The graduating senior class winners of the Town of Montgomery Community Response Team’s and the Valley Central School District’s Essay Contest were presented with their checks on Thursday evening.
Jenna Lugo and Ethan Amburg placed first, earning $5,000 in scholarship funds. Alyssa Guardino and Holden Lee finished second and received $1,000 scholarships. Third place winners Kaitlyn Bontreger and Kyle Rosenberger earned $500 scholarships. These funds can be used toward college or vocational school.
The idea for the contest came back in April when the school district partnered with the response team to create a writing contest to engage students. Any student in the district was eligible to enter the contest. The essays answered two questions: How has the coronavirus outbreak impacted you and your loved ones and what can be taken away from this pandemic that can help the Town of Montgomery moving forward.
The contest was a success, as over 140 students submitted essays from across grades K-12. The response team and school district chose to honor the senior winners with scholarships because they had missed so much of their senior year experience. Alston Construction Company donated money for the first place winners and Medline Industries, Inc. provided funds for the second and third place winners.
“It was a tremendous experience for us to be humbled and read all of these amazing writings,” said Montgomery Town Supervisor Brian Maher.
During Thursday’s check presentation, several of the winners from the senior class summarized their essay contest submissions.
“Even though things aren’t going great and things aren’t going the way we want them to, only a community like this could come together,” Rosenberger said.
Bontreger discussed the challenges she faced during the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her father lost his job due to the health crisis and her mother has an autoimmune disease, causing her to be at greater risk for having a negative reaction to COVID-19.
Holden Lee wrote about his grandparents who tested positive for COVID-19.
“It was really tough on my family, it was a stressful time,” he said. “But knowing that we got through it, we’re safe and happy today, I’m happy for that as well.”
Maher read Amburg’s first place essay which discussed how COVID-19 was affecting the world while also making the future of his class’ education uncertain. Amburg noted that there was a tremendous amount of job insecurity brought on by the virus. However, one positive of the health crisis was that Amburg’s family got to spend more time together. He loved that his community rallied together during this trying time.
“When the coronavirus pandemic ceases to be a prominent force in our lives, there will be a new definition of together and community,” Amburg said in his essay. “One closer than we have ever understood before.”