Greenwich High Black History Month Essay Contest Winner Finds Inspiration in Teen Civil Rights Hero


GREENWICH – The Greenwich High student who won a Black History Month essay contest found her inspiration in a teenage civil rights activist who she refused to give up her seat on a bus – nine months before Rosa Parks does the same.

The GHS competition asked participating students to write a letter arguing for adding a black hero to the American history curriculum. The junior Avery Imp’s winning essay told the story of Claudette Colvin, who was 15 when she pleaded and was arrested on a bus in Montgomery, Ala.

“Colvin put herself at risk of humiliation, injury, and death, reflecting the risks citizens — including teenagers — were willing to take to fight for civil rights,” Imp wrote.

Ultimately, Colvin was one of four plaintiffs in the 1956 lawsuit, Browder v. Gayle, who ruled segregation on buses was unconstitutional.

Imp’s essay received high marks in the contest column, earning her the title of winner for her college applications and a $100 gift card.

When the contest was announced, Imp recalled her uncle telling her about Colvin and an off-curriculum discussion she had in class about him. She searched a bit but was sure she wanted to know more about Colvin, an activist Imp considers underrated.

“Even though her actions have received far less recognition than other civil rights leaders, she has played such an important role in advancing the movement both as a resistance to standing on the bus and her role in the court case,” Imp told Greenwich Time. “Because this all happened when she was a teenager, I thought it would be especially meaningful for students at Greenwich High School.”

Imp, who is taking advanced courses in investment history, said she recently learned to appreciate social studies. She said she loves connecting the past to the present and finds Colvin’s story to be one that is easy to inspire people today.

This year was the second or third year of the Black History Month essay contest and about 30 students participated, social studies program administrator Lucy Arecco told Greenwich Time.

She and a team of social science learning facilitators came up with the idea for the essay topic while brainstorming.

The group also coordinated virtual presentations from four speakers this year for Black History Month, including Paul Mounds Jr., chief of staff for Governor Ned Lamont.

Arecco said Colvin was a “great choice” for Imp’s tryout.

“Claudette Colvin is someone who is generally not studied; usually Rosa Parks is what you think of. We liked that she chose someone who was also high school age who high school students could relate to,” she said.

Imp said she hopes the social studies department will continue the contest in the upcoming Black History Months.

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