Commack Student Wins Suffolk Sheriff's "Say Something" Essay Contest

Written by Chris Boyle  |  06. April 2021

Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr. recently announced the winners of the Say Something Essay Contest for high school students. This annual contest is part of the Sheriff’s Office’s collaboration with the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation. The winning entries were announced by Sheriff Toulon and staff via a video posted on the Sheriff’s Office website at www.suffolksheriff.com. Melody Luo, an 11th grade student from Commack High School, took first place.  Ninety-one students participated from seven school districts.
Melody wrote a very personal essay about her Asian heritage, the rise in violence against the Asian community, and a culture of silence that she attributes to why hate crimes, bullying and harassment are underreported in the Asian community.  She wrote, “I think back to what my culture teaches us when facing the world. From a young age, I learned to never speak back to elders, this being inclusive of my parents, my family members, my teachers, and more. In turn, I’ve seen this manifest into a culture of people that try their best to avoid confrontation. We, as Asian-Americans, are stereotypically acknowledged to be submissive in a world dominated by opinionated leaders.” 
Melody in turn urged all people to speak up against injustice and to react with empathy, “There comes a point where our silence holds the same level of evil as the perpetrator. We cannot be bystanders to the inequity thrown upon our friends of color and we cannot be bystanders to the attacks thrown upon ourselves. I’d like to take this time to remind all people of color that we are not in competition with one another, but rather the overarching racism instilled in the thick roots of our world. To pluck these roots we must not simply hear the words spoken by our counterparts, but genuinely listen. We must not single out the wilting plants from each other’s communities and generalize the entire neighborhood based on that, but rather water each other’s plants with the gifts of knowledge and empathy. From there, and only from there, may we adequately speak through the sound of silence.”
Top Three Winners
  • Ambassador for the Day 'Say Something' First Place Winner - Melody Luo, 11th grade, from Commack High School
  • Second Place - Meaghan Endres, 11th grade, from Saint John the Baptist High School
  • Third Place - Juliana Ayala, 10th grade, from Brentwood High School
Honorable Mention Category (in alphabetical order)
  • Ashley Blum, 11th grade, Saint John the Baptist High School
  • Jose Hidalgo Burgos, 10th grade, Brentwood High School
  • Alexander Collado, 10th grade, Brentwood High School
  • Nellie DeStefano, 11th grade, Saint John the Baptist High School
  • Lauren Ginocchio, 11th grade, Saint John the Baptist High School
  • Nicole Henry, 11th grade, Saint John the Baptist High School
  • Karis Hudkins, 11th grade, Homeschooled Student, Riverhead
  • Sara Parkhurst, 11th grade, Saint John the Baptist High School
  • Angie Ponce, 12th grade, Barry Technical School, BOCES
  • Jonathan Tavarez, 10th grade, Brentwood High School
Sheriff Toulon will host Melody Luo as a “Sheriff’s Ambassador of the Day” in the near future and all students will receive certificates of achievement. Sheriff Toulon said, “These student essays were all powerful in their own way. Our kids on Long Island are smart and worldly, and they are not only eager to express themselves through their writing, but they are also activists and upstanders.  This is what Sandy Hook Promise is all about – it’s turning ideas into action and standing up for what’s right.”

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