Bridges students shine in essay contest |

Bridges students shine in essay contest

John Stroud Post Independent

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Bridges High School students so impressed the judges in a recent Anti-Defamation League essay contest that the school brought home the top award and third place out of more than 130 entries from the Mountain States Region.

The “Tribute to Moral Courage” essay contest challenged students to write essays of 700-1,000 words about a person who took a stand against injustice in some way.

Abbey Leone of Carbondale won the 10th-12th grade category with her essay about Paul Rusesabgina, the Rwandan hotel manager who provided a place for refugees to hide out during the 100-day genocide carried out by Hutu extremists, which was the subject of the movie Hotel Rwanda.

Her classmate, Tyler Newcomb, placed third with his piece about the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident and the unknown man who stood up against the Chinese military’s show of force.

Both students are juniors at Bridges, the Roaring Fork School District’s alternative high school in Carbondale.

“It was really unique,” Leone said. “I like writing stories more than essays, so it was a new experience. I’ve never really won anything, so that was cool.”

Leone was presented with her award, including a $500 prize, by Gov. Bill Ritter at the April 21 Governor’s Holocaust Remembrance Program in Denver.

In her essay, she writes: “Paul’s actions are an inspiration to the world. … His actions give me the courage to stand up for what’s right and what I believe in. To consider becoming a doctor so I can travel to third world countries to bring them better medical care.”

Newcomb, in his essay, wrote about the courageous actions of “tank man,” who stood in the way of tanks that were descending on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.

In it he writes, “Tank man’s actions can teach a valuable lesson to many others including myself about morality, courage, and devotion. It is one thing to stand up for what is right, but completely different to stand tall for the greater good in the face of death.

Newcomb admits he wasn’t fond of writing necessarily, but placing in the essay contest was good encouragement.

Both of the winning essays are posted on the Bridges website, at

Bridges English teacher Maggie Riley assigned the essay project to about 40 of her sophomore, junior and senior students.

“It’s something I’m really passionate about, and I do a lot of teaching about some of the people the kids wrote about and what it means to stand up for justice,” she said.

Bridges Principal Lyn Bair said the essay winners are a testament to the teaching approach at Bridges.

“There are a lot of preconceptions about the students at Bridges,” Bair said. “But it you read these essays, I think it would change those perceptions. This is an authentic assessment of the success of these students.”

Bridges will recognize the two student essay winners during a community spaghetti and chili dinner fundraiser on May 6 from 6-8 p.m. at the school, located in the Bridges Center (former Carbondale Middle School) at the intersection of Fourth Street and Sopris Avenue in Carbondale.

Contact John Stroud: 384-9160

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