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AHCC member Patti Beckett has headed the Hartford Creative Contest for the past five years, coordinating the committee's outreach to schools and the community and the monthly meetings for committee members involved in judging, fundraising, publicity, and publishing the book of winning entries. What's more, until this year, when the awards ceremony and supper for the contest winners and their families had to be canceled because of the pandemic, Patti organized an annual feast and celebration in Drew Hall for as many as 150 people.

The contest began in 2015, when AHCC member and attorney Tiana Hercules imagined and then implemented the contest. She wanted students in grades 4-12 to have an opportunity to express their opinions and feelings on matters that affect their lives. Patti shared Tiana's passion and took over in 2016. Under Patti's leadership, the list of sponsors grew to include Mothers United Against Violence, The Mark Twain House & Museum, and Beckett Law, as well as AHCC and SUSO.

"I have marveled every year when I witnessed the commitment on Patti's part to putting together an amazing reception and celebration for the winners and their families," says Nancy Kirchmyer of SUSO's planning team. "Patti welcomes all of them so warmly when they enter Drew Hall and there is such a festive atmosphere of pride, accomplishment, and love. The Creative Contest is truly a gift to the Hartford community."

Patti is stepping down as coordinator of the committee but will continue to be involved as Jane Torrey takes over the coordinator role. "Patti has done amazing work in keeping the contest going, improving it, and encouraging more and more schools and students to participate," notes Jane. "She is a great leader, an inspiration to the rest of us, and a believer in bringing this special opportunity to some who might not otherwise have access. Thanks to Patti, who is always so modest about her own role, we have been able to hear from and meet some very talented, thoughtful, and passionate young people who give us great hope for the future of the Hartford community."

Twenty-eight students from 17 elementary, middle, and high schools have won prizes in the 2020 Hartford Creative Contest for their essays, poetry, and art work. The winner of the $500 grand prize is artist Zaida Cotto, a recent graduate of Bulkeley High School.

The prompts for this year's contest were: "If I were a police officer, I would...." and "How I would improve my school or neighborhood." The winners all live in Hartford or attend Hartford schools, and the schools they attend represent a broad range of public and private schools, large and small. All of the winners recently received cash prizes, certificates, and copies of the book where their prize-winning entries are published. 

A video on the contest narrated by Jane Torrey was shown in the June 21 AHCC service, which is available on the church's YouTube channel here.