Michael Garman, an eighth grader at Cluny School in Newport, won first place in the 7th annual Rhode Island Gandhi Essay Contest sponsored by the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island.

Garman’s essay reads in part,  “To me, ‘real peace’ is more than merely the end of war. It includes the end of prejudice and discrimination, and is the state of worldwide harmony. A world in which there is real peace is one of unity, where all people stand together, regardless of age, gender identity, race, religion, or socioeconomic background.”

The Newport resident was one of 21 eighth graders from 13 schools to celebrate their accomplishments recently with their families and the URI community and to honor the peace and nonviolence philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.

The contest received more than 360 entries from eighth graders at 22 public and private schools. During the last seven years, more than 1,000 eighth graders have participated in the essay contest. This year, the young essayists expounded on this Gandhi quote: “If we are to teach real peace, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”

In their essays, the students explained what is meant by Gandhi’s statement and how they serve others in their communities.

Awards were presented by contest founders URI Professor of Marketing Ruby Dholakia in the College of Business Administration and Psychology Professor Paul Bueno de Mesquita, director of URI’s Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies.

Second-place awards were presented to North Kingstown resident Christopher LoPresti and Newport resident Darcy Weber, both students St. Michael’s Country Day School, Newport.

Third Place awards went to East Greenwich’s Jordan Kalinsky from Archie R. Cole Middle School, North Providence’s Samantha Williams from Dr. Edward A. Ricci Middle School, and Narragansett’s Lily Kutcher from Rocky Hill School.

Along with essay awards, distinguished Professor Emeritus Ghasi Ram Verna, humanitarian and a champion of women’s education in his native India, celebrated the virtue of selflessness by presenting five students with the Gandhi Compassion and Selfless Service award. The students are: East Providence’s Sean Jacob Alcordo, from Sacred Heart School in East Providence, Haley Benoit from Curtis Corner Middle School in South Kingstown, Paige Buckett from Barrington Middle School, Liliana Froehner from St. Michael’s Country Day School, Newport, Hannah Marley from Cluny School, Newport, and Matthew Richards from St. Michael’s Country Day School, Newport.

The award ceremony concluded with students, parents, and teachers singing the national anthem of peace, “This Little Light of Mine” led by Bueno de Mesquita.

URI’s Nonviolence and Peace Studies subscribes to the values of Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by advocating the teaching and practice of nonviolence so that future generations will learn the skills needed to solve conflicts peacefully and create a world without war and free from violence.

Josh Reyes, an intern with URI Marketing and Communications and a sophomore public relations major, wrote this story.

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What's Up Newp. He was born and raised in Rhode Island and graduated from Coventry High School. He serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and serves on the Board of Directors for Potter League for Animals. Ryan also is currently the Senior Editor - North America for Mountain News, publisher of OnTheSnow. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).