MERIDEN — One Meriden tradition that was not canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic was the 128th Annual Hicks Essay & Speech Contest.
The Maloney virtual version was held last month in the school. The event was hosted by teachers Dan Gaffney and Kelly Cyr. The speeches were taped at the school and put online. The results were revealed on May 21.
Each of the 290 Maloney seniors completed their rite of passage by writing an essay and giving a five to 10 minute speech. Kelly Tran’s “My Purpose, My Actions, My Life” won best essay and Emma Burns’ “My Biggest Fear” was the school’s top speech.
Ironically, Burns’ top fear is public speaking. She addresses it in the first line.
“If I was given the choice between being pushed into a pool full of sharks or giving a speech right now, I would probably choose the pool full of sharks,” Burns said.
Burns overcomes her fears in her five-plus minutes behind the podium.
“It was fun researching for my speech,” Burns said in a phone interview. “The toughest part was standing in front of people and giving a speech. I knew this was the idea I wanted to do for a while. I just needed to slow down, because if I didn’t I would speak too fast.”
Burns said she’s more comfortable speaking publicly now.
“It was ironic considering the assignment was public speaking and my speech was about my fear of public speaking, but I overcame that fear,” Burns said.
The senior said writing and memorizing the speech wasn’t too taxing. Slowing herself down proved to be the biggest challenge.
“She was up to the challenge,” Cyr said. “She picked up on the nuances of speaking and not talking too fast. The fact she wants to become a pediatric surgeon brought a scientific aspect to her speech. She breaks down what happens to your body when you are speaking publicly.”
The Burns family celebrated after they watched the results together live. Minutes after she clinched the award, Maloney softball coach Scott Aresco and his children were in Burns’ driveway writing messages in sidewalk chalk.
She is a four-year softball player at Maloney. She also captained the girls volleyball team in the fall.
Other Hicks Prize Public Speaking Contest finalists were: “The Golden Door” by Charles Szadaj, which nabbed third place. The runner up was “The Importance of Family” by Stephanie Suarez.
The winners were awarded a pin and a monetary prize. The speakers were gifted a Spartan face mask.
Tran ranks in the Top 20 of the Maloney senior class. The inspiration for her essay came from a recent trip to Vietnam and growing up with immigrant parents. The essay discusses her experiences on her trip and one moment she thought about long after it happened.
Tran was approached by a little boy in Vietnam begging for money. She walked away and regretted it. She later concluded she has to live her life on her own terms.
“The lingering regrets of my inaction to help that little boy has allowed me to greatly understand who I am and who I want to be,” Tran concluded her essay. “I realize now that, if I am going to be proud of myself and live a ‘successful’ life, then I must live my life based on my own terms, which means that my actions have to be guided by my own morals and values and not by those of others.”
Tran said her essay for the Hicks contest was a version of her college essay.
“I wanted to be effective,” Tran said. “Originally, I didn’t want to talk about my background. It’s allowed me to understand more of where I stand in my privilege...and what I have to do in my position to help uplift others and empower them.”
Tran will start her college career at Middlesex Community College.
Also getting in the Top 3 of Maloney’s essay contest were: Megan Koscinski’s “The Shoes I Wear” — which was good enough for third place; Lananh Tran’s “Nail Salon” earned second-place honors.
Lananh and Kelly Tran are not related, but are best friends.