Baldwin High School student Maekyla Massey.

Baldwin High School student Maekyla Massey. Credit: Baldwin School District

Four high school seniors from Long Island won a local essay contest that focused on topics such as diversity, equity, inclusion and structural racism.

The students — Shania Lall of Freeport High School, Maekyla Massey of Baldwin High School, Aidan Morgan of Malverne High School and Dayaneliz Veliz of Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station — took the top spots in the 2024 “Raise Your Voice” student essay contest, coordinated by Syosset-based civil rights organization ERASE Racism.

Participants wrote 400- to 500-word essays on how the aforementioned topics are being addressed in their schools and how their teaching could be improved. Students were asked to incorporate at least one personal experience into their essays.

The winners received $500 college scholarships made possible by SCOPE Educational Services in Smithtown.


“As a future speech pathologist, I harbor an unwavering passion to inspire and guide underrepresented children to secure their spot at the table and demand equity through confident communication,” Lall wrote in her winning essay.

Morgan wrote: “Implementing comprehensive diversity training for teachers at the district level can give them the tools they need to navigate sensitive topics and create inclusive spaces.”

Entries were judged on criteria including content, clear expression and originality.


World Food Day contest

Four Long Island students have been named first-place winners of the 36th Annual World Food Day Essay Contest coordinated by an Amityville-based nonprofit, Stop World Hunger. This year’s contest, which received 967 entries from 18 local schools, challenged participants to answer this question: “What can I do to stop world hunger?”

Winners, their schools and their divisions were Gemma Franzetti, Our Lady of Victory in Floral Park, primary division (grades 1-3); Maeve Moroney, Our Lady of Victory, intermediate division (grades 4-6); Mason Ring, Saints Philip and James School in St. James, junior high division (grades 7-8); and Lindsey Licastesi, Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead, high school division (grades 9-12).

Each winning student received a $100 savings bond.


Songwriting winner

Valley Stream South High School senior Tabitha Moore was one of eight winners nationwide of the 2023-24 Musical Theater Songwriting Challenge, coordinated by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Alliance for Musical Theatre.

Winners received $2,500 scholarships from the National Music Publishers’ Association’s S.O.N.G.S. (Supporting Our Next Generation of Songwriters) Foundation. They will have their songs compiled into a songbook and print-at-home edition by Concord Theatricals. They also worked with mentors to prepare their music for a performance by Broadway artists in Manhattan.

Moore was selected for her approximately three-minute acoustic song, “What Did Love Do to You?,” which she described as a duet meant to question “the meaning behind the rough boundaries set between two people.”


Above and 'BEE’yond

Four Long Island teachers — Francesco Iannucci of Baldwin Middle School, Maureen Ryan of West Side School in Syosset and Kubra Atkurk and Kristin Pirozzi of Longwood High School in Middle Island — were named winners of Applebee’s 8th Annual “Above and ‘BEE’yond” Teacher Essay Contest, which encouraged local students to write essays nominating a teacher who had the biggest impact on their educational journey.

The winning teachers received $500 to improve their classrooms, and the opportunity to host an end of the school year celebration at their local Applebee’s restaurant.

“Acknowledging the unwavering dedication of local teachers in nurturing and inspiring our youth is a profound privilege,” said Brian McDonnell, the Long Island director of operations for Doherty Enterprises, which owns and operates Applebee’s.

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