2023 TEAM Westport Teen Diversity Essay Contest Focuses On “The Dialogue Challenge: Effective Engagement on Race, Ethnicity, Religion and LGBTQIA+”
Students attending High School in Westport or who live in Westport and attend High School elsewhere are invited to participate
TEAM Westport, the Town of Westport’s diversity engagement committee, has announced the topic for its 2023 Teen Diversity Essay Contest. Now in its tenth year, the contest asks teens to address “The Dialogue Challenge: Effective Engagement on Race, Ethnicity, Religion and LGBTQIA+”. Prior years’ challenges which tackled topics from ‘White Privilege’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘Micro-Aggressions’ and ‘Stereotypes’ have drawn widespread attention and engagement in Westport and beyond. Students attending High School (Grades 9-12) in Westport or who live in Westport and attend High School elsewhere are invited to participate.
The Westport Library is co-sponsoring the event and winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Library targeted for 6pm on Tuesday, April 18, 2023. Entry deadline for the essay contest is 11:59 pm on Friday, February 28, 2023 . Subject to the volume and caliber of entries received, at the discretion of the judges, up to three cash prizes will be awarded. The first prize is $1,000, second prize is $750, and third prize is $500.
This year’s prompt which is available along with contest entry rules online at www.teamwestport.org or www.westportct.gov/teamwestportessay, is as follows:
Team Westport’s Mission is to make Westport a more welcoming community with regard to race, religion, ethnicity, and LGBTQIA+. In order to achieve its Mission, one of TEAM Westport’s goals has been to promote opportunities for people to come together in dialogue to better understand each other’s experiences, decrease bias, and learn what we have in common. Meaningful dialogue depends on a good faith effort to set aside preconceived beliefs or what we think we know about other people.
In 1,000 words or less, reflect on your own interactions with people who have different racial, ethnic, religious, and/or LGBTQIA+ identities and/or perspectives. What kinds of conversations were particularly helpful in prompting you to rethink your beliefs or opinions, perhaps causing you to change your mind or enabling you to better understand others' points of view? Based on these experiences, what specific actions would you suggest that individuals, schools, and/or Town entities in Westport take to promote good-faith dialogue, reduce bias, and foster understanding?
“With the controversy and misinformation surrounding dialogues on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from National to Local levels, there is nothing more important than what works for effective connection and genuine understanding,” stated TEAM Westport Chair Harold Bailey, Jr. “Now at the advent of our first decade of the Teen Diversity Essay Contest, TEAM Westport welcomes the opportunity for Westport youth to weigh in on this critical question.”
First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker said, “I encourage the youth of our town to participate in discussions and programs that will enhance their experience in Westport, and ultimately, in the world beyond. I am confident that through their words, they will demonstrate that Westport is a community that welcomes conversation.”
“The Westport Library has made a fundamental commitment to creating and supporting inclusive communities, spaces, collections, and programs,” commented Westport Library Director Bill Harmer. “The annual TEAM Westport essay contest supports and extends our obligation to social justice, and ensuring a culture where all people are welcomed, valued and encouraged to succeed.”
ABOUT TEAM WESTPORT:
With members appointed by the First Selectwoman and partners from the leadership of key Westport organizations, TEAM stands for Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism. TEAM Westport has developed a unique role by engaging the community in and drawing attention to issues surrounding multiculturalism and diversity -- making the invisible, visible. In addition to initiatives it implements directly, TEAM Westport partners with a wide range of municipal government and community institutions. Examples include co-programming with the Westport Library, the Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Schools, Westport Police, the Westport Museum, the Interfaith Clergy, the Interfaith Council, Westport MOCA, Westport Pride, AAPI Westport, Westport Housing, Westport P&Z Affordable Housing Subcommittee and the Levitt Pavilion.