Twenty-five aspiring young writers were honored for their creative efforts at the Bay Ridge Community Council’s (BRCC) 41st annual essay contest. The deserving award recipients included fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from schools throughout the borough. The ceremony was held at I.S. 259 William McKinley, 7301 Fort Hamilton Parkway.
President of the BRCC Ralph Succar hosted the event that brought together an auditorium full of proud families to share in their children’s accomplishments. The essay co-chairs were Linda Rubino and Madeline Sbarra.
“The Bay Ridge Community Council has been here for 67 years,” Succar said. “We do a lot of community activities and one of them is this essay contest. We do the fall art contest; we also do the hidden treasures, recognizing people who do everything in their power to help the community. We honor them with a plaque for all they do.”
He thanked community leader Bob Kassenbrock for running the annual BRCC photo contest and Rubino for spearheading the essay contest. Succar said that this was one of his favorite events. “It’s all about the students and their imagination,” he added.
Rubino thanked the sponsors and judges of this year’s contest and said that each student would receive a certificate from Congressmember Dan Donovan, State Senator Marty Golden and City Councilmember Justin Brannan.
The guest speaker was author Gabriel Gale, who offered insightful words of inspiration to the students. Gale was born and raised in Bay Ridge and has just released his new book, Ages of Oz: A Dark Descent, the second volume of a fantasy series that carries on the legacy of L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” by adding an exciting new prequel to the classic stories focusing on the exploits of powerful sorceress Glinda, the Good Witch of the South. A Dark Descent follows last year’s best-selling Ages of Oz: A Fiery Friendship.
Gale is currently working on an animated series adaptation of the books for Netflix and a movie adaptation for Warner Brothers.
“This is the second year I’m here as a guest of the Bay Ridge Community Council,” Gale said. “Everything started for me here in Bay Ridge. I have a really long history with the Bay Ridge Community Council, probably over 25 years in various capacities. I remember when I sat in these chairs and won the essay contest and the photo contest, too. This award can lead to fantastic things, and I want to tell you to take every opportunity to find what your individual gifts are and pursue it with all of your passion. It’s a long road but if you can do that, you will do amazing things.”
Gale presented each of the winners with their plaque, along with a personally signed copy of his book. He also posed for photos with each student.
Each grade had a specific topic to write about and the winning entries were selected by a group of 12 judges. For the fifth grade, the first place winner was Chloe Anna Falls from P.S. 185, second place went to Gabriela Manna of St. Bernadette Catholic Academy and third place was given to Bilal Mahmoud of P.S. 127.
Other fifth grade award recipients were Billy Chen of P.S. 69, Ray Xu of P.S./I.S. 104, Leo Ni of P.S. 176, Chuer Zhong of P.S. 204, Simone Kirkeby of Holy Angels Catholic Academy, Domino Roberts of Lutheran Elementary School and Jonathan Dopson of St. Ephrem School.
Taking first place for grade six was Emma Smollar of St. Bernadette Catholic Academy, second place was given to Hanson Wen of I.S. 259 and third place went to Elaine Christian of I.S. 30.
Other sixth graders being recognized were Yassine Oualimehadji of P.S./I.S. 104, Nicholas Cheregotis of Adelphi Academy, Vasilios Likourezos of DGK Parochial School, Uvidu Vipul of Holy Angels Catholic Academy, Samantha Soued of Lutheran Elementary School and Julia McLoughlin of St Ephrem School.
The seventh grade first-place winner was Laila Mansour from Lutheran Elementary School, second place went to Yassine Ghaffouli of P.S./I.S 104 and third place was awarded to Jolie Avignone of St Ephrem School.
Also receiving recognition for their essays were Muhammad Qasim of P.S./I.S. 30, Jenna Farraj of I.S. 259, Adam Elkanouani of Adelphi Academy, Ava Castellano of Leif Ericson Day School, Olivia DelleCave of Holy Angels Catholic Academy and Johnathan Bernadeau of St. Bernadette Catholic Academy.
Alfred Greig of Leif Ericson Day School took first place honors for the eighth grade, second place went to Rimjheem Rimjheem of P.S./I.S. 104 and third place was given to Gianna Armenia of St. Bernadette Catholic Academy.
The other eighth grade award recipients were Moustafa Salem of I.S. 30, Isaac Nasimov of Adelphi Academy and Matthew Rogers of St. Ephrem School.
First place winners also received a $50 Visa gift card from the BRCC, second place winners received a $25 gift card and third place winners received a $25 gift certificate to the Bookmark Shoppe.
“What an amazing imagination these kids have,” said Succar. “I encourage you all to follow your dreams. Don’t ever give up on your dreams.”