For the past five years, the Stratford Library’s Teen Department and the South End Community Center have collaborated to honor Black History Month.
Stratford students from Kindergarten through Grade 8 submit essays, poems and artwork honoring their African American heroes. Students were to be inspired by and share their thoughts about either a famous or little known African American whom they thought should win a Nobel Peace Prize.
This year’s submissions set records with over 200 essays and artworks received from Stratford students, mostly in Grades 6 through 8.
Seventh Grade teacher at Harry B. Flood Middle School, Mrs. Susan Saylor, noted that the event has become “more and more popular.” Some teachers such as Mrs. Saylor require that their students submit an entry as a class assignment, thereby promoting African American History recognition in the community and beyond.
Mrs. Saylor whose student Jack Farrell received an honorable mention for his essay said, “I love that this event gives the students an authentic reason for writing and encourages further involvement with the Stratford Library.”
On Saturday, Feb. 12, the Stratford Library hosted the 5th annual “Black History Month Contest and Celebration” Awards Ceremony in the Lovell Room. Students and their families - as well as teachers, community leaders and representatives - were in attendance.
Esther Jean-Marie, a representative from BuildOn, presented a slide show about the work of the non-profit organization in Stratford, Mali and Nicaragua. The organization focuses on service, sponsorship and global education. Together, the youth and staff of BuildOn provided over 24,000 hours of community service last year alone.
After a brief discussion about the work of South End community center and the origin of the Annual Black History Month Contest, Ty Simms, director of the Stratford South End Community Center presented the award to the K through 5th grade students.
Patrick Ridenhour, Deputy Chief of Stratford Police spoke warmly of his involvement with the Stratford South End Community Center, “I love going down there. You feel the love for the kids, you feel the love for the community.” He spoke about the importance of giving back to the community and the youth, “I try to give back and stress that to my fellow officers.”
Irene Cornish, superintendent of Stratford schools articulated the importance of local heroes; “not many remember who won the Super Bowl five years ago, or who won best actress at the Oscars two years ago. But it is very easy to remember the heroes in my life.
"They are not pop culture heroes. I remember my teachers, my friends, my coaches and members of the community. I am proud to have these heroes as my neighbors.”
Lucretia Duwel, Teen Librarian of the Stratford Library thanked the parents, teachers and other librarians for “encouraging children to put pen to paper.” Ms. Duwel echoed the sentiments of the other speakers at the event, these heroes are “relatable”, they are “Stratford residents who are apart of our lives, who make a difference.”
Awards were presented as follows:
Grades K – 5:
1st Place: Claire Noccioli, Stratford Academy
2nd Place: Kayla Mackey, Stratford Academy
3rd Place: Christina Fontes, Honeyspot School
Grades 6 – 8:
1st Place: Ryan Anderson: David Wooster Middle School, Mrs. Adan: Valerie Watson (his grandmother from Trinidad)
2nd Place: Marissa DaCruz: David Wooster Middle School, Mrs. Capozzi: Julio Augusto DaaCruz (her dad from Ivory Coast)
3rd Place: Mia Mulin: St. Mark School, Ms. Mandolfo: Wali Kadeen (founder of Help the Children Fund: a local community foundation)
Olivia Belliveau: David Wooster Middle School, Mrs. Adan: Maya Angelou
Brianna Bursey: David Wooster Middle School, Mrs. Capozzi: Margarita David (a teacher at Franklin Elementary School in Stratford)
Jack Farrell: Harry B. Flood Middle School, Mrs. Saylor: Jim Brown
Britnie Frances: Wilcoxson School, Teacher: Mrs. McMellon: Daniel Hale Williams
Coralie Joseph: St. James School, Mrs. Simon: Rebecca Cole
Emma LaBash: St. James School, Mrs. Simon: Brandon Sherrod (a former Stratford High School Student currently attending Yale University)
Julianna Sharp: David Wooster Middle School, Mrs. Capozzi: Harriet Tubman
Skylar Beirne: St. James School, Mrs. Simon: Barack Obama
For information about events at the Stratford Library, click here or go to stratford.patch.com.