guidance, we all possess heroic traits: courage, determination, skill… We need to nurture ourselves in order to become the best possible person and be our own hero.

PART III:  Read the Teen Stories about Unsung Heroes

Teen BloggersImmediately below, you'll find links to the winning essay, our runners-up, semi-finalists, and all qualifying essays from college students and teenagers answering the prompt to share a story about an Unsung Hero in their lives.

Please take a few moments to read an essay or two, especially our winner, runners-up, and finalists.

If you have the time, make a comment on the essays you enjoyed the most.  We know the student writers will love hearing your positive input (they'll get an email notifying them if you comment on their writing contest entry).

Writing contest winnerWriting Contest Winner & Finalists

First Place:

Unsung Hero: A Heartfelt Letter to My Father by zainabsiddiqui8 (She thanks her father for taking a huge risk and giving her family a better life) student essay writers2nd Place: 

Unsung Hero: A Girl in Rags by shxnnon (She remembers the “most beautiful person I’ve ever met”)

3rd Place (tie):

Unsung Hero: Mr. Lim and His Yellow Vest by junechoi512 (This teen remembers an unfailingly kind crossing guard

Writing Contest Runners UpRunners Up (in no particular order)

Unsung Hero: My Great Grandmother’s Survival by snizmarkovitz (Her great grandmother escaped Nazi rule) 

Unsung Hero: A Mother’s Nurture by Steflasher (Her mother aggressively fought against stage four melanoma) 

Unsung Hero: The Voice Inside My Head by n0stalgic (She struggled with a drug addiction) 

Unsung Hero: Living a Life For Others by LostInTime (She learned a lot from this stranger)

Unsung Hero: Pushing Past Me by peightonbolt (This teen was encouraged to push through a tough swim practice)liked it 

Unsung Hero: Vasili Arkhipov, A Name Every Human Should Know by KaitMags (This man prevented a world war) 

Unsung Hero: The girl in between two worlds by laura98 (Her best friend is Saudi and American) writing contest submissions

Teen writing contest enteries

Read All Qualifying Teen & College Essays for the Writing Contest
The essays below were all written by Stage of Life teen writers for this monthly student writing contest.  They are listed in no particular order or ranking.

All Teen Essays about Unsung Heroes

Essays about Animals

  1. Unsung Hero: My Horses by meganderleth (Her horses give her a sense of calm)
  2. Unsung Hero: A Man’s Best Friend by JessicaEaton97 (Dogs are loyal and comforting)
  3. Unsung Hero: Penny by smejkalh (This teen is inspired by her dog)
  4. Unsung Hero: A Man’s Best Friend by mrichter7 (A dog during WWII saved American forces countless times)

Essays about Celebrities

  1. Unsung Hero: Overcoming the Odds by Rxcess35 (Stuart Scott made sports exciting)
  2. Unsung Hero: 30 for the Farm by karenp (Foster the People promotes veganism and is against animal cruelty)
  3. Unsung Hero: Steve Jobs’ Anticipation for Success by clightfield24 (Steve Jobs had the enthusiasm and charisma to market his product)
  4. Unsung Hero: Everfound by animelover220 (This band saved this teen’s life)
  5. Unsung Hero: The Cat Man by Ramen_Cat (Jackson Galaxy saves the lives of cats)
  6. Unsung Hero: Standing up against haters isn’t always easy by Zanita (This teen admires Zayn Malik from One Direction)


