Two sensational Huntington High School students turned in impressive performances in this year’s Victor Baptiste essay contest sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese’s Long Island chapter.
Serina Aguirre and Marilyn Menjivar both won first place prizes in the Advanced Placement and bilingual categories, respectively. The two juniors were honored during a recent ceremony held at Great Neck South High School.
Schools throughout Long Island were invited to submit up to five entries for the contest. Teachers from a variety of high schools served as contest judges. The names of contestants and their schools were not visible when the judges read the essays.
Sophomores Hadley Clayton and Annabella Matheus were also honored for their gold medal performance on this year’s National Spanish Exam, placing the duo among the best on Long Island and in the nation.
Huntington Spanish teacher
All of the students have been studying with veteran teacher Mercedes Peña, who also serves as the Huntington High School National Spanish Honor Society chapter’s faculty advisor.
“I am very proud of these four young ladies,” Mrs. Peña said. “It’s been a great delight to see them blossom this year and I know that these types of honors will motivate them to continue reaching for higher goals in the two languages in the future.”
The Victor Baptiste essay contest draws entries from most of Long Island’s leading students in high school Spanish courses. Huntington’s twin first place finishes is a remarkable achievement considering the high quality of the contest’s submissions.
“The prompt of the essay contest was to write about whether we would like to visit Cuba,” Ms. Aguirre said. “I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to write about how I’ve always dreamed about traveling to Cuba because that’s my nationality. I’d like to go there to see what it’s like and what the culture is like. My dad was born in Cuba and moved because of the government. I’m honored that I won first place in the AP category because this is something that means a lot to me.”
The first place prize carried special meaning to Ms. Menjivar. “I’m so happy and proud that I won this award because I love to write; writing is my passion,” she said. “When I write something, I put my feelings into words. I write with all my heart. When I was writing this essay, I wasn’t thinking about winning. This essay was a really interesting theme for me since Cuba has been a Communist prison and I didn’t like it. That’s why I put all of my feeling into this essay and when I went to get my award I felt something powerful. Write something and people can find it interesting; it is the best feeling.”
Winning gold medals in the National Spanish Exam competition was no small achievement by Ms. Matheus and Ms. Clayton, two of Huntington top tenth graders.
“Graduating from the Huntington School District’s dual language program is one of my proudest accomplishments to date,” Ms. Matheus said. “Growing up in an English speaking household, I’ve always wanted the chance to better my communications with the outside world. The wonderful Spanish program at Huntington has given me that chance and so much more. I was humbled by the beautiful reception last night and have my amazing teacher Señora Peña to thank for always pushing me to do my best. I can’t think of a better way to end my Spanish journey at Huntington than on the high note of being recognized as an Oro winner for the National Spanish Exam.”
Huntington High School students have a long history stretching back decades of excelling in Spanish contests and that spectacular tradition continues.