Snow Sports Essay Contest

Student honored in essay contest

CHERISE MADIGAN - MANCHESTER JOURNAL Language arts teacher Katherine Monahan, eighth-grade student Tobianna Aldrich and social studies teacher Chris Scudder at Manchester Elementary and Middle School.

PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE VT BAR ASSOCIATIONTobianna Aldrich, from left, Vermont Bar Association President Dan Maguire, VBA Past President Michael Kennedy, VBA Diversity Section representative Jessica Brown and VBA Executive Director Teri Corsones.

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By Cherise Madigan, Manchester Journal

MANCHESTER — Eighth-grader Tobianna Aldrich had a dream, a dream that recently came to life when she was recognized at the Vermont Statehouse as the first-runner-up in a statewide essay contest.

The contest, coordinated by the Vermont Bar Association in conjunction with its Diversity Section and Young Lawyers Division, urged middle school students to grapple with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.

Students were required to create a poster and write a short essay on what the speech meant to them, with three finalists selected from throughout Vermont. Aldrich, a student at Manchester Elementary-Middle School (MEMS), was excited to hear that she had been selected — though not at first.

"I was nervous because my teacher called me at my house," Aldrich said, noting that it had been a snow day. "I thought that I was in trouble."

The contest had first been presented to students by social studies teacher Chris Scudder and language arts teacher Katherine Monahan. Though multiple students began entries, they said, Aldrich was the only one to follow through.

"Tobianna really took the initiative, and wanted to push herself to do an extra assignment," Monahan said, noting that the pair revised the essay approximately six times. "She came up with a beautiful essay that she should be really proud of."

"It's a chance to express themselves in different avenues, and incorporate art as well as their writing skills," Scudder added.

Aldrich says that she's long enjoyed writing and history, and reveled in the opportunity to combine the two in her own fashion.

"I found it intriguing because I've always enjoyed his speech; I thought it would be a good challenge," she said. "I focused on the symbolism in his speech and how it related to today's world. I used the example of how more equality makes America better; how if we all come together it will make us stronger."

Inspired by King's simile "justice rolls like water," Aldrich continued the thought in her essay, stating: "One raindrop comes, then more and more until there's so much rain that it breaks through like a dam, and water floods through the streets. If one person is brave enough to stand up to inequality more people will follow until there is justice for all."

"I think that was a beautiful metaphor for working together," Monahan added. "Especially right now in this country."

To bring that symbolism to life in her poster, Aldrich illustrated an umbrella with raindrops falling upon it, bearing keywords from King's speech including "justice," "equality," and "brotherhood." That poster, along with Aldrich's essay and those of fellow finalists, will be on display at Vermont's Supreme Court building throughout the month of January.

Last week the finalists ventured to Montpelier to be honored by Governor Phil Scott, who spoke on the importance of Dr. King's message today. Following the ceremony students attended a Statehouse tour, and were invited to the Vermont Supreme Court to be greeted by Chief Justice Paul Reiber.

"Going to Montpelier was a great opportunity for students who wanted to get an inside look at the statehouse and a full tour, as well as meeting the governor," said Scudder, who accompanied Aldrich for the ceremony. "The school is so proud of Tobianna for being recognized."

"She's truly a model student, and an asset to the MEMS community," Monahan added. "Students like Tobianna make teaching fun."

Reach Cherise Madigan at cmadigan@manchesterjournal.com, or by phone at 802-490-6471.

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 In her Oct. 29 column promoting this years show, Mary Schmich laid down the challenge for those hoping to win free tickets:

This year’s challenge: Choose a holiday song. Make the case as wittily as possible for why you believe your song is truly awful or the best of all time.

To get you started, here’s your opening sentence: (Title) is the (best/worst) holiday song ever, and here's why.

Be clever, be outlandish, but no sacrilege or partisan politics, please.

Only two songs are off-limits, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman,” which Eric and I have debated on stage more than once.

As an example of how you might write your entry, here’s a snippet of the case Eric made against “Frosty” one year:

"What about Frosty? What kind of example did he set in his paltry one day on Earth?

"First he smoked. I'm not even going to ask what was in that corncob pipe.

"And he broke his promise. 'I'll be back again someday,' he told the children. But did he come back? No. He ran around like a madman, he melted and he was never heard from again.”

The point is to have fun and write something the audience will enjoy.

And here are the six winners we selected:

Jane Donaldson 

"Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" is the worst Christmas song ever.

 It’s dreadful from start to finish

 Consider the story told by the lyrics: a disoriented grandmother, who may or may not have a substance abuse problem, is left to wander through snow drifts while her family yuks it up inside their cozy house on Christmas Eve.

When her mangled, frozen corpse is discovered, her family speculates that she has been mown down by a wandering gang of pronghorns.

This conclusion somehow restores the clan’s holiday cheer and renews their faith in all things Christmas. Meanwhile Grandma’s passing inspires no response whatsoever from her life partner who continues to blithely watch football and eat high fat holiday fare.

