Meenu Johnkutty could not pass up an opportunity to share her passion and concern.
The John F. Kennedy Catholic High School senior shared both in an essay on the environment, “Saving our earth,” which took first place in Maryknoll magazine’s 28th annual Maryknoll Student Essay Contest.
“I’m passionate about the environment,” Meenu told CNY. “I see what’s being done and how polarized the country is about climate change. Climate change is something important to know and the environment should be taken care of. We’re putting money to other things before the environment.”
The 17-year-old was set to receive the Bishop Patrick J. Byrne Award for winning the essay contest during the school’s Mass for Ash Wednesday, March 1.
She earned $1,000 for her first-place essay, one of 7,261 entries for two divisions, grades 6 to 8 and grades 9 to 12, judged by more than 50 Maryknoll missioners. The essay will be published in the May/June issue of Maryknoll magazine.
“I’m so thrilled she won,” said Sue Willis, Meenu’s AP English Literature teacher who posted contest information on her classroom wall for her students to see.
“She’s such a wonderful, kind and respectful young lady. She’s an outstanding student and is always contributing to the class discussion.”
In her winning essay, Meenu, a cross country and track team member at Kennedy Catholic, describes running the back trails behind the Somers school before setting the scene of her daily Metro-North train ride through wooded paths littered with soda cans and cigarette boxes en route from school to the North White Plains station near her home.
“My eyes, which were once overwhelmed by the beauty of a New York autumn, are now saddened at our failed responsibility as a human race to take care or our spinning blue and green planet,’’ Meenu wrote in the essay.
Meenu cited facts to back her concern for the environment before sharing why the environment and climate change are vital issues that must be addressed with global action.
“I wanted readers to really know how important climate change is to me,” she said.
The Maryknoll essay contest theme “Caring for Our Common Home’’ referenced Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ in which the pope calls for global action in fighting global warming and the deterioration of the environment.
“The pope really appeals to everybody in the world that climate change is an issue,” Meenu said. “The pope is taking us one step closer to globally educate everyone about the climate.
“It is a pressing issue and there is indifference to climate because people don’t see it in the now.”