Maryknoll Magazine Announces 2017 Student Essay Winners

Six middle and high school students representing California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Virginia have received cash awards for their winning submissions in “Maryknoll” magazine’s 29th annual Maryknoll Student Essay Contest. “Maryknoll” magazine is published by the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

The 2017 essay theme, “Recognizing Violence And Promoting Peace,” referenced Pope Francis’ call “to take a clear stand for creative and active nonviolence and against all forms of violence.” While the theme was easy to understand, with violence visible every day on the news, in entertainment, in schools and in communities, the responses for creative and active nonviolence allowed students to think about their various options when confronted with violent situations.

For their essays, students were asked to cite specific examples of violence and then explain personal actions taken against the violence to promote peace. The contest received 4,773 entries from students who competed in two divisions (grades six to eight and grades nine to 12) for nearly $3,000 in cash prizes. The awards included $1,000 for each of the two first-place finalists, $300 for each of the two second-place finalists and $150 for each of the two third-place award recipients.

According to Marge Gaughan, contest coordinator and “Maryknoll” magazine managing editor, the essay responses indicated that today’s youth are very aware of violence in the world and in their immediate surroundings. However, she said, the essays also reveal that students are not defeated by it and that they are able to arrive at creative, nonviolent solutions that can benefit everyone.

“The students had no problem identifying violence, which unfortunately has become ‘normal,'” said Maryknoll Brother Larry Kenning, who was among more than 50 Maryknoll missioners who evaluated the essays. “We all need to see that violence starts in what we think. We have to change attitudes that lead to violence. Just as violence grows, love grows.”

The essays written by the first-place winners in each category will be published in the May/June 2018 issue of “Maryknoll” magazine. All winning entries also will be published online at

The 2017 Maryknoll Student Essay Contest Awards will be presented to:

Division I (grades six to eight)

First Place ($1,000): The Bishop Francis X. Ford Award is named in honor of the Maryknoll missioner who died in a prison in China during 1952.

  • Riva Maendel (eighth grade), Foxhill School (Bruderhof community), Walden, New York. Teacher/Catechist: Violeta Kurtz

Second Place ($300)

  • Ari Avalos (eighth grade), St. Raymond Catholic School, Dublin, California. Teacher: Pamela Hovanic

Third Place ($150)

  • Emma Lavallee (eighth grade), Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic School, Vienna, Virginia. Teacher/catechist: Mrs. Cynthia Iannone

Division II (grades nine to 12)

First Place ($1,000): The Bishop Patrick J. Byrne Award is named for the Maryknoll missioner who died on a forced march in Korea during 1950.

  • Tasnim Islam (12th grade), Lake Travis High School, Austin, Texas. Teacher: Mr. Thomas Seabolt

Second Place ($300)

  • Rose Benas (11th grade), Saint Ignatius College Prep, Chicago, Illinois. Teacher: Sister Elizabeth John, OP

Third Place ($150)

  • Asher Newman (12th grade), Mercer County Technical School-Health Science Academy, Trenton, New Jersey. Teacher: Ms. Rachel Hendrickson

The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers follow Jesus in serving the poor and others in need in more than 20 countries that include the U.S. All Catholics are called to mission through baptism and confirmation, and Maryknoll’s mission education outreach in parishes and schools throughout the country engages U.S. Catholics in mission through vocations, prayer, donations and as volunteers. Maryknoll missioners share God’s love and the Gospel in addressing poverty, providing healthcare, building communities and promoting human rights. For more information, visit the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers at

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