By Gabriella Barthe, Contributing Writer
UMass Dartmouth class of 2021 students took on the 2018 This We Believe essay contest this summer with powerful responses showcasing unique yet relatable experiences.
One would think such a paradoxical combination could not be met but this year’s winners rose to the occasion.
Saheedat Bello, Lydia R. Touchette, and Ny’asia President won first, second, and third place respectively in the Provost essay contest specifically for incoming first year students. Lily Cayce, Marcel Vieira, and Ayman Abdelkhareem all walked away with honorable mentions.
UMass Dartmouth’s This We Believe took on its fifth year of engaging students in the blog based off of the National Public Radio show of the same name.
Students are given the freedom to write from the heart as their first official assignment at the University, and while many do not go on to revise their works for the competition, they sign into the UMassD Believes blog to read up on what their classmates are posting.
The public website has garnered interest in the past from non-profits with an interest in working with winners of the contest.
First place winner Saheedat Bello, submitted “Letter to My Dear Friend Fear,” speaking on the power fear has taken over the course of their life.
Though, in spite of it, Bello has chosen to search for Joy, Ambition, Peace, and Confidence.
English Professor and Project Coordinator Meghan Fair finds the essays shed light on issues incoming students face, while also giving them an authentic opportunity to engage with one another through authentic exploration of self and academic writing.
Faculty and staff across the campus have taken part in not only reading student’s work but writing their own This We Believe statements – all of which are available to be read online.
Lydia Touchette touches on seeking solace in nature – something “blatantly disregarded in our world today” from her view – in second place winner “Restorative Stillness.”
Touchette balances views of reliance on technology and connecting to the environment in a way that spoke to contest judges.
A few distinct themes arouse between the original blog posts made that led to contest entries in the project.
Aside from first year students focusing on sports and how it aided in their ability to meet and achieve their goals, an increasing number of entries around anxiety and depression have surfaced according to Fair.
Contest winners were no exception to this finding as third place winner Ny’asia President’s “I Believe in Self-Confidence” centered around anxiety, self-concept, and fitting in when faced with a new community.
Hopes to one day collaborate with NPR RI, point to a possible future project with potential partner, WUMD.rocks, the online radio station, where all six honorees will air their stories set to music performed by UMassD students, before opening space for submissions across campus.
All contest winners, including the last two years, and faculty submissions can be found on umassdbelieves.com.
The Torch will be publishing all first-year essay winners.