Three East Rockaway School District students were awarded at the Jan. 24 Board of Education meeting for their submissions into the Andrew Stern Memorial Essay Contest, named after an East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School alumnus who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
About 500 students from the elementary, middle school and high school levels submitted essays anonymously. Stern’s mother, Barbara, brother, Michael, and sister, Lisa Burch, judged the entrees.
“I think it’s remarkable,” Burch said. “Every year I’m really blown away by the quality of the essays and how creative and interesting some of the kids make their essays.”
ERJSHS junior Andrew Schwarzman won the contest for the third straight year in the high school category, while seventh-grader Jason Miller was selected in the middle school category and Centre Avenue School fifth-grade student Angelina Palma won the elementary school category.
The essay contest began about 10 years ago when the Sterns were looking for a way to commemorate 9/11 on an annual basis, and to honor and remember Andrew. This year’s question focused on the election and asked the students what they would do to make the world a safer place if they were president.
Before being given their citations, all three students read their essays aloud to the audience at the Board of Education meeting. The essay question is always given out on Sept. 11, and the entrees are usually collected in November, Burch said. The three members of Stern’s family then take the time to read them before announcing the winners every January.
“Some are very amusing to read despite the topic, and there are some that are very, very sad and somber,” Burch said of the essays. “It’s always interesting to sit down and get a younger person’s perspective, especially one who wasn’t alive when it happened.”