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 VOL. 23, NO. 19APRIL 3, 1998 

22 New York City Teenagers Win Prizes in Barnard’s Essay Contest


From left, Staten Island Technical High School English teacher Therese Johnson, with her student, essay contest winner Michele Galea, center, and Barnard President Judith Shapiro. Record Photo by Joe Pineiro.

Asked to write about women they admire, 22 teenagers in New York City public high schools produced prize-winning essays demonstrating powerful writing prowess for Barnard’s highly competitive essay contest.

  Selected by a panel of professional writers, the students were honored, along with their teachers, at a special ceremony at Barnard on Mar. 16.

  The competition, aimed at 11th grade girls in the New York City public schools, is now seven years old. This year, a record-breaking 610 students from 59 high schools participated. Schools in all five boroughs, including some from the city’s most troubled neighborhoods, were represented. The winners came from 15 of these schools, ranging from Staten Island Technical High School and New Utrecht in Brooklyn to Morris in the South Bronx.

  Michele Galea, 16, from Staten Island Technical High School, took the $1,000 top prize for a vivid portrait of her mother, a pressured working woman with four children. Her school’s English department received $500 in Galea’s honor.

  The top three runners-up were: Nae-Co Harris of Morris High School in the Bronx, who wrote about her grandmother; Haajar Johnson of John Bowne High School in Queens, whose essay is about a teacher who rekindled Johnson’s self-confidence, and Reema Rajbanshi, of the Bronx High School of Science. The runners-up received $500, $300 and $200, respectively.

  The students were asked to write about women they admire. Their choices ranged from Princess Di, Dorothy Day and Mother Teresa to Tina Turner, Ani Di Franco and Maya Angelou. But mostly the students wrote about women who have wrestled with poverty, violence, illness or alienation—and survived. From these personal tales, a poignant and sometimes painful picture emerged of how complex and tumultuous life can be for New York City youngsters.