Monday, August 31, 2015

Obama's election inspires essay winners

By Linda Conner Lambeck
Ct Post Staff Writer

BRIDGEPORT -- State Comptroller Nancy Wyman had no problem sparking interest in this year's Black History Essay Contest. The topic was the election of President Barack Obama.

Gul Khan, 16, a junior at Central High School had no problem describing how Obama's election affected her.

"I sat down in front of a computer, just started and that was that," said Khan, a Muslim whose family immigrated from Pakistan when she was 3. She called Obama's victory as much a triumph for her as it is for the black community.

"Obama truly symbolizes progress for all people in the United States, no matter what their race may be," she wrote in an essay that placed fourth out of 270 entries, enough for her to receive a $100 savings bond from People's United Bank and visit from Wyman to Central High School on Tuesday.

"It came from your heart. That's what's important," said Wyman.

Wyman said the common theme running through winning essays was that there is a future for everybody.

"It instilled a confidence in students all over. And we have some excellent writers," she said.

Khan's teacher, Jim Reilly said a number of his students entered the contest, which was judged by Dorsey Kendrick, president of Gateway Community College in New Haven; Charles Tisdale, director of Action for Bridgeport Community Development; Henry Hartie, of the Hartford Human Relations Commission; and Yvette Melendez, chief of staff at the Connecticut University System.

First prize and a $1,000 savings bond, went to Shaniece Jones, of New London Science and Technology Magnet High School.

Other top finishers were Shanique Wilson, of Hartford Public High School; Candice Lobban, of Hyde Leadership School, Hamden; Bryan Sih, of Danbury High School; and Carlanna Dyer, of Hartford Public High School.

In her essay, Khan said while 2008 was the most financially devastating time in years, she considered it one of the most giving.

"We have gained an incomparable leader," she said. "There was a time when the name was unheard of and pronouncing it correctly was a Herculean task. Today, Barack Obama has become a household name all over the world," she said.

She hopes Obama will help make life better for all Americans, including Muslim-Americans whose lives, she said, changed for the worse after 9/11. Khan said she hasn't personally faced discrimination but knows others who have.

"When children witness their parents being called terrorists or they themselves were discriminated against because of the clothes they wore or the language they spoke, they were helpless," Khan wrote in her essay. Obama, she said, promised Muslims a life worth living in the United States. She called him fearless.