Award-Winning Stigma-Free Essays Shared

Boonton, Long Hill, and Montville Students Honored at March 8 Event

Students from Boonton, Long Hill, and Montville were honored for their winning essays in the countywide Stigma-Free essay contest run by the Montville and Boonton United Methodist Churches, which are members of the countywide Stigma-Free Initiative.

Stigma-Free Essay Winners
Samia Shivon of Boonton; Melody Hart of Gillette, Pastor Donald Kirschner, Skylar Loper of Boonton, and Esme Lockwood from Montville. Photo courtesy of TAPinto Montville

Winners of the contest are:

  • Junior High Winner: Melody Hart, Homeschooled, Long Hill (Gillette), Grade 8;
  • High School Winner for Primary Essay: Samia Shivon, Boonton High School, Grade 11;
  • High School Winner: Esme Lockwood, Montville High School, Grade 11.

The contest was an initiative of Donald Kirschner, pastor of both the Montville United Methodist Church and Boonton United Methodist Church, and whose congregations sponsored the prize awards.

Junior High Winner: Melody Hart

The word ‘stigma’ is a Latin word meaning “a mark made on skin by burning with a hot iron.” In our society, it refers to the prejudice that results from the labels we put on people who have some undesirable condition, such as mental illness. More often than not, it becomes a building block for a jail cell that eventually imprisons the one who is inflicted. I will focus on my experience with my grandfather, the effects of stigma in his life, and how awareness can cause a positive change.

High School Essay Winner: Samia Shivon

Stigma is the disapproval and discrimination against a person based on perceivable social characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other embers of a society. When it involves mental illness, someone views a person in a negative way because they have a mental health condition. Some people describe stigma as a feeling of shame or judgment from others. It can even come from an internal place, where people feel embarrassed or ashamed for the illness they possess. It is very important to be stigma-free.

High School Project Winner: Esme Lockwood

I would like to create a drug-free initiative in schools, primarily in New Jersey, called the ‘No More’ project, rather than “say no to drugs” which ignites the ignorance of choice versus illness. Fundamentally, ‘No More’ represents the gradual abolishment of specifically, heroin, and the perpetrators who make money off of their victims. In this project, I would like to recruit members who are or know someone battling heroin addiction.

Read all of the winning essays and project proposals. Congratulations to all who entered!