The mission of TEAM (Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism) Westport is to achieve and celebrate a more welcoming, multicultural community.
Regarding the Contest, First Selectman Jim Marpe stated, “In just a few short years, the TEAM Westport essay contest and its thought-provoking topics has become an integral part of community life for teens in our town. It’s a great complement to the excellent educational offerings we enjoy here. We look forward to continued focus on these important issues in partnership with TEAM Westport, the Westport Library, and local educators.”
Each year, a different topic area is posed as a challenge to potential entrants. This year’s Essay Challenge was ‘Micro-Aggressions’. Harold Bailey, TEAM Westport’s chair since its founding, says, “TEAM Westport’s focus is making Westport increasingly welcoming regarding race, religion, ethnicity and identity. By far, the largest, most pervasive hurdles we face in achieving that mission are the ongoing micro-aggressions faced by citizens, visitors and non-Westport employees in each arena. This year’s challenge provides an opportunity to delve into this problem area as well as potential solutions to address it.”
Open to high school students who either attend school in Westport or live in town and attend school elsewhere, this year’s contest boasted three winners and an honorable mention from students all attending Westport’s own Staples High school. Essays are reviewed by a panel of judges from the community and include civil rights activists, professional journalists, librarians and educators. “We were very impressed this year with the depth of experience and quality of writing among the winning essays,” said Dr. Judith Hamer, the Head Judge who chairs the Essay Contest Committee’s Evaluation sub-committee for TEAM Westport.
This year’s winners included:
- Chet Ellis, a senior at Staples High School, won First Place and $1,000 for his essay entitled The Sounds of Silence which addressed how people of color often feel pressured not to call out microaggressions and therefore, potentially abet them.
- Angela Ji, a senior at Staples High School, won Second Place and $750 for her essay Ripping Off the Bandaid: Microaggressions and How We Address Them which discussed the cumulative wound that the constant “finger pricks” of microaggressions can cause.
- Daniel Boccardo, another Staples High School senior’s essay Cactus In A Rain Forest won Third Place and $500. That essay discussed ingrained social constructs of “us” and “them” that are the foundation for microaggressions against marginalized groups, particularly immigrants.
- An Honorable Mention went to Staples High School junior, Olivia Sarno, who wrote about microaggressions against LGBTQ students in her essay, Deconstructing The Voice Inside My Head.
Individuals or organizations who would like to participate in sponsorship of next year’s contest are invited to contribute via the website ( www.teamwestport.org ) or by contacting TEAM Westport via email@example.com. All contributions are deductible to the extent permitted by law.
“As defined by Derald Wing Sue, Micro-Aggressions are “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults--whether intentional or unintentional--that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their membership in marginalized groups.” For example, an African American is told, “When I look at you, I don’t see color.” An Asian-American—born and raised in this country–-is told, “You speak very good English.” A person of color accepted at an Ivy League school is told, “You must be grateful for affirmative action.”
In 1000 words or fewer, describe your experiences witnessing, delivering, and/or receiving Micro-Aggressions focused on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity, and describe the likely impact that such statements have upon the recipients. Consider steps that you believe organizations, schools, and/or individuals could take to greatly reduce or eliminate such behavior. In particular, what can students do to address incidents of Micro-Aggressions when they occur—whether as initiator, recipient or witness?”
Essays are due no later than midnight Feb. 28, 2019. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Saugatuck Church on April 3, 2019. Subject to the volume and caliber of entries received, at the discretion of the judges up to three prizes will be awarded. The first prize is $1,000, the second is $750, and the third prize is $500.
Issues stemming from multicultural shortcomings are national problems. Yet they exist in Westport and Weston, too. Achieving and celebrating “a more welcoming, multicultural community” offers us a tangible, achievable objective for community action as well as opportunities for individual commitment.
If our neighbors represent all the parts of the world in which we live, that will strengthen the community’s fabric – the way our lives interact.
We will do a better job of preparing our children for their future.
Our lively civic discourse will become even richer when additional diverse viewpoints are represented.
And perhaps most importantly, we will increase the possibility that each of us — in our own ways and in our own lives -— will experience, enjoy and grow from the richness of diversity in our community.
Click here to support the work of TEAM Westport to achieve, extend and celebrate a more multicultural community.
Your contribution will help support:
- Teen Essay Contest
- Special Events Programming
- Other Initiatives
All gifts are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law
TEAM Westport Announces.....
Essay Contest 2019
As the nation continues its historic social shifts relating to race, ethnicity, religion