Last year, TEAM Westport‘s annual teen diversity essay contest tackled a hot topic: white privilege. Submissions were insightful and strong. Reaction was strong too, though not nearly as intelligent. A national controversy ensued.
TEAM Westport was not cowed. The town’s multicultural committee has just announced this year’s 5th annual contest. The topic is once again in the news.
And the idea once again is to make local teenagers — and everyone else reading their essays — think.
The prompt says:
Recently, several professional athletes have “taken a knee” during the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to bring attention to — and to protest — ongoing bias and discriminatory practices in American society in general, and by law enforcement officers in particular.
In reaction, some people have called these athletes “unpatriotic.” In 1,000 words or fewer, describe your understanding of what it means to be a patriot, what kinds of behavior you think would be unpatriotic, and what forms of protest against discriminatory laws, customs, or patterns of behavior you would consider legitimate.
This is not your typical essay contest.
But — as the nation continues to be grapple with issues relating to race, ethnicity, religion and identity, along with questions about what America is and what it stands for — it is exactly the kind of essay contest we need.
The contest — co-sponsored with the Westport Library — is open to students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or who live in Westport and attend school elsewhere.
Applications are available here. The deadline is February 27. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the library on April 2. Based on the volume and caliber of entries received, judges may award up to 3 prizes. First prize is $1,000; 2nd prize is $750, 3rd is $500.
(Individuals or organizations who would like to help sponsor the contest can click here or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Contributions are deductible to the extent permitted by law.)