St. Bernadette School 8th Grader wins essay contest

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St. Bernadette School 8th Grader wins essay contest
Photo/submitted
(left to right) Worcester County Bar Association President Terry McLaughlin, St. Bernadette School 8th Grade Teacher Mary McLaughlin and Congressman James P. McGovern stand with Law Day essay contest winner Ananya Vel and District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr.

By Liz Nolan, Contributing Writer

NORTHBOROUGH – The essay of Ananya Vel, a student at St. Bernadette School in Northborough, was recently chosen as the winner of the annual Worcester County Bar Association’s Law Day essay contest. 

Eighth graders across Worcester County were invited to participate in the contest. This year’s topic focused on civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis and his statement, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and redeem the soul of America.” Vel’s essay was one of 96 submissions, answering the question, “What does ‘good trouble’ mean to you today?”

Essay addresses ethics, law and justice

Law Day has been an annual event for the past 25 years. The contest’s focus is to get young people thinking about important issues.

Attorney Geoffrey Spofford chaired the Law Day Committee this year and said all the essays received were impressive, but Vel’s stood out and was the clear winner.

“She answered the question,” he said. “There are times you need to stand up for justice. She wrote from her heart, and we all read that and appreciated it.”

In her essay entitled “Common Ground,” Vel wrote, “Good trouble is knowing when to bend rules, and when to break them.”

St. Bernadette School 8th Grader wins essay contest
Photo/submitted
Ananya Vel received a physical award in addition to a cash prize for her essay submitted to this year’s annual Worcester County Bar Association Law Day essay contest.

“When trapped in a moral dilemma, it’s choosing the ethical choice over the lawful one,” she elaborated. “It’s defining your principles and sticking to them, no matter what.”

Vel referenced history where people such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. were willing to peacefully stand up for what they believed in.

“It is the compromise between the devil and the angel,” Vel wrote. “Good trouble is knowing when to jump fences and duck under barriers. But it is also knowing when not to.”

Student honored at St. Bernadette School

Vel received her award, along with a $100 cash prize in a presentation at St. Bernadette School on April 26. The award was presented by Worcester County Bar Association President Terry McLaughlin and Congressman James McGovern. Also in attendance was Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early, Jr.

McGovern told Vel that her essay will be entered in the Congressional Records in Washington, DC.

Vel said she was surprised when she was told that her essay won and felt honored.

“It’s good to see a student move through the grades and watch as she is developing,” said Principal Deborah O’Neil. “I think she was able, and her parents were able to really acknowledge the honor she has been given.”

Her teacher, Mary McLaughlin, a first-year teacher, recalled “the entire class exploded with applause” when she made the announcement.

“We are so happy and proud of her,” Mary McLaughlin said. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see student accomplishments. It’s a proud representation for St. Bernadette’s, too.”

Although somewhat limited this year due to the pandemic, Vel has participated in service projects through school, including fundraising efforts and clothing and food drives. She also participates in the school’s debate team and is passionate about the environment.