TEAM Westport ceremony showcases student works addressing race in community 


Photo by Lea Rivel ’22

On April 4, members of the Westport community gathered at the library to hear TEAM Westport essay contest winners read their work and receive their awards.

TEAM (Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism) Westport presented awards to three students for their essays on ideas of race in our community at the Westport Public Library on Monday, April 4. The ceremony featured prominent members of the community such as First Selectwoman Jennifer Tooker, Superintendent Thomas Scarice, Staples principal Stafford Thomas and director of TEAM Westport, Harold Bailey Jr

This year, the contest prompt addressed the question of why it can be so difficult to talk about race. Contestants were tasked with writing about what they would like to explain to people in their community who avoid or struggle with talking about race, acknowledging systemic racism or who apply a colorblind approach to the issue. 

Leigh Foran ’24 won third place, Colin Morgeson ’23 won second place and Ian Patton ’23 won first place. 

Patton used his essay to convey the harm in “othering” those who look different, acknowledging privilege to fight white fragility and using discomfort to propel conversation. 

The microaggressions I’ve heard or the things I’ve heard other kids say made me feel like I needed to say something and voice my opinion on issues surrounding race in my community.

— Leigh Foran ’24

When Patton heard about the contest in his African American, Black, Latino, and Puerto Rican Studies course (a pilot class this year), he was immediately inspired to write a piece, especially after interacting with predominantly women of color online during Black History Month. 

“A lot of my thoughts and ideas that I wrote down spun off what I learned from that period, so a lot of [my essay] was [inspired by] stuff I found online,” Patton said. “It’s really interesting to be in a place like this and be able to write such an essay.”

Contrary to Patton, Foran felt motivated to write her essay from experiences as a minority in Westport and its school system. 

“The microaggressions I’ve heard or the things I’ve heard other kids say made me feel like I needed to say something and voice my opinion on issues surrounding race in my community,” Foran said. 

Similarly, the themes of Morgeson’s piece, such as CRT, had always held his interest, but the essay contest allowed him to develop his feelings about the idea. His piece also focused on tribalism and feelings of antagonism, and how to break those barriers to create effective conversation around race. 

“The contest is important because it acts as a medium for students to think deeply about the world around them and the complexities of seemingly simple issues like race,” Morgeson said. “Not only does the contest prompt the sharing of interesting ideas, but it encourages students to present these ideas in a compelling manner, hopefully prompting more meaningful discussion.”

The TEAM Westport essay contest is in its ninth year, and has previously asked contestants to address topics such as white privilege, microaggressions and Black Lives Matter. The contest encourages students to reflect upon their community and personal experiences, and challenges them to examine their surroundings, which promotes growth and learning. 

“I think it’s really crucial that we have a group that advocates for inclusion and diversity,” Foran said, “because without it, I don’t think [minority] kids in the town would feel as much of a sense of belonging.”