Each year, students from around the state are encouraged to enter the annual Gaspee Days essay contest.
This year’s contest winners hail from Western Hills Middle School and St. Paul School in Cranston.
Eighth-grade students in Henry Maine’s English Language Arts class at Western Hills took the top three spots in the contest, with Dylan Kumes in first place, Erica Wu in second place and Gabby Petrella in third place.
Another of Maine’s students, Jake Morais, received an honorable mention, as did St. Paul eighth-grader Emerson Delacamara.
The prompt for this year’s contest read as follows: “The Declaration of Independence was signed by 56 American colonists in 1776. Choose one of the signers and explain why he signed the Declaration of Independence.”
All of the students at Western Hills chose Stephen Hopkins as the focus for their essays, while Delacamara chose Arthur Middleton.
“Throughout his entire life, Stephen Hopkins worked for the people, and I said that his work on the Declaration of Independence was his final gift to society,” Kumes said.
“He worked a lot in Rhode Island and had a big part in keeping the people who did the Gaspee burning a secret,” Morais said.
Hopkins seemed an obvious choice for Petrella as well.
“He was done with the British rule and a lot of things annoyed him, and even though we don’t actually know who was involved in the burning of the Gaspee, we can assume that he was,” she said.
Delacamara’s choice was a bit less obvious.
“I didn’t want to do someone that everyone knew,” Delacamara said. “I did someone who was unique, someone that no one had really heard of. His father was a part of the Continental Congress and he inspired him to fight for independence and for the rights of everyone else.”
For several of the students, another part of the challenge of entering the essay contest was learning more about the Gaspee incident itself, and a great deal of research was done in conjunction with the writing of the essay. All of the students agreed that they were surprised to learn of the impact that the burning of the Gaspee had on the American Revolution.
The student winners received a monetary prize and had the opportunity to ride in one of the cars in the Gaspee Days Parade on June 8. Petrella, Wu and Delacamara rode together in the parade car.
Although they each entered their essay into the contest, none were sure they would come out a winner.
“Everyone has a chance,” Kumes said.
“I was hoping, but I wasn’t sure about winning,” she said.
This year’s winning essays can be found at gaspee.com/events/essay/2019.