Close to 2,000 V.I. high school students submitted essays in this year’s Laws of Life contests; 85 of them will be honored with cash prizes at special award ceremonies the weekend of May 21-22.
The character education program is an initiative of The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, which funds it through a donor-advised grant at the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, in partnership with the territory’s public schools. Students are asked to think and write about their personal value systems. This year they were encouraged to write on a variety of topics ranging from the importance of loyalty and courage to the meaning of celebrity and the solutions to bullying.
“Some of the essays show tremendous insight, and virtually all of them offer a window to understanding today’s youth,” said one of the people who evaluated the essays. Each district has its own panel of judges comprised of a cross section of concerned community activists, who volunteer their time to read and score the essays. To ensure their independence, they remain anonymous throughout the process.
Students compete only with other students at their own grade level and at their own school. This year there were entries from all four grades of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School and of St. Croix Educational Complex, and from grades 10, 11 and 12 at Charlotte Amalie High School and St. Croix Central High School.
A first place winner receives $500, second place, $250 and third place, $150. Three students in each grade at each school receive $50 honorable mention awards. Additionally, in recognition of their indispensable role, there are stipends to participating teachers and small cash awards for those with a student who places first. Prizes this year total more than $20,000.
The concept of the Laws of Life contest was first developed in the 1980’s by the late Sir John Templeton of the Templeton Foundation, and there have been hundreds of versions of it conducted in U.S. communities and throughout the world since then. CFVI and the Gruber Foundation introduced the contest to the Virgin Islands in the 2000-2001 school year, starting it as a pilot program at CAHS. Within three years all four of the territory‘s public schools participated.
The St. Croix ceremony will be held from noon-3 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at Government House in Christiansted. The St. Thomas event will be held from 1-4 p.m. Sunday, May 22, at St. Peter Greathouse. Names of the winners are announced at the ceremonies.