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2020 TEAM Westport Teen Diversity Essay Contest Tackles Stereotypes

Students attending High School in Westport or who live in Westport and attend High School elsewhere are invited to participate

Post Date:01/24/2020 2:00 PM

TEAM Westport, the Town of Westport’s diversity action committee, has announced the topic for its 2020 Teen Diversity Essay Contest. Now in its seventh year, the contest asks teens to address the issue of stereotypes as the precursor to potentially escalating bias actions. Last year’s challenge focused on Micro-Aggressions drew widespread attention and engagement in town.

The Westport Library is co-sponsoring the event and winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Westport Library on April 2, 2020. Entry deadline for the essay contest is February 28th. Subject to the volume and caliber of entries received, at the discretion of the judges up to three cash prizes will be awarded. The first prize is $1,000, second prize is $750, and third prize is $500.

This year’s prompt which is available along with contest entry rules online at www.teamwestport.org, is as follows:

A stereotype is a widely-held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a person, frequently based on that person’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or gender-identity.  Stereotypes are often unconscious and may be introduced and reinforced—intentionally or unwittingly–by many sources, including family, peers, the popular media, curricula, and society at large.  

This year’s challenge states, “In 1,000 words or fewer, describe your experiences witnessing, delivering, and/or being subjected to stereotypes focused on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity, and describe the impact that such experiences are likely to have upon recipients.  Consider steps that organizations, schools, and/or individuals could take to counteract stereotypes—whether as initiator, recipient or witness.”

“In order to dismantle bias, it’s important to first understand the factors that build bias,” said TEAM Westport Chairperson, Harold Bailey. “Stereotyping is a first step toward bias in what historians and sociologists call “othering”—behavior that places the stereotyped group outside the normal considerations of society. History has proven that this can lead to dangerously impactful results.”

First Selectman Jim Marpe said, “Westporters regularly and passionately debate and defend points of view on challenging and sometimes uncomfortable topics, but we do so in a civilized and respectful manner. I appreciate that through centers of learning such as our world class public schools and library, we encourage and support our young adults to have an open dialogue on difficult issues. This year’s Essay Contest presents another opportunity for younger Westport residents to again participate in a meaningful exchange on an important community topic.”

Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer said, “Each year we look forward to collaborating with TEAM Westport on the Annual Teen Diversity Essay Contest. Public libraries are safe spaces that champion inclusion and diversity, especially in times when things can feel increasingly polarized. The Westport Library is committed to supporting the passion and spirit of our young people in advocating these core, democratic values.”

ABOUT TEAM WESTPORT: With members appointed by the First Selectman, TEAM stands for Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism. TEAM Westport has developed a unique role by engaging the community in and drawing attention to issues surrounding multiculturalism and diversity -- making the invisible, visible. In addition to initiatives it implements directly, TEAM Westport partners with a wide range of municipal government and community institutions. Examples include co-programming with the Westport Library, the Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Schools, Westport Police, the Westport Museum, the Interfaith Clergy, the Interfaith Council, Westport MOCA and the Levitt Pavilion.

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