A group of remarkable fifth and sixth-graders gathered under a tent Tuesday at the , raising their voices against the rain, and bringing their concerns before an audience of many town businesspeople.
It was the awards luncheon for the 11th annual essay contest, sponsored by the Farmington Rotary Club.
The competition, which Principal Alicia Bowman called “the premier essay writing contest at West Woods,” invited all fifth and sixth-graders to submit an essay in any of a variety of genres. About 200 did and from them, 10 winners were selected.
“It’s a very significant honor,” said incoming Rotary President Patty Strazzulla. “The students wrote very eloquent pieces and took on global issues.”
Indeed, while five fifth-graders and five sixth-graders were chosen as winners, four read their essays Tuesday at the awards luncheon with Rotary members. These were selected because their essays tackled global topics of interest to a service organization.
Like “” by sixth-grader Rashmi Rajesh on the plight of child laborers across the world. In her essay, Rashmi shows the reader a child – in Bangladesh, in El Salvador, in Afghanistan – deprived of rights, education, medical care and joy and urges consumers to boycott goods made by young hands.
Nicholas Rossitto, grade six, asks his audience “” while wrestling with the internment of Japanese Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
“[People] were afraid of another attack. And when people are afraid, they naturally want to get rid of all threats. That is one reason why fingers – prejudiced fingers – pointed at Japanese-Americans who were living peacefully in their new “free” home,” he writes.
In “,” fifth-grader Mae Hickey shares her story of being abandoned by a Chinese mother forbidden to have more than one child and longing for a boy.
“That night [I was adopted] after I drank my bottle I rolled it to my sister. Then she rolled it to me and I laughed and laughed. That was the first time I laughed with them. I finally had a sister to love. That meant everything to me. It still does,” Mae writes.
And , a precocious fifth-grader quoted presidential candidate Ron Paul in warning readers of the need for cautious spending in America and in our own lives as he reads Time Magazine on a sandy beach in Miami on spring break.
“Budgeting can be a scary thing,” he writes. “But we can take things in steps and it can be managed. First understand your earnings and spending habits. Next remember what you need and curve your wants. Then save for our future to protect yourself from falling into the …budgeting gap.”
The essay contest falls perfectly into the missions of both the Rotary Club and West Woods Upper Elementary School.
“We talk a lot about going public with our work and having an authentic audience,” Bowman said. “The kids obviously have something to say.”
And one emphasis of Rotary Club is to promote literacy, which empowers people in all facets of life, explained past president Bill Neagus.
“The contest is to encourage students to see the world around them and to ask questions,” said Augusto Russell, a Rotary member.
“It challenges the young people to write creatively using the knowledge they’ve gained from their classes and provides recognition for the unique gift and does it locally. It’s so important that they be recognized locally and get recognition by their peers,” Strazzulla added.
And the students enjoyed doing it, said literacy specialists Jill Pilon, who coordinated the event.
Rashmi explained that following a unit on child labor in school, her teacher, Joanna Morgan, had encouraged her to write her essay.
“I hope I can write to create awareness and tell people what’s going on in the world and ask them to make it better,” Rashmi said.
Part of creating an audience for the students is sharing their work with you. Please take a moment to read their work by clicking on each student’s name:
The Scariest War in History
Too Much Technology?
The Black Belt Test
Softball is a Great Sport
West Woods Upper Elementary School
Lend a Helping Hand (or Paw)!
The All-Time Best Dad You Could Ever Have!
Abigail Scott: The Coolest Friend Ever!
Parties Are a Thing of the Past
Kristin Alvarez (Buccetti)
A True Friend
How Much Do You Kids Want?
Cramped legs, Cramped Brains