On May 9, sophomores Imogen Cockrum and Mara Peruzzi, who were two of six nationwide winners in Yes! Magazine’s National Essay Competition earlier this year, were awarded Mayor’s Certificates of Recognition for their accomplishment. Imogen, Mara, their families, and their English teacher, Haley Campbell, attended the Watsonville City Council meeting for the award presentation.
Below the students share their reflections on receiving this recognition.
“I was honored and excited to be awarded as one of the Powerful Voice winners for the YES! Magazine contest. Entering my essay was a hard push for me because I am not one to share my writing with even my closest friends, let alone across the entire U.S. for this competition. The moment I learned that I had been given an award for my essay, I was in awe. Winning this award brought out a confidence in myself that has pushed me to feel okay with being vulnerable when sharing my writing.
“One of my favorite moments is sharing this incredible accomplishment with my friend, Imogen. We had the opportunity to meet the mayor of Watsonville to be recognized for our essays! This experience was nothing like I had imagined it to be. As Imogen and I stood there in the busy city council meeting, we received certificates from the mayor. We were anxious, smiling, and astonished to be there. As we grinned until our teeth fell out, all of a sudden the mayor turned to us and said, “So let’s hear what you both have to say.” We were in such a surreal state of mind that I could feel the mini-heart-attack bursting inside us. I uttered a few words, and then my reflex was to hand the microphone to Imogen and ask, “So Imogen, what did you write about?” It was awkward, but it was also my favorite moment during this entire journey. I am glad that I submitted my essay into this daunting nationwide contest.” ~ Mara Peruzzi, Powerful Voice Winner Read Mara’s essay
“Receiving the Certificate of Recognition from Mayor Rios was an amazing experience. It was nerve-wracking speaking in front of a group of people unexpectedly, but I’d have it no other way as I will never forget it. Mara and I couldn’t stop smiling and swimming in joy. It was incredibly fun to talk to the mayor and hear him talk about how proud he was of us, which was so amazing. It felt surreal to me that the news of winning the essay competition had reached Mayor Rios and that he wanted to recognize us for it; it is even still surreal that Mara and I won the competition to begin with, and I am so grateful for it.
“The mayor also noted how he comes from El Salvador. I was surprised and so happy to see my essay had reached him, and it made me think about how many other people who also come from El Salvador might have seen or read it and could relate to it as well. I’m so grateful to have been recognized by the mayor and city council with my classmate and friend Mara, and I’m happy to say it was so fun and meaningful. I’m sure I won’t forget this experience.” ~ Imogen Cockrum, High School Overall Winner Read Imogen’s essay