350th Anniversary Celebration Essay Contest Winners

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As part of Suffield’s 350th Anniversary Celebration, the Kent Memorial Library sponsored an essay contest. The theme of the essay was Suffield: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. The winners, who each received $50 from the Friends of the Kent Memorial Library, were chosen from the four age categories. They are:

Third–Fifth Grade:     Jack Conley, grade 4 wrote “Emily Sweeney”

Sixth–Eighth Grade: Marie Conley, grade 6 wrote “ Suffield on the Green”

Ninth–Twelfth Grade: Charlotte Arnold, grade 10 wrote an untitled essay

Adults: Rachel Spears wrote “My Suffield: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”

Rachel Spears’ essay is published here:

My Suffield: Yesterday,

Today, and Tomorrow

By Rachel Spears

“I know the Klan, and could call them if I want to.” That was one of the first statements said to me from a neighborhood boy when my family moved into West Suffield in the summer of 1994. As a nine-year-old African American girl, my parents had never had much conversation with me about race, but I knew this was terrifying information just relayed to me from a 13-year-old neighbor.

When school started that fall, I was too terrified to make friends with the other students in school and too busy to wonder who else among my classmates had contact and an association with the Ku Klux Klan. My academics were affected to the point that I grew more unsure of myself and my place in this town so I ended up in the slow reading group.

Fifth grade was my last year in Suffield Public Schools before my parents decided to put me in Ethel Walker School in Simsbury. I excelled there, becoming vice president of my class and I even skipped a grade in math.

I returned to Suffield High School in the 9th grade, but with the memories I had of Suffield, I made little effort to socialize with classmates outside of school. My intention was to get myself to college and out of Suffield once and for all.

In 2003, I began my study of sociology and human rights at the University of Connecticut and interned for U.S. politicians. I wanted to do work that created a better, more united nation for all of us.

After graduating from college, I lived in Bloomfield. I returned to my childhood home in West Suffield a few years ago in order to save money while studying for my master’s degree at the University of Hartford, and working at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford.

Today, I engage in small talk with neighbors, open and hopeful. I met my current boyfriend while we were both students in Suffield High School 20 years ago. Recently, I was excited to visit the newly renovated Kent Memorial Library with his daughter, clapping as she acted out Frozen characters behind the curtained play theatre in the children’s department. I have visited with the parents of former classmates for sports and holiday parties, and have been grateful for the warm and welcoming environment. My older brother, who grew up primarily in Hartford, currently works for the school system in Suffield and says he is “Suffield Proud.”

I hope that in tomorrow’s Suffield, I will inherit my childhood home, marry my boyfriend, and raise his daughter and our future children in the town and schools where we both grew up. I want to plan annual family gatherings at the house with walks to the lake. In tomorrow’s Suffield, there will be safety, inclusion, and celebration for all its citizens.

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