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Student Essay Contest

Calling all Natchitoches Parish middle school and high school students! We're looking for a new name for the street where the Texas and Pacific Railway Depot is located and we need your help!

The Texas & Pacific Railway Depot in Natchitoches has a deep connection to the City’s African American community. For almost 40 years the community of Natchitoches has worked to preserve and rehabilitate the Depot into a museum that shares the African American heritage of Natchitoches and Cane River. The National Park Service, Cane River National Heritage Area, and the City are working together to preserve the Depot, which will include an interpretative center and combination theater and community room space. The building will also house new offices for Cane River Creole National Historical Park.  

A proposal has been made and accepted to rename the street on which the Depot is located to a name that reflects and honors the area’s rich Black heritage, history, and culture. A street name is powerful as it reflects who we are as a community and a nation. To find a new name Cane River Creole National Historical Park and the Cane River National Heritage Area are co-sponsoring a student essay contest. 


The Texas and Pacific Railway Depot was constructed in 1927 and closed its doors to passenger rail transportation in the 1960s, encapsulating its segregated entrances and waiting rooms. Today, the structure remains one of the last of the segregated train stations within Louisiana. 

The rehabilitated Depot will depict the African American experience of Natchitoches and Cane River. It will tell the stories of overcoming hardship from enslavement to abolition, from segregation to civil rights—all within the context of Black history, no matter how difficult they may be so that future generations can learn from those stories. 

Essay Contest Rules

Who Can Enter: 

Participation is open to middle school and high school students within Natchitoches Parish. 

Essay Subject:  

The proposed name should reflect the area’s heritage, history, and culture. The name may be, but is not limited to, people, leaders, heroes, heroines, or events. Construct an essay that describes in detail why the name proposed should be selected. 

Essays must be non-fiction and any essay that does not address the contest topic will not be considered. 

Essay Length: 

Essays are limited to a maximum of 500 words. 

Judging Criteria: 

Submissions will be evaluated by a panel on content, originality, clarity, style, conciseness, articulation, grammar, and organization. 


The winning student will be notified via email and/or phone. 


The student of the winning essay receives: 

A monetary award of $1000.00 

Winning author will read their essay at the official grand opening of the Texas and Pacific Railway Depot. 

Submission Procedure

Contest Opens: February 1, 2023 

Submission deadline: March 1, 2023 

Submission Packet: A valid submission will contain the following information: 

An essay of a maximum of 500 words in length, proposing a new name for the street where the Texas and Pacific Railway Depot is located; 

A short (approximately 100 words) biographical sketch of the student contestant. This biographical sketch can be written in the first person, and it should include the student’s name, grade level, and school; 

Information about the student:student’s name; address of student (or parent); phone number or email address of student (or parent). 

Upon submission, the student author represents and warrant that their essay is their own original creation and that it does not violate or infringe the rights, including, without limitation, copyrights, trademark rights or rights of publicity/privacy, of any other party. 

All submissions become the property of the Cane River National Heritage Area and Cane River Creole National Historical Park. 

How to Submit: 

Submissions of individual students may be emailed to If you have any questions, please contact Park Ranger Barbara Justice ( 

For Teachers 

I want to make this a class project. Do you have any suggestions?

This would be wonderful! We encourage you to help your students think of and research potential name ideas and provide feedback on essays. 

Can I help my students submit their essays?

Absolutely. You can help with the submission process either by emailing essays to or contacting Park Ranger Barbara Justice ( if essays need to be picked up at a school. 

I teach middle school and am encouraging my students to do this. Do they need to use their home address and phone number, or can they use the school’s address and my phone number? 

Your students can use your school’s address and your phone number as their teacher: these are used to contact the winner.  Typically, the first contact is through email and/or phone, and the mailing address is used later. 


For more information about the essay contest, please contact Park Ranger Barbara Justice (