Charlotte’s Bay Foley-Cox took first place and a $1,000 monetary award in the 2015 Hildene Essay Competition at a celebratory luncheon following a tour of The Lincoln Family Home on Sunday, May 17. Foley-Cox’s essay was selected from a record 236 entries from Vermont eighth graders in 26 schools. In the words of Hildene President Seth Bongartz, “Using Abraham Lincoln’s legacy as touchstone, the goal of the competition is to promote awareness in the minds of a young generation of Americans of the responsibility each of us has to do our part to make our community, our state, our country and even our world a better place.” This is an objective that fits squarely within Hildene’s mission: “Values into Action.”
Before taking on the 2015 challenge, students were reminded that one of the skills that made Abraham Lincoln so effective at getting people to consider his position was his ability to put himself in their shoes and look at the issue from their perspective. The young writers participating in this year’s competition followed the President’s lead when they were asked to, “Choose an important, often divisive, issue about which you have a strong opinion. Put yourself in the shoes of someone on the other side of the issue. Identify at least three reasons this individual would give to support her/his position. Describe how this experience has—or has not—affected how you will think about and discuss divisive issues.” This was to be done in an essay of no more than 500 words. Essays were evaluated by a panel of judges based on the content, the students’ understanding of the subject, and his or her ability to convey that understanding using good writing practices including style, composition, grammar and factual accuracy.
Other winners included: Second Place, $750, Zora Stewart, Edmunds Middle School, Burlington; Third Place, $500, Emmanuel Dodson, Edmunds Middle School, Burlington; Honorable Mentions, $200 each: Nicholas Boisvert, Edmunds Middle School, Burlington; Isabelle Desroches, Long Trail School, Dorset; Anna Halladay, Edmunds Middle School, Burlington; Ophelia Keefe, Edmunds Middle School, Burlington; Nataleigh Noble, Edmunds Middle School, Burlington; Hailey Swett, Upper Valley Waldorf School, Quechee.
Students met the challenge by exploring both sides of a wide range of divisive issues: on the domestic front (gun control, immigration, and legalization of marijuana, etc.), in the international arena (terrorism, child labor, U.S. military intervention, etc.), in education, end of life, environmental, health and safety, freedom of speech, healthcare/medicine, the internet, reproductive decisions, treatment of animals, social equality, the criminal justice system, automotive dominance, and the existence of God.
To learn more about Hildene visit www.hildene.org.