Essay finalists, from left, Leigh Foran, 15, Colin Morgeson, 16, and Ian Patton, 16, who took the top prize. (Photo by Jarret Liotta)

by Jarret Liotta

WESTPORT — Out of the pens of some local teens came powerful and insightful words.

The Westport Library hosted a celebration for the finalists in the 2022 Teen Diversity Essay Contest on Monday night, which it co-sponsors with TEAM Westport. It was the ninth annual contest, open to high school students throughout Westport.

This year’s theme question was to discuss “Why It Can Be So Difficult To Talk About Race.”

TEAM Westport Chair Harold Bailey congratulates essay contest winner Ian Patton, 16, alongside officials, from left, First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, Stafford Thomas, principal at Staples High School, Thomas Scarice, superintendent of schools, and Bill Harmer, executive director of The Westport Library. (Photo by Jarret Liotta)

Ian Patton, 16, took the top prize of $1,000 with his essay entitled “How To Be a Good White Person,” in which he shared about his experience and feelings in relation to race.

Proud parents Craig and Alison Patton listen to their son, Ian, read his winning essay. (Photo by Jarret Liotta)

“Being able to discuss and think critically about race is a skill,” he wrote, “one that doesn’t come naturally because race isn’t natural.”

Colin Morgeson, 16, poses with officials. (Photo by Jarret Liotta)

Second place, and a $750 prize, went to Colin Morgeson, 16, for his essay entitled “Villains of Our Stories.”

Colin Morgeson, 16, reads his essay. (Photo by Jarret Liotta)

“Racism is an illness,” he wrote, “an affliction of the soul that our country has long struggled to vanquish, and a disease that will probably never be completely eradicated.”

Leigh Foran, 15, reads her essay. (Photo by Jarret Liotta)

Third prize and a $500 award went to Leigh Foran, 15, for her essay “Embracing Privilege to Tackle Racism.”

Leigh Foran, 15, poses with officials. (Photo by Jarret Liotta)

“Conversations about race and privilege are not meant to ‘expose’ white people … Having conversations about race and privilege isn’t about vilifying advantaged groups,” she wrote.

Colin Morgeson, 16, and Leigh Foran, 15, wait for the program to begin. (Photo by Jarret Liotta)

Each of the winning essays can be read at this link.

Ian Patton, 16, reads his essay. (Photo by Jarret Liotta)