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”

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Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp. 
Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly readers in 2018, 2019, and 2020 and an honorable mention in the Common Good Awards in 2021.

Born and raised in Rhode Island, Belmore graduated from Coventry High School and the Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to living in Newport for 10 years, he has lived in Portsmouth, Coventry, Providence, Smithfield, Burrillville, and East Greenwich.

Belmore currently serves as Vice President of the Board Of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and on the Board of Directors for Potter League For Animals. He previously served on the Board of Lucy's Hearth and the Arts & Cultural Alliance for Newport County.

Belmore and his wife, Jen, currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, a move they made in 2021. Read more about that here -

Belmore visits Newport every couple of weeks to support the 12+ paid contributors What'sUpNewp has on the ground across Rhode Island, a place he called home for 39 years.

Belmore is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers, Society of Professional Journalists, and the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.

In 2020, Belmore was named Member of the Year by LION and won the Arts & Cultural Alliance of Newport County's Dominque Award.
Belmore can be contacted at and 401-662-1653.