Six V.I. students win prizes for essays on mental health

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ST. THOMAS - Six students in the territory won prizes for their thoughtful essays on mental health.

On St. Thomas, the top three essays were all from Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic School. On St. Croix, the winning essays were all from Central High School.

It was the second year of the essay contest, which is organized by first lady Cecile deJongh.

In September, students were encouraged to write on "How can persons with mental illness be better supported in our community?"

The contest was open to public and private school students in both school districts. A total of 144 essays were submitted, 97 from the St. Thomas-St. John District and 47 from St. Croix.

A 12-member panel - comprising teachers, administrators and mental health experts - reviewed the essays and chose the top three entries from each school district.

"I am very proud of each and every student who wrote and submitted an essay for this contest," deJongh said in a statement. "It has been one of my goals to improve Mental Illness Awareness in the Virgin Islands, and this essay contest has proven to be a thought-provoking way for students to explore the subject of mental health and encourage conversation about members of our community who are often overlooked or misunderstood. The depth of information included in the winning essays was exemplary."

The top three students from the St. Thomas-St. John District are Kesha Hyacinth, Rodney Querrard Jr. and Shereene Battiste. On St. Croix, the three winners were Mycah Thomas-McCleary, Jeanelle Hector and Raenesia Matthew.

In both districts, the first lady presented the winners with a cash prize. The two first place winners received $350, the two second place winners received $175, and the two honorable mentions received $75 each.

The winning essays will be published in The Daily News opinion and editorial section Tuesday.

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