Friday would have been Peabody founding father George Peabody's 116th birthday and the city celebrated the day in his honor by recognizing three Peabody Public Schools third graders for their excellence in essay writing at the 22nd annual George Peabody House Museum Third Grade Essay Contest Award Ceremony.
Each year as part of the curriculum all third graders from the city take a field trip to the George Peabody House Museum to learn about the life and legacy of a man who used his millions to help society by building schools, libraries and hospitals. Following the field trip, students were asked to write an essay telling how, if they became philanthropists, they would use their money to help the world in the spirit of George Peabody.
The winners of the contest were Trevor Smith of the South School, who won third place, Alan Torres of the Welch school was second and Dana Tennent of the McCarthy School took home the top prize. All three students were on hand Friday morning at the George Peabody House Museum to receive awards and recognition from Mayor Michael Bonfanti and to read their essays to a group that consisted of friends, family, city and school department leaders and employees of North Shore Bank who sponsor the event.
"This is one of the most prestigious events in the entire school system," said Superintendent C. Milton Burnett. "In 22 years we figured out that we have had over 11,000 students enter this contest, so it is quite an honor to win this contest."
The three essays were chosen from a group of 40 finalists that are all on display inside the museum through the month of February. Judges from North Shore Bank, Peabody Public Access TV and the George Peabody House Museum narrowed the selections down to the three they felt best encompassed the spirit of the city's founder.
Smith's essay stated that his philanthropic work would be to support libraries so that they could add more books and help others achieve a good education.
"I love to read and I know it can help me to become a doctor," he wrote. " I really want all people to read more, that is why I would give money to the library."
Torres said he would like to see a kinder society where people are nicer to one another, so he would use his money to make bumper stickers and help fund programs to stop bullying in school.
"This would be a better world if people were kinder to eachother," he wrote. "I hope to use my money there so there would be peace, kindness and less violence in the world."
Finally, Tennett's grand prize winning essay stated that he would give his money to hospitals so that they can help more sick people and provide medicine to people who needed it but could not afford it. He would also ensure that there are more equipment and better technology to better help save lives.
"Hopefully, this will help people stay alive longer," he wrote. "If I do this I think George Peabody's legacy will grow bigger and stronger."
"What makes education work is good teachers and a lot of support from parents. But when we talk about a good education we remember that George Peabody never had an education, and he always spoke of how that was one of his regrets," Bonfanti said, urging the students to remember their hometown when they grow up and get good jobs. "He wasn't just a philanthropist who was great with education, he was the first great American philanthropist."
North Shore Bank has sponsored the event for all of its 22 years, including this year. Burnett expressed his gratitude to the organization for supporting education and the museum.
"North Shore Bank actually used to be called the George Peabody Cooperative before they grew and had to change their name," he said. "And right from the beginning they stood by this and have continued to stand by this for 22 years. We really could not have this without them."
The essays, along with the 37 runners up are currently on display at the George Peabody House Museum.