Essays about Coaches, Teachers, or Doctors

  1. Unsung Hero: My Second Family by cbay (She looks forward to working hard in the pool)
  2. Unsung Hero: Preacher Man by blackwingbutterflies (Her dance teacher helped her accept herself)
  3. Unsung Hero: Pushing Past Me by peightonbolt (This teen was encouraged to push through a tough swim practice)
  4. Unsung Hero: Playing for Peace by aclp26 (This teen met a peacemaker in Israel)
  5. Unsung Hero: The taste of African Chinese food by shafeioswa (This teen felt uncomfortable in a strange new school)
  6. Unsung Hero: The Chorus Teacher Who Does So Much More by kisbell8 (This teen is inspired by her amazing teacher)
  7. Unsung Hero: The skull for my brain by lptrajkova (Her teacher inspired her to become a geneticist)
  8. Unsung Hero: Coach’s Advice by heyysophieee (“The only thing that is stopping you is you”)
  9. Unsung Hero: A lesson to remember… Forever by pd92811 (This teen was given a task and failed)
  10. Unsung Hero by marco.capobianco (Teachers go above and beyond for their students)
  11. Unsung Hero: Dr. B Saved Me by BrittanyViele (Her doctor helped her recover from a foot drop)
  12. Unsung Hero: The one who spreads equality by nasreen (Teachers, doctors, and socialists are all heroes)
  13. Unsung Hero: The Presence of My History Teacher by jenna.h13 (Her teacher motivated her to keep an open mind about the subject and about life)
  14. Unsung Hero: The Unmasked, Under-appreciated Unconformirst by echenran (You either love or hate this teen’s teacher)
  15. Unsung Hero: My teachers by Tanisha (Teachers love doing what they do)
  16. Unsung Hero: More Than Just a Soccer Coach by richaelmice15 (This teen’s coach is his mentor in sports and Christ)


Essays about Extended Family

  1. Unsung Hero: My Aunt’s Selfless Act by dravensch (Her aunt took her in from her abusive parents)
  2. Unsung Hero by ccarter (Her aunt makes her feel like part of the family)
  3. Unsung Hero: My Aunt Carrie by bobbijo (Her aunt consoled her during a tough time)
  4. Unsung Hero: My Cousin, Seung-Jae by (Her cousin can’t say much, but he is very inspiring)


Essays about Family

  1. Unsung Hero by Hafsa123 (This teen’s family rallied around her to help her through a hard time)
  2. Unsung Hero: Irreplaceable Parents by chris (This teen’s parents gave him a great childhood)
  3. Unsung Hero: My Parents’ Sacrifices by Sergio H. (This teen learned that everything happens for a reason)
  4. Unsung Hero: My A+ Parents by Z Forever (Her parents are also teachers)
  5. Unsung Hero: Surrounded by Heroes by WriterS (Her family and friends are the real superheroes)
  6. Unsung Hero: The Selfless Sacrifice by robsav1997 (This teen appreciates all his parents do for him)


Essays about Fathers

  1. Unsung Hero by raghad97 (This teen’s father never gave up despite many difficulties)
  2. Unsung Hero: The Father that is Always There by ogarcia3 (His dad never settles for the minimum)
  3. Unsung Hero: A Dad to Remember by JamieOlson (This teen’s dad was challenged with a tough life)
  4. Unsung Hero: Giving to Those in Need by yarelir98 (This teen travels to Mexico every Christmas to give out gifts to the needy)
  5. Unsung Hero: A Father that Deserves the Light by Alexis_loves_writing (Her father has helped her through the hardest times in her life)
  6. Unsung Hero: My Father’s Acts of Valor by Bryan (He is proud of his firefighter father)
  7. Unsung Hero: My Dad by shreena (Her dad supported her during tough, competitive exams)
  8. Unsung Hero: A Heartfelt Letter to My Father by zainabsiddiqui8 (She thanks her father for taking a huge risk and giving her family a better life)
  9. Unsung Hero: A Man of Sacrifice by zaiial27 (Her dad made many sacrifices for her)
  10. Unsung Hero: Loving the Enslaved by sydneykmorris (Her dad saved his old childhood friend)
  11. Unsung Hero: Desert Oasis by Tsundenierxx (Her father worked hard to give her a good life)


