July 15, 2010
All photos and text by Jen Cowart
TOPS IN THE STATE: Tenth grade English teacher Marianne Capobianco poses with three award winning essay writers, Nicole Conti, Taylor Casale and Stephanie Casale.
With Oprah by his side, author Elie Wiesel challenged high school students across the country to write their own interpretations of his novel, “Night.”
Last month, the tenth graders from Marianne Capobianco’s class at NEL/CPS Construction Career Academy came out on top in Rhode Island.
“Night” is based on Wiesel’s experiences as a young Orthodox Jew, who was sent with his family to the German concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II.
“The students wrote essays about how the novel is still relevant today, approximately 65 years after World War II and the Holocaust,” explained Capobianco.
According to her, the students had to include such topics as racism, prejudice, bullying and stereotyping in their work.
The top three finalists in the essay contest were first place: Nicole Conti, second place: Taylor Casale and third place: Stephanie Casale. Each student received cash prizes and was recognized at the school’s Project Day in front of Mayor Allan Fung, Superintendent Peter Nero, and many other dignitaries from the Laborers’ Union, the City of Cranston, and Cranston Public Schools.
“Out of 48 essays, the top three finalists were from here. That’s incredible,” said Capobianco.
Also on Project Day, Eugenia Marks, senior director of Policy from the Audobon Society, presented senior Kayla LaFerriere with a first place prize of $50 for winning first place in an essay contest sponsored by the Audobon Society of Rhode Island.
Centering on Earth Day, LaFerriere’s essay discussed what the barriers were to bicycling and walking in her community, which is Pawtucket. She wrote in her essay about ways to travel that would help save the environment. The contest was open to all high school seniors across the state.
“Although Kayla wrote about her hometown of Pawtucket, her essay was relevant to communities all over Rhode Island,” said Marks.
Capobianco was proud of her students’ accomplishments during this school year, but was especially proud of what they learned and what they in turn, taught others through their written work and their classroom discussions.
"These students actually taught me this year. I learned from their questions, their comments and their insights,” she said.