New Canaan Country School sixth grade student Juliet Chattaway's essay was among the 15 winning essays selected by U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy in his seventh annual "Martin Luther King Jr. Day Essay Challenge."

The senator recognized all of the winners at a ceremony held in Middletown on Feb. 11.

"I was really excited when I found out," said Juliet, a resident of Darien. "I was particularly happy because I worked really hard on this. I wrote one whole essay and then my teacher and my mom told me that it sounded like I was writing what I thought everyone wanted me to write. So I completely scrapped that essay and started all over again. In the second one, I wrote only what I felt, in my own words, and it came really easily and naturally." 

Her essay was chosen from close to 2,000 entries submitted by elementary, middle, and high school students from across Connecticut reflecting on King's dream and their own aspirations.

"I am very pleased that Juliet’s essay was selected," said sixth grade teacher Mauricia Gardiner, who facilitated her class’s submissions to the contest. "She has put a lot of work into learning how to express her ideas effectively. In her second essay, she found her voice and I was so proud of her for putting in the extra time and energy. This is a great outcome of that effort and an honor to be recognized."

 The winning essays are on display in Murphy’s Hartford office and on his website.

 "We honor Dr. King’s legacy by continuing his fight for justice and equality," Murphy said. "Every year, I am so impressed by the students across Connecticut who submit essays of their reflections on Dr. King and their own dreams for a more just future. Young people have always been at the forefront of the great social change movements, and their hope and determination continue to inspire me."

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