2023 Hillhouse Essay Contest

1st Place Winner

Manuel's Essay

“Knowledge is power”. When I hear that phrase, I can’t help but reflect on my life and
how I have used my passion for attaining as much knowledge as I can to be able to help people
in life. I love history and so I know about multiple key historical figures using variations of that
phrase. Thomas Jefferson used it when discussing the establishment of a university in Virginia.
Its origins are often attributed to the famous painter Francis Bacon. However, there is a variation
of that phrase that captures how it applies to me personally. Robert Boyce, a famous economist,
said “Knowledge is power. Knowledge shared is power multiplied.” I have a passion for attaining
knowledge in many different fields. My main fields are politics, psychology, law, and history. I
use the knowledge that I continuously gain and have gained to help people in communities and
the state.

The first instance of me realizing that knowledge was power was when I would get
made fun of in elementary school for not knowing English as well as the other kids in the class. I
was about 10 years old and I was determined to better myself to rise above the situation that I
was faced with. I took it upon myself to get my hands on Webster’s Dictionary and copy every
single word that I saw. Even though so many words looked so foreign to me because of their
complexity; it did not shake my determination to attain as much knowledge as possible from that
dictionary. I spent months copying down words, studying them, and trying to use them in
sentences to become comfortable including them in my conversations. By the time the next
school year arrived, I had known high-school and college-level words and was able to use those
words seamlessly in their proper contexts. I was scoring extremely high on my reading
comprehension tests and that continued to be the reality up to my recent graduation from high

I started my public life journey of helping people when I was about twelve years old.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, one day of me speaking on a public stage at the Amistad
Awards in New Haven, CT would serve as the initiation of years’ worth of accomplishments, life
lessons, unique experiences, and an ever-burning spark of speaking up for what I believe in. I
was unaware of my natural gift of speech until it was displayed to me through experiences that
pushed me out of my comfort zone. From speaking in front of audiences of hundreds of people
to answering questions from multiple news sources on paramount issues on local, national, and
international issues. It was the initiation of a public record of service to my community, state, and
country that I would always be notorious for speaking up against injustices on any level. I would
go on to become president or other forms of leadership roles in organizations around the state. I
would hold direct conversations with figures like U.S. senators Chris Murphy and Richard
Blumenthal. Also, befriending notable figures such as state representatives Robyn Porter, Toni
Walker, state senators Gary Winfield, Jorge Cabrera, Julie Kushner, Governor Ned Lamont, Lt.
Governor Susan Bysiewicz, U.S. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the entire New Haven Board
of Alders, and numerous others.

One of the roles that I was able to be in due to my political knowledge is working as the
youth senator of New Haven, CT. In conjunction with that was being one of the most prominent
youth activists in the state as I went to multiple cities across the state doing speeches, holding
rallies, and engaging in political/social justice conversations/movements. I worked with
State/U.S. Senators and other state government officials on paramount issues like economic
disparities among minority demographics, police brutality, racial inequalities, and many more
issues. I have been interviewed on many issues by news sources like NBC Connecticut, Yale
Daily News, New Haven Independent, etc. I have also worked with social justice organizations,
activists, and notable figures like attorney Ben Crump, president of the Connecticut NAACP
Scot X. Esdaile, BLM New Haven, New Haven Rising, etc. I have developed a public figure
reputation throughout the state as I found it imperative that I use my knowledge to be an
individual helping people in any way that I can.

I also use my knowledge in the field of psychology to help fuel my passion for helping
people. Psychology is a topic that genuinely excites me and has excited me for years. It relates
to my major in Psychology or Neuroscience as I am eager to learn all that I can about the brain
and psyche. I aspire to become a clinical psychologist to help others cope and learn about their
challenges so they may live the best quality of life they can. I also wish to apply the knowledge I
will gain in psychology to my passion for political and social justice issues. I hope to be able to
use the critical thinking, analytical, and presentational skills that I will develop to aid me in
fighting for more racial/socio-economic equity, health equity, and other paramount issues that
remain prevalent in our country. I hope to take the skills and knowledge in this field to be able to
help people in any way that I can everywhere that I may go.

I have been on the news more times than I would have ever fathomed from being this
little Puerto Rican kid from New Haven who simply wanted to see changes in his community. A
little Puerto Rican kid who simply wanted to help people. I have been in news interviews with
the New Haven Independent, New Haven Register, Fox 61, NBC Connecticut, Yale Daily News,
Hartford Courant, and many others. However, I always make sure that in each interview, I
connect it back to my story of attaining knowledge, applying that knowledge, and most of all;
sharing the value of knowledge and how it can change your life.

None of that would have been possible if I did not have a passion for attaining
knowledge and then applying that knowledge to do whatever I could to address these pressing
issues that affect such a vast amount of individuals. My innate ability to speak in a manner that
allows me to use my voice for the greater good of others is a skill and passion I cherish in this
life journey. However, it wouldn’t be so effective if I did not have the passion to gain knowledge
and apply it. It is something that has allowed me to find a purpose in helping others through my
words and putting those words into action. I am no longer the 13-year-old stage-frightened
anxious kid who didn’t know how to intelligently form sentences in English. I am someone who
comprehends the power behind having a voice with vast amounts of knowledge behind it and
how I can utilize mine to aid others in realizing that knowledge is powerful and priceless in its worth.