Essays about Friends

  1. Unsung Hero: The Boy With No Resume by simonejohnston (This teen worked with a boy who didn’t plan on going to college)
  2. Unsung Hero: The girl in between two worlds by laura98 (Her best friend is Saudi and American)
  3. Unsung Hero: The Most Inspiring Friend I Could Ever Ask For by clairekeller17 (Her friend has faced many challenges, and continues to inspire others)
  4. Unsung Hero: High Schoolers by Mariah White (Students in high school are always facing a challenge)
  5. Unsung Hero: The sister I never had by danielledisarlo (She and her “sister” grew up very close)Unsung Hero by JSisneros (This teen’s boyfriend saved her)
  6. Unsung Hero by Edayton17 (Her friend introduced herself when she was the most lonely)
  7. Unsung Hero: The Best Friend by movolleyball (Her best friend is her rock and soul mate)
  8. Unsung Hero: The one who stands up against bullying by ron0822 (This teen’s friend stood up against many bullies)
  9. Unsung Hero: The Sister Mom by Lanilynn99 (Her friend assumed a parental role in her family at a very young age)
  10. Unsung Hero: The Healing of a Tattered Heart by moriiahh (Her boyfriend saved her from a deep depression)
  11. Unsung Hero: The Parents of The ‘Abnormal’ by EdenVMcGee (This teen admires the parents of a deaf and Autistic girl)
  12. Unsung Hero: Best Friend Since Day One by goalexgomez (This teen’s friend is more like a twin)
  13. Unsung Hero: My Father’s Keeper by RachelYoung (Her dad’s lady friend takes good care of him)
  14. Unsung Hero: Working through What Breaks Others by SussieDanahy (Her family friend is fighting cancer)


Essays about Grandfathers

  1. Unsung Hero: My grandfather’s religiousness by sismail16 (Her grandfather helped her changed her prayer schedule)
  2. Unsung Hero: My grandfather’s legacy by anna27 (Her grandpa was an EMT)
  3. Unsung Hero: My Grandpa, an Angel in the Dark by jpalumbo (This teen’s grandpa had a big heart and bigger sense of humor)
  4. Unsung Hero: The Family Soldier by nataliedunlay (Her great grandfather has vivid memories of World War II)
  5. Unsung Hero: Pioneering the Way by drewmydock (This teen’s grandfather worked hard to serve God)
  6. Unsung Hero: My generous grandfather by heleneraich (Her grandfather honored his late brother’s memory)
  7. Unsung Hero: The Gracious Grandfather by jetalv (Her grandfather taught her to always help others when they need it)


Essays about Grandmothers

  1. Unsung Hero: My Great Grandmother’s Survival by snizmarkovitz (Her great grandmother escaped Nazi rule)
  2. Unsung Hero: My Grandmother by izzy.davis114 (Her grandmother survived an amazing life)
  3. Unsung Hero: Of warmth, will and wisdom—Bari Maa by DiyaKunduu99 (Her grandma overcame great turmoil and hardship)


