The Newport Historical Society has announced the winning essays for its contest, Big Ideas for a Changing World: Write Your Way to Hamilton. High School sophomores from around the state wrestled with the questions: 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 addressed issues that might have been torn from the headlines: addiction, journalism, representation of indigenous people, technology and education, changing labor force, depression, empowering youth, immigration, disabilities, and the cost of higher education.

Winning essays were compellingly argued, addressed a problem, and connected to our Rhode Island communities. Each is among the best of the submissions on the topic chosen. The students will travel to New York to see Hamilton, An American Musical, in May.

Winners are:

Fiona Christensen, Middletown High School, “College Education”

Emma Darcy, Exeter West Greenwich High School, “Medicated Assisted Treatment in Rhode Island”

Esmerelda Flores, Central Falls High School, “Reducing the Stigma of Depression”

Nkèke Harris, East Bay MET, “Pajeh Osoowemoouk (Till it is, Shall be Changed)”

Grace Haskell, Middletown High School, “Anyone Can Work”

Madeline McCarthy, South Kingstown High School, “Youth Empowerment”

Tara Monastesse, Toll Gate High School, “Journalism in the New Age”

Kaitlyn Salinas, Middletown High School, “Stability in a New Country”

Luke Taylor, Classical High School, “Hacking the Future: Access to Coding Education Can help Rhode Island Youth Escape Poverty”

Emma Ventura, Middletown High School, “A Modern Industrial Revolution”

For more information, visit

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).