Hicks finalists at Platt High in Meriden explore academic pressure, inequality and heroes
MERIDEN — Finalists in the Hicks Prize speaking and writing competition at Platt High School delved into topics including academic pressure, inequality and heroes.
Aracelis Santos Torres won the top prize on Thursday for her speech titled ‘It’s Not Over’. In it, Santos Torres described how a diagnosis of asthma at an early age led her to examine environmental inequalities between people of color in the United States and Puerto Rico.
“America is meant to be a place where dreams come true,” said Santos Torres. “America is supposed to bring justice to everyone. But today, communities that shouldn’t have to suffer are still suffering. Today, parents still have to wonder if their children can go out into the polluted public. We may have come a long way since slavery but it’s not over, we may have come a long way since segregation but it’s not over. We may have come a long way since Martin Luther King Jr., but there is still a long way to go. America can be all it was meant to be and for the sake of the people, the future and the economy, remember it’s not over.
Eight speech and writing contest finalists participated in the annual Hicks Prize presentation at Platt Auditorium. They were surrounded by advisers, family and friends. The annual event continues the legacy left by Ratcliffe Hicks, who established a fund to support high school English and public speaking in 1892.
Natalie Cintron’s essay “Breaking the Cycle” won first place in the writing contest. In it, Cintron describes his evolving relationship with his single and often rigid mother.
“This generational curse of mother-daughter conflict is so common in Hispanic families,” Cintron wrote. “My great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and I have been stuck in this cycle, but the difference I will make is to continue to heal my relationship with my mother. We’ve come a long way: from New York, to a shelter in Meriden, Connecticut, to several apartments. Wherever we go, we will always have each other. She inspired me to try as hard as I can in everything, so the effort will be worth it in the end. My mom always says, “My daughter Natalie is like my right hand. I am overwhelmed with gratitude that she considers me trustworthy, but she has been and always will be my right hand too.
Amelia Tran – who wrote about “Pain and the Reality of Mental Health as an Asian American” – tied for second place in the writing contest with Matt Merrigan, who wrote about “The true value of athletics”. Sam Fournier came third with “Is cannibalism really that bad?
Xavier Febles addressed the subject of socio-economic inequalities in his speech “An unfair match”. Febles looked at how players from lower-income communities, like Meriden, face growing disparities on courts and pitches against teams and players from wealthier communities. Febles got second place for his speech. Third-place winner Isabella Rusate explored the pressures to achieve excellence in “Perspectives on Perfectionism.” And fourth-place winner Quinn McEnerney talked about likely and unlikely heroes in “Hidden Heroes.”
All high school students received an essay through the Hicks competition. English teachers brought the best essays to the English department to narrow down the finalists. Students received writing assistance and those who took part in the oral expression competition received coaching.
“Students here are most often at the top of their class,” said Lawrence Boada, chairman of Platt’s English department. “These are thought-provoking and scholarly themes. One thing is certain, these students have a gift.
Preliminary judges for the speaking and writing competition included Boada, Clarrisa Clegg, Robert Irwin and Stephen Smith. The final judges of the writing contest were Lisa Ginacola, former chair of the English department at Maloney High School and Barbara Kendzior, former chair of the English department at Platt High School.
Final judges for the speaking contest included Robert Kosienski Jr., president of the Meriden Board of Education, Paul Petit, a retired social studies professor, and Kelly Roman, media scholar at Washington Middle School.
In addition to decorative pins, each finalist received a small cash prize and bragging rights, Boada said.
“There were big subjects, all of them were very, very close,” Kosienksi said. “Each of those speeches was full of love, passion, humor and seriousness. But in the end, it was the delivery.
Journalist Mary Ellen Godin can be reached at [email protected]