2024 TEAM Westport Teen Diversity Essay Contest, Co-Sponsored by The Westport Library

Tue, Jan 30, 2024
EJ Crawford

First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker (far left), TEAM Westport Chair Harold Bailey (second from left) and Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer (far right) with the 2023 teen essay contest winners.

TEAM Westport, the Town of Westport’s diversity engagement committee, has announced that hate speech will be the topic for its 2024 Teen Diversity Essay Contest.

The contest is open to students attending public or private high school (Grades 9-12) in Westport. Those who live in Westport and attend public or private high school elsewhere are also invited to participate.

This year’s essay prompt is as follows:

The regulation of hate speech must balance limiting speech that may be considered offensive, threatening, or hurtful with the constitutional right of free expression. In 1,000 words or less, with respect to speech that targets specific people or groups based on race, religion, ethnicity, and/or LGBTQIA+ identification, consider the guidelines one should set for themselves within Westport’s schools and in our community. Explain how a diversity of opinions can be safely and respectfully shared. Are the rules different in a school community than on social media? 

The entry deadline for the essay contest is 11:59 pm ET on Monday, March 4. The Westport Library is co-sponsoring the event and will host the winners for a special ceremony to be held Monday, May 6.

The prompt and contest entry rules are available online at teamwestport.org and westportct.gov/teamwestportessay.

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.

“In our current environment, hate speech seems to rend the fabric of our society further on a daily basis.” said TEAM Westport Chair Harold Bailey Jr. “We look forward to this input from our young citizens to help us inextricably mend that fabric well into the future.”

Said First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, “This community encourages constructive, respectful dialogue.  As representatives of our talented and thoughtful population, the youth of Westport can be instrumental in sharing diverse ideas that ensure that everyone who lives, works, plays, and learns here feels welcomed and valued.”

The essay contest is now in its 11th year. Prior challenges have tackled topics from white privilege and Black Lives Matter to micro-aggressions and dialogue and have drawn widespread attention and engagement in Westport and beyond.

“As a library, our goals are to foster inclusivity, understanding, awareness, and the free and open exchange of ideas so that we all can grow and thrive — as individuals and as a community,” said Westport Library Executive Director Bill Harmer. “The annual TEAM Westport Teen Diversity Essay contest uniquely illustrates that commitment, all while engaging young people throughout Westport to consider and work through the important and complex issues of the day.

“Combating hate speech should be a commitment for everyone, in Westport and beyond. I look forward to reading the essays put forth by our town’s talented and thoughtful teens, and The Westport Library is once again proud to support the essay contest and honored to host the 2024 honorees.”

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