Laila Elliotti


FAYETTEVILLE — Nettleton High School student Laila Elliotti submitted one of two winning stories for the 2020 Digital Writing Challenge, an Arkansas Soul event. The event gave students of color a chance to publish stories about COVID-19 experiences in their communities.

Elliotti said it was important to share her story.

“I felt like this has been a wild year everywhere in the world and definitely in my community,” she said. “We have some diligent people here, #JonesboroStrong.”

During the pandemic, a major athletic event at her high school was canceled. A devastating tornado blew through the city, destroying homes, businesses and communities. Additionally, members of the community protested against police brutality and racial inequality.

Elliotti said her goal is to major in computer science or digital marketing. Elliotti said she will “lead by example.”

“As a young black woman, I want to help the next generation see that there are so many opportunities to succeed, especially in the sports and technology fields,” she said.

Sanchez Smith, a recent graduate of Rogers High School, wrote the second winning entry. Her story delves into the rising concerns COVID-19 has on the Latinx community in Northwest Arkansas. She examines the cultural, economic and essential worker issues behind the pandemic.

Arkansas Soul is under the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas. Both stories can be read online at