Inspiration is defined as something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create (per the Britannica Dictionary). Here in the Greenburgh Central School District, we are thrilled to acknowledge and celebrate the participants and winners of the Black History Month Writing Contest in which they shared which black individual or group has inspired them. Out of 583 essays received from students across multiple states, the Greenburgh schools had two first place winners and three runners-up. They are: first place winner Andrey Bracamonte (6th grade), first place winner Julia Samuels (7th grade), and runners-up Nicholas Hanagan (9th grader), Katelyn Matthie (8th grade), and Ammy Paute (7th grade).
Organized by The Writing Revolution (TWR) in celebration of Black History Month 2022, the contest provided an opportunity for students to celebrate, in writing, the many contributions that Black people have made to society and how those contributions have impacted them personally. From iconic and well-known figures to our own community members, students expressed appreciation for their favorite historical—and everyday— Black heroes.
“I chose to write about Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett because she worked really hard to help create the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine,” explained RJ Bailey 6th grader Andrey Bracamonte in regards to his winning submission. “She was able to convince a lot of people to take it, especially some Black people who were nervous.” When asked how he learned about Dr. Corbett, Andrey explained how an assignment from his art teacher involved independent research on various impactful Black individuals. Dr. Corbett, her contributions towards fighting the pandemic, and her continuing research regarding future “pandemic preparedness” stuck with him most.
Andrey learned of his accomplishment when he was called to Principal Rraci’s office where she, along with Pre-K-8 Literacy Specialist, Lori D’Andrea, surprised him with the news. His ELA teacher, Robin Jurgensen, quickly joined and became tearful as she hugged her student. Andrey was shocked when he was told how many students had competed and that he was the first-place winner for his age group in the entire country – and that he would receive his own iPad as a prize! Apprehensively clutching his framed certificate, he took a few seconds to let the significance of this recognition sink in, but soon began jumping up and down. He went on to proudly say: “Dr. Corbett did something great for the world. She inspires me to want to do great things when I’m older too!”
Similarly, surprises were in store for the Woodlands Middle/High School students who also received notice to report to the Principal. Joined by Ms. D’Andrea, and Assistant Principals Mr. Brady and Ms. Henriquez, Principal Smith congratulated the four students whose written submissions celebrated a variety of notable Black women, including activist and poet Amanda Gorman and early civil rights leader Ida B. Wells. One student even wrote a moving piece about a fellow classmate—an important reminder, for all of us, to recognize and show appreciation to the impactful people in our everyday lives.
Ms. D’Andrea took the lead on introducing the district to TWR in 2018 and has since forged a close working relationship with the organization. Ms. D’Andrea explains that TWR’s mission is to enable students, especially those from historically-marginalized communities, to develop writing skills, as well as the ability to read and think critically, so they will have enhanced opportunities to succeed in school, in the workplace, and in life. TWR trains teachers and school leaders in implementing the Hochman Method, an explicit set of evidence-based strategies for teaching expository writing. The method builds from sentences to compositions and is embedded in curricula across all content areas and grade levels.
Ms. D’Andrea says it made her feel incredibly proud to see the students recognized for their efforts, especially knowing the work they put into the assignment. “I have watched these students grow and learn through their years in GCSD and it felt so good to recognize their hard work and the growth they have made,” she said. “In GCSD we believe diversity is our greatest asset. We value every student and are committed to ensuring all learners have the tools, support, and opportunities they need to succeed.”
Principal Racci says that it’s important that Ms. D’Andrea is also recognized for all she has done to provide writing support to students. “I have watched her work with students and seen the enormous progress they make,” said Ms. Racci. “These awards help to show that TWR works, but it also reaffirms that Ms. D’Andrea is an incredible teacher.”
Dr. Toni-Ann Vroom, Co-Executive Director of The Writing Revolution, shared that TWR contest judges took particular note of Greenburgh students’ submissions and that they were incredibly impressed by their writing and touched by their diverse responses.
“Writing has the power to inform and inspire, and the Greenburg students’ writing did just that. The judges were moved by the many responses and even learned a lot!” said Dr. Vroom. “The thoughtful, well-constructed entries are a testament to the hard work of the students and their teachers, and to the Greenburgh Central School District, who chose to prioritize writing instruction as a way to narrow the education gap and equip students with the skills they need to be successful.”