The Newport Historical Society’s essay contest, Big Ideas for a Changing World: Write Your Way to Hamilton, had a record number of entries this year. Just over 100 high school sophomores wrestled with the question: What is happening in your community, or could happen, that has the capacity to change Rhode Island or the world?
The responses are a snapshot of what young people are observing, worrying about, and thinking regarding their futures. Essays address issues that might have been torn from the headlines: safe food and the environment, clean energy, sexual consent, education, mental health, the drug crisis, guns, automation and coding, diversity and the recognition of minority contributions to our shared American heritage. This year in particular, some students chose to suggest that simply by paying more attention to the ideas and concerns of young people, we might all change the world for the better.
Winners, drawn from each Rhode Island County, and sponsoring teachers will travel to New York to see Hamilton, An American Musical, in May and will be celebrated at a reception at the Rhode Island State House later this month.
Winning essays were compellingly argued, addressed a problem, and identified a solution that was innovative, potentially effective, and connected to our Rhode Island communities. Each is among the best that was submitted on the topic chosen.
Sophie Amore, Toll Gate High School, on the importance of water safety.
Leslie Campbell, Middletown High School, on the cost of higher education.
Ethan Corriveau, North Smithfield High School, on civics education.
Ilaria D’Andrea, Narragansett High School, on access to arts education and careers for lower income students
Amy Flynn, Middletown High School, on engaging teens as a way of inoculation against self-destructive behaviors.
Eytan Goldstein, Barrington High School, on recognizing the histories of Native peoples and those of African descent.
Alex Lavoie, Coventry High School, on investing in robotics and technology.
Phoebe Maranjian, Classical High School, on the power of youth.
Elain Sheinkopf, Barrington High School, on understanding sexual consent.
Kallie Urbach, Narragansett High School, on access to clean food.
Abigail Votta, North Smithfield High School, on making education more relevant to student interests.
There will be an essay contest by the Newport Historical Society in 2019. Details will be released soon.