Essays about Mothers

  1. Unsung Hero: Her Heart of Gold by IamYasaman (This teen admires her mother’s strength in streaks of bad luck)
  2. Unsung Hero: My Wonderwoman by susan.m (Her mom is her best friend)
  3. Unsung Hero: Little Does She Know by OdalisContreras (Her mother’s strength, especially as a cancer patient, inspires her)
  4. Unsung Hero: My Mom Forever by karina (Her mom’s dedication to the church shows her kindness)
  5. Unsung Hero: The Perfect Woman by Joses (This teen’s mom does so much without a thank you)
  6. Unsung Hero: My mother’s quest for our happiness by Seer (A hero never stops protecting the people she loves)
  7. Unsung Hero: More than Just a Mother by Lindsey17 (Her mother stays involved in booster club activities)
  8. Unsung Hero: My Mom is My Best Friend by Erika (“She is my mom, but she is also my best friend”)
  9. Unsung Hero: A Mother’s Unconditional Love by yessicamichele (Her mother went through amazing strides to keep her happy)
  10. Unsung Hero: A Mother’s Nurture by Steflasher (Her mother aggressively fought against stage four melanoma)
  11. Unsung Hero: The selfless survivor by JuliaClaire (Her mother carried her family when her dad was diagnosed with dementia)
  12. Unsung Hero: My Step Mom by amandamichellec (Her step mom pushed her to excel and eat better)
  13. Unsung Hero: A Mother’s Love by bhawkins22 (Her mother created an organization called Holding Hands)
  14. Unsung Hero: Thanks, Mom by Clayla_32 (She thanks her mom, however imperfect, for helping her)
  15. Unsung Hero: My Mom, the Nurse by jennifer.M.N. (Her mom works overnight at a nursing home)
  16. Unsung Hero: There is No Academy Award for Mothers by Clementine14 (Her mother taught her many things, including feminism)
  17. Unsung Hero: A lady of excellence and a woman of substance by miss mimi (Her mother has been there for her since day one)
  18. Unsung Hero: My mom by Sam Maddock (This teen’s mom is a kind and caring nurse)
  19. Unsung Hero: Mom by PaulCast3 (His mother always does what is right)
  20. Unsung Hero: Denee Massie by KyleeShipley (Her mother is kind and caring, helping her dad with his dream)


Essays about Myself

  1. Unsung Hero: The Voice Inside My Head by n0stalgic (She struggled with a drug addiction)
  2. Unsung Hero: An Unsung Hero Exists in Everyone by rlsav (We can all be heroes if we try)Unsung Hero by courtneykirkwood (You are your own hero)
  3. Unsung Hero: A story that fits all by maddiearkless (We are all everyday heroes)
  4. Unsung Hero: The reason why I believe everyone has their own unsung hero by GardevoirDaGoosie (Everyone has someone to rely ons)


Essays about Neighbors or Strangers

  1. Unsung Hero: Living a Life For Others by LostInTime (She learned a lot from this stranger)
  2. Unsung Hero: Those who just blend in by HelixEmma123 (The people who do jobs no one else wants are the real heroes)
  3. Unsung Hero: The Silent Hero by marina3 (Unrecognized heroes exist all around us)


Essays about Siblings

  1. Unsung Hero: My Brother Showed Me Who Not To Be by lexi_b99 (Her brother drinks and smokes, which shows her not to do those things)
  2. Unsung Hero: Hidden in the Shadows by Maddy2000 (Her sister stood up to this teen’s bully)
  3. Unsung Hero: My Big Sister by leemarie_97 (Her sister has faced adversity without supernatural powers)
  4. Unsung Hero: Cheerlebrity by Savannahhrae (This teen’s sister has many disadvantages that she rises above in cheerleading)
  5. Unsung Hero: A Sister’s Support by jamesleehawaii (This teen’s sister was always on his side)
  6. Unsung Hero: My Brother’s Serving Heart by Markkatt (This teen’s brother works with Christ Fellowship)


Essays about Soldiers

  1. Unsung Hero by HannahNoelleHJ (She thinks soldiers are the ultimate heroes)
  2. Unsung Hero: The American Soldier by TemporaryTree (This teen thinks soldiers are special)
  3. Unsung Hero: My Soldier by yunimh99 (This teen’s father fought in Iraq)
  4. Unsung Hero: U.S. Army Soldiers by JoshMinor (The Army gets treated like the lowest valued branch)Unsung Hero by PotatoLord (The military protects our freedom)
  5. Unsung Hero: A Voice for the Anonymous Soldier by Samdell100 (Soldiers need a better support system back home)
  6. Unsung Hero by Acoll812 (Fox was a selfless soldier during the second world war)
  7. Unsung Hero: Vasili Arkhipov, A Name Every Human Should Know by KaitMags (This man prevented a world war)
  8. Unsung Hero: More than Those Medals by John Michael Londres (Filipino armies paid a tragic price during an unexpected battle)
  9. Unsung Hero: The Super Chef by Liuhiis (This marine helped save lives on 9/11)
  10. Unsung Hero: Twenty-One Plus by duanereiff15 (This reverend served as a secret agent during World War II)