2nd Place Winner

Jurdines' Essay

The Butterfly Effect

For as long as I can remember, butterflies have been my way of expressing myself. My first introduction to butterflies was at the age of four; I would see them in shows like Dora the Explorer and Ni Hao; Ki-Lan. My teacher read my favorite book to the class, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” In those moments, I discovered that caterpillars are unique, kind, gentle, and beautiful; like me. As a child I have always preferred to see the good in everything around me, though according to my mother I was always in my own world (la la land). Most parents never want their child to grow out of that beautiful mindset, and luckily for my parents, I never did; I just took it to another level of awesomeness.

During elementary school, whenever I held a marker, chalk, or a pencil, I would be inspired to draw a butterfly. I was always the type of student who needed a visionary distraction to pay attention, so my teachers would often get my work sheets back with a bunch of butterflies and hearts on my paper. In my free time, whenever I got the chance to draw on the board, the girls in my class would always come up to me and say how much they liked what I drew and asked if I could teach them as well. For most of my childhood, my mom liked to move a lot, so I never taught the same people twice.

My fascination for butterflies grew into a thirst for knowledge. I began to watch videos on YouTube and documentaries on how butterflies lived. My love for butterflies turned into a love for all living things, from plants to elephants. Even now, I often find myself searching up documentaries about insects and mammals. Most teenagers my age do not have the same interests. I noticed a lot of teenagers are realists, and while I am a realist too, I am also an optimist; meaning, despite the reality of the situation, I always go for a sensible but positive choice. While most realists would go based off the reality of a situation. For this reason, it is often hard to find people to relate to. Even though I may not relate to people all that well, I relate heavily to a caterpillar’s change into a butterfly, because turning into something beautiful is a part of the caterpillar’s life cycle.

It did not take me very long to think about the careers that I want to pursue in life. Yes, I said careers plural, because there is more than one job that I want to do. I have imagined being a wildlife veterinarian, children’s book author, animated voice actress, and a zookeeper along with many other interesting jobs. Some people might think that wanting to take on so many careers is impossible, but in the same way that a caterpillar is full of potential and confidence to become something beautiful, new, and complex, I am full of possibilities and thirst for knowledge and can do anything I put my mind to.

I would not say that my love for butterflies is why I am the person I am today, because it plays a big part in the morals that I choose to follow daily. Every day I try to be a better version of myself than the day before. I choose to be optimistic; in hopes that one day someone would

notice and be inspired to choose to not dwell on the past and live in the moment. Like a caterpillar, I am going through my own metamorphosis and on my journey, I am choosing to inspire others with kindness and positivity that I have adopted from my favorite flying beauties.

I can easily say that at the young age of 18, I am still metamorphosing into the best version of myself. A lot of these changes have to do with the experiences that I choose to learn from, in other words the knowledge that I choose to absorb. The phrase” knowledge is power” has many interpretations. It all depends on the person that it resonates with, when I think of the phrase “knowledge is power” the word humble always comes to mind, the reason for this is because throughout the short time that I have been on this earth I have found that I learn more when I talk less. Of course, I believe there is power in having a voice, but in certain moments, the best knowledge is given when your ears are open to listen. Those moments can also lead you down a totally new life path, altering your thoughts, and can change your point of view on life for the better.

A good example of this happened in my life while gardening in a summer academy called, Southern Educational Opportunity Program (SEOP) which is a five-week program held on Southern Connecticut State University’s campus. During the gardening activity the instructor shared his educational journey, and it dawned on me that my true passion was not my talents in visual arts, but rather environmental science. It was at this moment, by just opening my ears and listening with an open mind I was able to find a buried part of myself that I had subsided due to wanting to take the easy way out.

The moral of my story is that I truly understand what it means to be a butterfly, and I am fully aware that the changes that I will be making for the next four years of my life are all to help me metamorphosize into a big, beautiful butterfly that will someday show off all my vibrant colors to the world. Being humble and taking the time to hear what others around me have to say is my interpretation of the phrase “knowledge is power” because we never know when our next growth stage will start.

3rd Place Winner

Selah's Essay

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge, wisdom and understanding… something my mom used to say every day before I walked out the door to school in the morning. I often listened to her say those words without fully processing them because I heard them so often. In other words, I knew what she meant, but I didn’t realize how powerful they were.

It wasn’t until one day during my senior year a friend of mine explained how scared they were of a test coming up. This led me to tell them to ask the man above for this thing called “knowledge, wisdom, and understanding”. I then realized that knowledge is every piece of new information gained throughout the day. Wisdom is using all experiences to make daily decisions, and understanding is having the ability to comprehend and make sense of the experiences or new information given.

When you say the word “knowledge” you might think of the facts we get out of the books we read. But, it is more than that. “Knowledge is power”, it holds more weight than anything around us. Knowledge is more than what we read. It is what we see, what we hear, what we touch, and what we interpret. We, as people, gain new information in ways we sometimes don’t even realize. There’s visual learning, learning through sight, the things we see. There’s auditory learning, learning through the words we hear. There’s also kinesthetic learning, learning through doing things physically. In other words, being hands on.

I say this to explain that knowledge is applied throughout everything we do, which makes it so important. If we did not have knowledge, we wouldn’t be able to stand up for our rights and gain peace. We wouldn’t be able to explain why things work the way they do. We wouldn’t be able to have the jobs and careers we do. We wouldn’t be able to teach others anything new. The world simply cannot function without knowledge. While knowledge helps us identify the differences between what is right and what is wrong, it can also help us turn dreams into reality. It is the key to open all doors. It can overcome any obstacle and make anything make sense. No matter the situation, having knowledge will allow a person to gain wisdom and understanding they can take with them for a lifetime.