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Students win for essays on diversity

Jayden Shepard, a senior at Bay Shore High

Jayden Shepard, a senior at Bay Shore High School, won first place in this year's Celebration of Suburban Diversity High School Essay Contest. Photo Credit: Bay Shore School District

A Bay Shore High School senior won first place in an essay contest that asked teenagers to recount a personal experience highlighting suburban diversity on Long Island.

Jayden Shepard, 17, took the top award in this year’s Celebration of Suburban Diversity High School Essay Contest, hosted by Hofstra University and Bethpage Federal Credit Union. His prize was $3,000.

Valley Stream Central High School junior Laiba Mian, 16, won second place, and Great Neck South High School junior Sara Jhong, 16, took third place. They were awarded $1,500 and $1,000, respectively.

“Honestly, I couldn’t believe it at first,” Shepard said of winning. “It’s definitely given me a boost to my confidence.”

Shepard, an African-American, said his essay described how, in his experience, people sometimes would look down on him in the past for enjoying writing activities and academics because they would correlate intellectualism with white people.

The winners were honored last month during a banquet at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.

The contest, which received more than 150 submissions, was open to students in grades nine through 12 across Nassau and Suffolk counties. Winners were selected by members of Hofstra’s Student Diversity Advisory Board Committee, who volunteered to read and review all essays.

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