Children from 14 different schools had the opportunity to share their families’ stories of immigrating to the United States in an essay contest sponsored by Union Savings Bank and Ridgefield Playhouse.
The contest was held in conjunction with two live and one virtual Arts in Education performances of Ellis Island: Gateway to a Dream -- a one-hour musical chronicling the journey of immigrants through Ellis Island in the late 1800s. For the essay, students interviewed their families about their own immigration history.
Michele Bonvicini, Director of Community Relations at Union Savings Bank and Ashley Paltauf, Managing Director of Ridgefield Playhouse awarded five elementary school students a $50 prize each for their inspiring essays during two performances on March 30.
The five winning essays were selected from dozens of entries that chronicled family journeys from more than 20 different countries, including Russia, India, Ireland, Poland, Argentina, Japan, Columbia, Brazil and Ukraine. Some students wrote about their own experiences of coming to America, while others chronicled their parents’, grandparents’, great grandparents’, and even great-great grandparents’ stories.
The winners were:
Isabella Bosco, who told a story about her great grandmother's journey from an area of Poland that is now Lviv in the Ukraine. (North Mianus Elementary School, Riverside CT).
Kieran Clarke wrote about his father and grandfather coming to America from Ireland to escape poverty and find better opportunities. (Lakeview Elementary School, Mahopac, NY).
Alexandra Cohen shared the story of her Jewish grandmother, who was not allowed to practice her religion openly and freely in Russia and finally got to America is 1970. (Samuel Staples Elementary School, Easton, CT).
Kalki Mehta interviewed her father to hear more about his journey to America from India with his family when he was 15 years old. (Increase Miller Elementary School, Goldens Bridge, NY).
Henry Woods’ great grandfather worked as a chef's assistant on a ship to pay his way to Ellis Island from Ireland. (Strawberry Hill Elementary School, Stamford, CT).
“The Awards Ceremony for the Ellis Island Essay Contest is one my favorite annual events,” added Ms. Bonvicini. “It is truly an honor for Union Savings Bank to acknowledge these young writers and their family’s history. The huge smiles and heartwarming thanks from students made my day.”
Union Savings Bank is a longtime sponsor of the The Leir Foundation Arts for Everyone outreach program at Ridgefield Playhouse, making it possible for people from underserved communities to attend family shows for free. For more information about the Program, or to make a donation, please visit: https://ridgefieldplayhouse.org/about/arts-in-education/.