Some people go an entire lifetime without ever becoming published authors. That’s not the case for two talented sophomores at Stone Mountain High School now that their literary works are featured prominently on two popular websites.

Khadija Jeylani’s poem, “Why?,” is published on, and Taliyah Langston’s letter is showcased as a finalist in the Pulitzer Center’s Local Letters for Global Change contest. Her work is found on the center’s website HERE.

For Khadija, she wanted her poem to connect the similarities between seasons and people.

“It was the beginning of Fall, and I wanted something to show just how the seasons change; people can change too,” she said. “I hope readers are more appreciative of what they have now and enjoy life.”

The inspiration for Taliyah’s letter was the injustice minorities face in the justice system. She addressed the “ShotSpotter” technology, an AI system that detects gunshots in communities and makes it easier for law enforcement to respond to gun threats.

“However, the tech could be faulty, and the information can be tampered with by law enforcement, so it is not very reliable,” said Langston. “Thankfully, a little [while] after I submitted the letter to the contest, Atlanta ended their use of the technology. I was also inspired by Ms. Battle, who introduced me to the competition. She inspired me to try my best, leading me here.”

Khadija and Taliyah were enrolled in Ms. Faydren Battle’s curriculum for Advanced/Gifted courses at Stone Mountain High last semester. Part of the course requirements includes students completing at least one extracurricular activity centered on applying English Language Arts (ELA) skills, college prep, career exploration, or life skills.

Ms. Battle said she is proud of her students’ efforts and taking their messages into the mainstream for others to consider.

“While neither of them has the desire to pursue a career in a writing field, I hope they understand how ELA skills empower them to address authentic issues, experiences, and emotions, no matter where they land,” she said. “I know they will continue to take on new challenges—inside and outside the classroom.”

Whether either student decides to continue publicly sharing their perspectives, getting published for their efforts was definitely an exciting bonus for both students.

“It’s a great honor to be published and that everyone can see my work,” said Khadija.

Taliyah agreed and added that she hopes readers will take time to read about issues in their areas and become more involved in their communities.

“Even if they don’t get involved, just knowing about what’s going on in our daily lives can help us be so much more aware of everything around us and will lead to positive change in the future,” she said.