In 2018, Bridgeport Hope School (BHS) was fortunate to find a sponsor for our first ever Holiday Essay Contest in The Family Peace Center of Wilton, CT. Having just kicked off its first season of classes tailored for elementary kids, the Family Peace Center was quick to jump on the request made by a BHS parent to sponsor this contest.
The question was created with the specific intention to bring families together in a collaborative effort to answer the unanswerable, "How can you prove, to yourself and others, that God exists?" The rubric sent out to all parents included the suggestion to interview grandparents, aunts, uncles or parents and incorporate findings into the essay - again with the express intent to get families talking over dinner about large questions.
The first announcement about the contest was made at the Annual Harvest Festival in October, and the date for the announcement of winners was set for 8 weeks later, at the Winter Concert, a few nights before winter break.
Grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-8 competed for first prize in their category. Eddie Deshotel, a recipient of the Children’s Educational Opportunity Foundation (CEO) Scholarship Fund won first prize for his category. His essay was extremely erudite for a 2nd grader. He went above and beyond the expectations set forth in the rubric calling for parents to help with writing in the younger age group. Instead, Eddie fully hand-wrote 2 pages of essay material in pencil, with highly creative, imaginative and original thoughts fueling the entire essay. His main thrust emphasized one of his favorite topics in real life, the animal kingdom. Touching on diversity and uniqueness of his favorite animals, Eddie skillfully answered the question from his perspective. When the organizer asked him later who helped him with the essay, he very casually drawled in the slower speech of a contemplative second grader, "Well, nobody really helped me," and after a short pause, "except my auntie and uncle," and after another pause, "and my daddy… and…my mom."
In Grades 3-5, the first prize winner coincidentally was another CEO recipient, Aaron Kajikuri. Judges of the essay said that what tipped the scales was not just Aaron's funny rendition of how life works from the point of view of an 11-year-old cognizant and yet skeptical of aliens and other mentioned topics, but especially, his pencil drawing. The drawing included 4 parts showing loving acts. When interviewed after his win, Aaron said that originally he was thinking of drawing a sun, "because people go towards the light when they die." But on Earth, Aaron conceptualized the way God looks by drawing friends being happy together and people giving each other gifts, or fishing together. Included in his essay were peculiar perspectives quintessentially boyish and valid, which inspired an audience to belly laughs when read aloud.