Barnard/CBS High School
Essay Contest Winners Are Powerful Writers
For the past twelve years the Barnard
College/CBS essay contest for public high school students
in New York City has challenged students to write about, “A Woman I Admire,” according
to Christine Royer, founder and organizer of the contest. This
year over 685 entries from 79 high schools around the city
were submitted. Judith Shapiro, President of Barnard College,
and a graduate of New York City public schools (PS 26 and Junior
High School 16, Queens) said she was “thrilled to support
the vision and promise exemplified by this year’s winners.
Since 1889 Barnard has been committed to advancing the academic,
personal and professional success of women.” Among the
accomplished writers training and inspiring future generations
of women at Barnard are Mary Gordon, Carol Phillips, Ellen
McLaughlin, and Quandra Prettyman. Serious writers, according
to Shapiro, have said that they are motivated by a search for
truth. Some have said that the role of the writer is not to
say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say; Toni
Morrison said “I always start out with an idea, even
a boring idea, that becomes a question I don’t have answers
to. Most of the essayists chose to honor their mothers or grandmothers.
President Shapiro spoke of some of the entries: there is the
mother who leaves behind an abusive partner, moving from one
home to the next with her young daughter, earning a bachelors
degree despite all odds; there is the mother struggling to
survive with four young children in Bosnia after her husband
is forcibly taken away; and
then there is a deaf mother who
inspires her daughter with the unique ability to understand
and to love. Shapiro spoke eloquently to the winners: “We
meet these women in your essays and they come alive in powerful
prose. You took the blank page and made it your own. You
organized your thoughts and imbued them with feeling. Whether
or not you choose writing as a career, I am confident that
throughout your lives you will continue to pursue the search
for truth and beauty through the written word.
There were four cash prize winners and 26 certificate winners;
essays were selected by a panel of judges including Cindy Stivers,
President and Editor in Chief of TimeOut New York, Pola Rosen,
Publisher and Editor in Chief of Education Update, Barnard
English Professors Quandra Prettyman and Elizabeth Dalton and
author Ayana Byrd.
The first prize winner, Aminata Cisse, received $1000 and
her school, Midwood High School in Brooklyn, received $500.
Her essay appears below.