Dover, Del.–March 19, 2003Earlier today, Lieutenant Governor John C. Carney Jr., Deputy Secretary of Education Dorcell S. Spence,Representative Wayne A. Smith (R–Brandywine Hundred-North) and Maureen Laffey,Acting Executive Director for the Delaware Higher Education Commission (DHEC) joined legislators,education officials and DHEC representatives in praising and congratulating the efforts of three outstanding high school seniorswho have been selected as Delaware’s top winners in the fourth annual “Legislative Essay Scholarship contest.”
Heather Belles, a high school senior at the Caravel Academy in Bear, captured first place and a $5,000 scholarship for her essay on this year’s theme:“Abigail Adams: Building the Foundations of America.” Second place went to Stacy Schecter, currently attending St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington.For her runner-up effort, Stacy received a $2,500 scholarship, while Kathryn LaPrad, currently attending Seaford Senior High School in Seaford,came in third place and received a $1,500 scholarship. The three seniors also received an additional $500 scholarship from their respective legislative districts.
“The incredible writing abilities of these three talented high school senior is very apparent,” said Lieutenant Governor Carney.“The Legislative Essay Contest is an extremely competitive process. However, today’s winners clearly show they are truly the ‘best of the best.’”Added Lieutenant Governor Carney, “I congratulate each of you for your writing accomplishments and wish you continued success in your future endeavors.”
The contest, open only to high school seniors, began in 1999 and was originally called the George Washington Memorial Scholarshipto help commemorate the 200th anniversary of George Washington’s death.The scholarship was authorized for only one year and students had to write a 500-2,000 word essay on“Why George Washington Should Be Revered in America.”
In 2000, the General Assembly passed HB 545 as the Legislative Essay Scholarship.Sponsored jointly by Representative Wayne Smith and Senator David P. Sokola (D–8th Senatorial District),the bill authorized the essay contest on an annual basis. The theme in 2000 was “Frederick Douglass: Great American.”In 2001, each contestant was required to write about James Madison, fourth President of the United States,and as importantly, the “Father of the Constitution.”
“Abigail Adams represents a tower of strength,” stated Representative Smith.“In an era when women were expected to serve domestically and always under the supervision of their husbands,Abigail Adams proved to be apt at running the family farm and ensuring that she and her children did not become prisoners of the British.These two tasks were accomplished by her while husband John was hundreds of miles—or an ocean—away on the business of our Revolution.”Smith continued, “Abigail later became a close political advisor to her husband,President John Adams and helped to influence public policy and political strategy in his administration.Throughout it all, her long correspondence with her husband preserved a window not only on her own great roles,but that of John Adams and many notables of the founding generation.”Added Smith, “Abigail Adams is a great American life to study and contemplate,and I am pleased that so many Delaware teenagers appreciate more fully this remarkable American through this year’s Legislative Essay Contest.”
A committee comprised of representatives from the Delaware Sons of the American Revolution,the Delaware Society Daughters of the American Revolution and the Delaware Higher Education Commission choose each year’s topic.
There are 62 district scholarships authorized; one for each of the 21 Senate districts and 41 state representative districts.Once submitted, the district winners’ essay is forwarded to a statewide judging committee for selection of the top three essays.
Excerpts from each essay are as follows:
From Heather:“One aspect of women’s rights that was one of Abigail’s greatest frustrations was the fact that she was not allowed to receive a formal educationlike that of the males of her time. On one occasion, she wrote to her husband, ‘You need not be told how much female education is neglected,not how fashionable it has been to ridicule female learning.’ Abigail believed that if women were given the responsibilityto educate their young children, then the women themselves must be educated to do an adequate job.[Her husband] John responded to Abigail’s letter and acknowledged that he was in complete agreement with her opinion.”
From Stacy:“Webster’s Dictionary defines feminism as a theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes,and as organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and issues. While the women’s movement gained momentum in the late 1960’s,feminist ideology actually began to form much earlier, dating back to the American War for Independence.Abigail Adams was one of the first to voice her opinion on female inferiority during the time when a woman was merely a possession of her husband.In taking up the cause in her own unique way, Mrs. Adams provided precedence and inspiration to future women’s rights activists.”
From Kathryn:“In the fall of 1744, at the parsonage in Weymouth, Massachusetts, a baby girl was born…it would be in New England only a few years later,in a place not far from Weymouth, that the seeds of revolt against England would be planted and grown. And it would be this girl,Abigail Smith, who would be the wife of the first United States Minister to Great Britain and the second President of the United States,the mother of another president, a beautiful letter writer, and one of the first American feminists.She challenged the new country’s notion of equality as it applied to women.”
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street, Suite #2
Dover, Delaware 19901
Phone: (302) 735-4035
Fax: (302) 739-4654
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