URI honors Gandhi essay contest winners

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Zoe Petrovas, eighth grader at St. Michael’s Country Day School in Newport, wins top honor

KINGSTON, R.I., May 10, 2015—Zoe Petrovas, an eighth grader at St. Michael’s Country Day School in Newport, has won first place in the annual Gandhi Essay Contest sponsored by the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island.


Ruby Roy Dholakia, a URI business professor, presented the award to Petrovas, who lives in Portsmouth. Tom Patel of the India Association of Rhode Island also presented Petrovas with a citation from the State of Rhode Island recognizing her achievement.


Rebecca Franko of Smithfield, a student at LaSalle Academy, and Bhagyashree Behera, of North Providence, a student at the Dr. Edward A. Ricci Middle School, won second-place awards.


Third-place awards went to Alexis Weiler, of West Greenwich, a student at Rocky Hill School, and Kieran Gallison and Anna Schnorr, residents of Portsmouth and students at St. Philomena School.


Along with the essay awards, URI Professor Emeritus Ghasi Ram Verma, a champion of women’s education in his native India, presented five students with the Gandhi Compassion and Selfless Service Award: Haley Benoit from Curtis Corner Middle School in Wakefield; Paige Buckett from Barrington Middle School; Liliana Froehner from St. Michael’s Country Day School; Hannah Marley from Cluny School in Newport; and Matthew Richards from St Michael’s Country Day School.


The winning eighth grade essayists were recognized during a ceremony on May 4 in Cherry Auditorium at the Chester Kirk Engineering Building on URI’s Kingston campus. The evening closed with a rousing rendition of the peace anthem “This Little Light of Mine” led by Paul Bueno de Mesquita, center director and a URI psychology professor.


“This was our most successful contest ever,” says Bueno de Mesquita, “with a record number of outstanding and impressive essays that shared students’ deep personal connections with Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence.”

The contest received 361 entries from eighth graders at 22 public and private schools. The essays offered personal reflections on a quote from Gandhi, the nonviolent activist from India. Students were asked to explain what the following quote from Gandhi means to them: “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”


Here’s a list of the 2016 finalists:


Paige Felton, of Mendon, Mass., Mount Saint Charles Academy.

Skylar Van Prooyen, Sacred Heart School.

Saylor Costa, of East Providence, Sacred Heart School.

Andrew Zito, of Charlestown, Rocky Hill School.

Marcie Donahue, of Tiverton, St. Philomena School.

Celia Byrne, of Newport, St. Philomena School.

Sydney Householder, of Middletown, St. Philomena School.

Michael Bolanos, of Portsmouth, St. Philomena School.

Nadia Heller, of Providence, French American School.

Margaux Bedford, of Rumford, French American School.

Lucy Howland, of Providence, French American School.

Gianlexis Siarez, Segue Institute for Learning.

Daniel Lagunas, Segue Institute for Learning.

Katelin Ferreira, of Warwick, LaSalle Academy.

Sasha Landau, of Providence, Lincoln School.

Michael Alizio II, of Bellingham, Mass., Mount Saint Charles Academy.

Tanvi Bhatia, of Bellingham, Mass., Mount Saint Charles Academy.

Delaney Green, of Johnston, Mount Saint Charles Academy.

Brian Zhang, of Woonsocket, Mount Saint Charles Academy.

Gabriella Moreira, of Rehoboth, St. Mary Academy Bay View.

John Renzi, of Warwick, Winman Junior High School.

Lauren Manney, of Warwick, Winman Junior High School.


Pictured above:


First-place winner in the 6th annual Gandhi Essay Contest was Zoe Petrovas of St. Michael’s Country Day in Newport. Presenting the award were Ruby Roy Dholakia, a URI business professor, and Paul Bueno de Mesquita of the URI Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies.


Group shot of the winners of the 6th annual Ghandi Essay Contest at the University of Rhode Island.


Photo by Michael Salerno Photography.