by Robert Kimmel
Tenth grade students from Sleepy Hollow High School have been making numerous visits to the Warner Library and to the archives of the Historical Society Serving Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown – for a good reason. Researching biographical information at one of those locations is a requirement for students writing papers about people selected for a local Hall of Fame essay contest.
The essays have become part of the English curriculum for 10th graders at the high school, and the majority of those essays are also entered by the students into the longstanding annual contest sponsored by the Historical Society, Warner Library, and the Villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns are partners in the project. The Hudson Valley Writers Center was a past sponsor.
A list of eligible individuals as subjects for the Hall of Fame essays is selected by the Historical Society and, in order to have an essay submitted for the contest, students must select someone to write about from that approved list. “The list of potential honorees always includes people who were active in the community and perhaps unknown elsewhere, as well as well-known individuals who happened to live here,” according to MaryAnn Marshall, who is associated with both the Library and Historical Society. Warner Library defines the contest, “as a remembrance of the men and women whose leadership and commitment helped make this area famous and interesting.”
Sara Mascia, Executive Director of the Historical Society, compiles the list of prospective Hall of Fame “honorees” who have resided in the villages, and provides their names to the English Department at Sleepy Hollow High. Students are then given the assignments.
“English and history teachers and/or family members may offer assistance to students, but the finished product must primarily reflect the student’s own scholarship,” reads one of the contest rules. The biographical research paper must be written entirely by the student. And each submission must include evidence of the research sources. Winners are “…based on the quality of information to support inclusion in the Hall of Fame and the use of references. All of the essays have been informative and interesting and, for the most part well written,” the sponsors relate.
An anonymous group of judges select the two 10th grade essay winners, one from Tarrytown and one from Sleepy Hollow. Typically, 90 essays from the high school are submitted for judging each year. Three judges score each essay and are unaware of the author to ensure fairness. The deadline for submission of the essays to Warner Library this year is May 17, and the two winners will be selected before the end of the month.
The mayors of both Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow are generally on hand for the award ceremony at the library, which will take place this year on June 5. Last year, each winner received a check for $200, provided by the villages. The 2018 student winners were Lucy Rogers and Sarah Clayton.
Clayton wrote about Norman Mingo, who she described as “the illustrator responsible for the definitive portrait of Alfred E. Neuman, who has graced almost every Mad Magazine cover since 1956. Following an advertising career, he illustrated 97 Mad covers. He lived in Tarrytown. He should be remembered for his artistic career and creation of an icon.”
Rogers’ subject was Beatrice Jackson Conway, about whom she wrote, “A Tarrytown-based singer, suffragette, and civil rights activist, Beatrice Jackson Conway was a soloist in the choir at the Mother Zion A.M.E. Church in Harlem. She was a leader of the Empire State Federation of Colored Women’s Club and an election poll watcher at a Harlem school for the Woman Suffrage Party of New York County.”
Their framed essays, as do the works of other past winners, hang on the third-floor walls of the Warner Library.