 And her children’s biggest concern is whether they should divvy up her Christmas gifts immediately or ship them back and split the cash.

Many Christmas songs are evocative and stir warm feelings that remind us that in spite of   all the madness stirring around us, all the noise, we can unite in a shared feeling of benevolence.

But to all you DJs out there, if you throw “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” into the mix with those other wonderful and heartfelt Christmas tunes,  may you be trampled by a herd of ungulates and then buried with a banjo string staked through your heart.

Mary Trieschmann

"Sleigh Ride" is the best Christmas Song ever and here’s why…

It evokes nostalgia for the old winter days when people traveled using horses (that can be heard “clip clopping” in many versions).

It has something for children and adults alike – animal lovers (birds of a feather & horses) transportation enthusiasts (sleighs), weather fanatics (snow), romantics (holding hands and snuggling under a blanket in a snow storm) and,foodies & baristas (pumpkin pie and coffee),

And it’s non-denominational providing joy to people of all faiths since it’s not about a particular holiday but simply a magical winter night.

But most of all, Sleigh Ride is the best Christmas song ever because it’s participatory, not only is it a catchy tune and fun to sing along to, but it is easy to accompany with bells (no musical talent needed) or clap a beat in the last two verses, ("There's a birthday party at the home of “clap” Farmer Gray & There's a happy feeling nothing in the “clap” world can buy") which brings people together through movement.

Isn’t that what Christmas is all about anyway? Bringing people together?

 Rhonda Campbell

The worst holiday song ever is "The 12 Days of Christmas." It's just plain dumb and here's why.

With a "true love" like you, who needs enemies? By the twelfth day, I'm stuck with 184 birds. Do you think I live in a zoo? Who's going to clean up all that bird crap?

You, my "true love?"

As for the 40 maids, 36 ladies, 30 lords, 22 pipers and 12 drummers, please take them back. Maybe they can milk, dance, leap, pipe and drum for each other. By the way, thanks for the golden rings, but couldn't you have used your imagination and come up with a ruby, an emerald or a diamond ring or two?

Michael Carniello

 “We Need a Little Christmas” is the best holiday song ever.

 First, the lyrics feature this quartet of lines:

For we need a little Christmas
Right this very minute,
Candles in the window,
Carols at the spinet.

Best. Rhyme. Ever.

And second, the song was appropriated by Kathie Lee Gifford, of all people, for a TV special ("Kathie Lee Gifford: We Need a Little Christmas," which featured husband Frank Gifford, their kids, and Kenny Rogers). It was released in 1996, and when they reran it in 1997, I was celebrating the first Christmas with my daughter Tressa, who had been born in September of that year.

 I have a remarkably distinct and clear memory of bouncing her around the living room while the show was on one night that December. Kathie Lee was singing the title song, and I was trying to get the kid to sleep, and I looked down at her, and I was happy, just happy. The joy of new fatherhood and blended with the joy of the season, and the aural memory of that song and that time is something I will always hold.

Mark Valentine

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is the worst holiday song ever

It was published in 1934 as a wave of fascism and totalitarianism swept across Europe. Now I’m not saying that those two facts are related, but if your goal were to make a generation of children fear authority and conform their behavior to your dictates, then Santa Claus would be a pretty nice tool to have in your tool box, don’t you think?

From the very first line, this song makes it clear that dissent will not be tolerated. The message to children is clear -  not only is there no crying in this brave new world, but you better not even pout if you know what’s good for you. Why not? I’ll tell you why not – because Santa Claus is coming to town. And you know he’s bringing with him? A list. You might be on it.   And don’t think you can hide because Santa is watching. The Big Guy is always watching. He even sees you when you’re sleeping.

Do you know what kind of an effect that has on a young psyche?   Is it any wonder that many children have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, onto Santa’s lap at the shopping mall?

But it’s not all fear and loathing. Like any good youth indoctrination program, there is a carrot to go along with the stick. The song teaches children that those who play ball will be rewarded with, and I’m quoting here, “rooty toot toots and rummy tum tums”. Toots and rum. You don’t need an urban dictionary to figure out that they’re talking about drugs and alcohol.  

Don’t be fooled, this isn’t your “Miracle on 34th Street” Santa. In the movie version, this Santa Claus wouldn’t be played by Edmund Gwenn, he’d be played by John Malkovich.

This year, let’s leave this one off the Spotify playlist – for the children, and for the future.

Margaret Rappe

The worst song at Christmas is Grandma got run over by a reindeer because 

  1. Why would grandma have to walk home on Christmas Eve by herself?
  1. Why didn't her family stop her as she "staggered" out the door?
  1. Didn't anyone check to see that she had arrived home safely?
  1. The description of her death causing injuries was gruesome.
  1. How could grandpa watch TV and the family carry on with Christmas with little hesitation?

This is a silly, sad Christmas song for a season filled with happiness and cheer.

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