Essays about Workers

  1. Unsung Hero: Mr. Lim and His Yellow Vest by junechoi512 (This teen remembers an unfailingly kind crossing guard)
  2. Unsung Hero by BryannaMarie (The working class are the real heroes)
  3. Unsung Hero: Geek Squad by JanaJo13 (This Best Buy employee helped her mom buy a new computer)
  4. Unsung Hero: The Dirty Man by Devon1 (Garbage workers are extremely undervalued)
  5. Unsung Hero: The dedication and service that keeps me safe by graceyang (In Korea, security guards ensure the safety of students traveling early in the morning)
  6. Unsung Hero: Amazing Janitors by jacobf (Janitors are hard workers that do not get enough recognition)
  7. Unsung Hero: Racetrack Corner working behind the engine’s roar by Jasonfichter (Corner workers assist racers in crashes)


Misc. Essays about Unsung Heroes

  1. Unsung Hero: The Thing Inside by cookieks (Potential is our greatest hero)
  2. Unsung Hero: The Institution Revolutionist by snizmarkovitz (Anyone who deviates from the expected path is a hero)
  3. Unsung Hero: The Pen by SnaxAttack (This teen found solace in writing)Unsung Hero by Kklein06 (A hero is someone who is kind for no reason)
  4. Unsung Hero: In Plain Sight by Sean424 (A hero cannot be limited to one person)
  5. Unsung Hero: A Girl in Rags by shxnnon (She remembers the “most beautiful person I’ve ever met”)
  6. Unsung Hero: The Baby Box by mellosworldwide (This man saved babies left to die in Korea)
  7. Unsung Hero: Her Inspiring Beauty by Sam Hayden-Kaplan (This teen is inspired by nature)
  8. Unsung Hero: The Face of Justice by bartzjosh (Elizabeth Gilroy created a street ministry to help victims of trafficking)
  9. Unsung Hero: Super Nanny by thelewissimpson (This teen’s nanny helped him more than he realized)
  10. Unsung Hero: Behind the Scenes of it All by Charles (This homeless teen found hope in his guardian)
  11. Unsung Hero: Stephen’s Impact by DanielBallew (This biblical figure has taught him many important lessons)


Video Resources About Unsung Heroes

As part of the writing contest and teen survey, provided the following video resources:

  Lowell Milken Center: Celebrating Unsung Heroes Who Change the World

The Lowell Milken Center (LMC) for Unsung Heroes discovers, develops and communicates the stories of Unsung Heroes who have made a profound and positive difference on the course of history.

“Hospital Window - Inspirational Video”

Sometimes even the smallest things can make the biggest differences in an another’s life.

"the power of ONE"

Never underestimate the power of one human being to make huge world changing differences.

Author Sponsors

For this month's writing contest, our two Stage of Life author partners are Suzanne Brockmann for her book, "The Unsung Hero" and Deanne Durrett for her book "Unsung Heroes of World War II: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers"

Both authors are donating a signed copy of their book to Stage of Life for this month's writing contest.  One book will go to the 1st place essay winner and another to the 2nd place winner.  Check out our other Author Partners.

Writing contests on StageofLife.comWriting Contests on Stage of Life hosts educational, national, monthly writing and blogging contests for teens and college students.  In its mission to provide students an authentic community to share their opinions and publish their ideas, will strive to continue its commitment to giving teens and college students a larger voice. 

We welcome you to explore our writing contests, our mission and the literacy principals on which it Stage of Life was founded.

Contact StageofLife.comIf you should have any questions about this writing contest summary, please contact us, or explore our other writing contest information pages...

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