Two Singaporean students bagged the top two awards for their age category in the prestigious Queen's Commonwealth Essay Competition at the Buckingham Palace in London on Wednesday.
The 14-year-old Gauri Kumar topped in the junior category of the essay competition while Tan Wan Gee, who was also of the same age, was the runner-up in the competition. However, both of them were 13 years old when they submitted their essays.
The senior category was won by Inessa Rajah from South Africa and the runner-up was Esther Mungalaba from Zambia.
The junior category, which was themed an Inclusive Commonwealth, was open to children up to 14 years and the senior category was for children from 14 years up to 18 years old.
The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) said in a press release that their essays were selected from nearly 7,500 junior entries, before being chosen by the judging panel.
The society also added that the teenagers were flown to London for a week-long programme of cultural and educational activities, including a tour of Parliament and a day trip to Cambridge. This entire programme was termed as Winners' Week.
The Duchess of Cornwall awarded the certificates to both the winners on behalf of Queen Elizabeth.
After receiving the award from the Duchess, the top prize winner, Gauri told The Straits Times: "I haven't processed it yet. Hopefully, I'll be able to understand in a few days. But I'm still really confused about what's been happening."
She referred to the trip as "amazing" and said that she was "extremely nervous" about the royal experience.
Gauri, who is a student of the Tanglin Trust School, wrote about the challenge of reconciling different identities in her essay titled "Tales Of An Insider/Outsider". She expressed her struggle to communicate with her relatives and adapt her culture as she does not speak Hindi well.
"Language barriers are more than they seem, as anyone who has ever tried to relate to their relatives can attest to," she wrote.
On the other hand, Wan Gee received her award for her poem Are We Really So Different?/Dear Santa. The poem, which is written in the form of letters to Santa Claus from various people, advocates the importance of equality and about people those who do not match society's expectations.
"At the end of the day, / we all share / the same blood / the same flesh / the same origins, / the same term of / human," the poem reads.
The Temasek Junior College student referred to the Duchess of Cornwall as "incredibly nice" and said she asked her about the inspiration behind her poem.
"She was incredibly nice," Wan Gee added.
The director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Michael Lake said the four winners in both the categories represent the "very best and brightest that the Commonwealth has to offer".
"Their essays and poems explore contemporary themes with maturity, intelligence and depth beyond their years," Lake added.
The award ceremony at the Buckingham Palace was attended by almost 70 guests including Chia Wei Wen, Deputy High Commissioner for Singapore, Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster Abbey, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, former prime minister of Denmark and CEO of Save the Children International.