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Calistoga teen essay winners advocate community unity

Calistoga teen essay winners advocate community unity


A community-wide art project, a skateboard park, and greater communication between English- and Spanish-speaking residents are all relevant and practical ways that Calistoga could bolster the town’s sense of unity, promote peace, and provide outlets for energy and creativity.

So said five Calistoga Junior-Senior High School students who entered and won monetary prizes in Calistoga’s first city-sponsored essay contest. The idea is to get youth interested and involved in local government.

Endorsing a COVID-19 memorial art installation made up of decorated tiles could help everyone express their grief about the losses caused by the pandemic, wrote first-place essayist Loma Henry. “It would be a moving and unifying experience that is accessible to all members of the community.”

Henry was one of 20 students who entered the contest, winning the top prize of $800. Councilmember Don Williams awarded three of the five winners for their efforts on July 19 in front of City Hall.

"One of my main goals as a councilmember is to encourage participation in local government. We consider what's most important for us as a community and how we can achieve it," Williams said. "I am pleased that the community, through donations and council sponsorship, was able to reward some of the students for their efforts. I hope that the contest inspires students to continue advancing their ideas for the public good."

Second-place winner Huntyr Ammons was awarded $600 and advocated many practical ways the town could benefit from building a skatepark, including statistics on reduced crime rates in major cities that have installed such parks.

More serious topics were also addressed. From personal experience, third place and $400 winner Jimena Guerrero Parada expounded on the Spanish/English language barrier within the town, taking city officials to task for not keeping the Hispanic community informed of events and decisions city officials make.

“The fact that our city government doesn’t take the time to even properly translate the website is a sign of being unaware,” she wrote. “It is also a sign of being comfortable with how things are currently, that there is no desire for change. When a government doesn’t want to change, that’s when you know things are going wrong.”

Runners-up Caitlin Guilliams and Justin Gideon Pagaduan Marquardt likewise expressed ideas for more community engagement. Each received $250.

In her essay, Guilliams suggested that by creating various social media accounts our local government could foster greater unity within a diverse community.

“This would help spread the word of events and make these events engaging and exciting,” she wrote.

Guilliams also suggested creating a “community day” bringing businesses and residents together for a family-friendly day of games and events.

Calistoga could also benefit from “Unity in Diversity” to boost economic stability and efficiency. Gideon Pagaduan Marquardt suggested we embrace the community’s diverse cultures, to bring more peace and harmony.

Read the winning essays on the City's website at

A heartwarming day in the life at The Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Helena and Calistoga during COVID.

You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at 942-4035 or

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The Weekly Calistogan Editor

Cynthia Sweeney has been editor of The Weekly Calistogan since July, 2018. Previously, she was a reporter for the St. Helena Star, and North Bay Business Journal. She also spent a significant amount of time freelancing in Hawaii.

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