NEW BRITAIN - U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy treated the winners of his third annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Essay Challenge to a pizza party Sunday at the New Britain Police Department.
Last month, the senator announced the 15 elementary, middle and high school students from across Connecticut who had been selected as winners. The contest asked students to reflect on King’s dream and their own aspirations.
“Dr. King’s life is an inspiration to me,” Murphy said. “I want to make sure that everyone in the state and all kids in the state know what he did and that everybody knows that we still have a lot of work to do. That’s why we ask students every year to participate in this essay contest.”
Murphy said that this year, there were more essay submissions than any year before.
“We got over 1,000 essays that were submitted and, of course, we take submissions from elementary school all the way up to high school,” Murphy said. “The decisions about who would win the awards this year were more difficult than ever before.”
Murphy told the students and his families that they should feel proud their essays were selected. The senator also told them that he was inspired by their essays.
Some of the topics winning students wrote about in their essays were the importance of diversity, staying true to onesself, the danger of judging other people and the value of persistence.
“I hope that you continue to talk about these things - that you just don’t write them here, but that you talk to your friends, family about these things that made you write these fantastic essays,” Murphy said.
Murphy handed a certificate to all 15 winners, recognizing their intelligence, enthusiasm and diligent efforts to express their opinions through the essays.
One of the winners, Aliya Parker Viera, is a New Britain student. She wrote an essay about “having the freedom to be yourself.”
“I feel happy and thankful,” she said.
She said she had hoped that she would be a winner and was “amazed” when she learned her essay had actually been selected.
Alfred Ochoa, parent of essay winner Natalie Ochoa of Norwalk, said he was proud his daughter’s essay had been selected.
“It’s an honor and a reflection of what she fights for every day,” Ochoa said. “She’s an advocate for equal rights, for mental health and she is very involved in politics. For her, this is an affirmation that she’s on the right track.”