Danbury Students Win Essay Competition Answering the Question, “What Does Home Mean to You?”
DANBURY, CT –  This year, in celebration of its 25th Anniversary, the Housing Development Fund (HDF) held an Art & Essay Competition that invited elementary to high school students to answer the question, “What Does Home Mean to You?” through either a work of art or an essay. Savings Bank of Danbury sponsored the competition to award scholarships from $100-$1000 to the winning students.

Entries flowed in from around Connecticut from February – when the competition kicked off with inspiring quotes from notable African and African-American figures in honor of Black History Month – to April, resulting in a colorful exhibit and video presentation at HDF’s 25th Anniversary Benefit Breakfast. The stunning results submitted by Connecticut youth proved the late Maya Angelou right when she so eloquently wrote, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”

First place winner, Jessica MacIntyre, a freshman attending Bethel High School, wrote in her essay about the emotional and financial struggles her family underwent after the death of her grandmother. “We had built a home on memories, and after my grandma had passed away, all there was left were memories and a lingering dreariness over our house. And in addition to the emptiness of the house, money and time became a growing concern as well.” With help from the HDF, the MacIntyre family was able to find a new home with a small budget and a brief amount of time, but the emotional transition took much more time. “Finding a house and constructing it into a home was a journey full of emotion and struggle. But overall, that is exactly what a home needs. It needs care, sentiment, and experience.”

Second place winner, Tanajah Jackson, a sophomore attending Danbury High School, wrote a powerful essay about her process of understanding what home meant to her, asking: “Who accepts you for who you are? Are you receiving love? Do you feel encouraged?” Tanajah concludes that home is where you find acceptance, safety, and encouragement. “Home is LOVE. Once you have found your home, you find yourself. There is no place like it.”

President and CEO of Savings Bank of Danbury, Kathy Romagnano (left), and HDF COO, Joanne Taylor (right), congratulate Tanajah Jackson (center) at Danbury High School for her winning essay.

Third place winner, Harrison Tagnidoung, a sophomore attending Central High School in Bridgeport, draws creative football metaphors in his essay describing JFK stadium as one of the places he considers home. “Home is where your base is. The base of JFK stadium is the big strong pillars carrying the stadium. In every home you need a strong base to keep everything intact, to keep things standing strong and tall.” In the stadium where he practiced football, shedding blood, sweat, and tears, Harrison feels his heart and mind are at ease. “All around Bridgeport there is crime but for some reason when I’m in my home I can’t imagine any violence…I feel protected.”

Over the past quarter century, HDF has assisted nearly 1,800 households achieve their American dream through a high-quality homebuyer counseling and education program and with financing tools designed to help homebuyers make sustainable decisions. The Art and Essay Competition was a poignant way to celebrate impact and the inherent meaning of home with the friends, partners, and investors that make HDF’s affordable housing work possible. HDF thanks all its student entrants for sharing their honest depiction and mature understanding of what home means to them.

Art Contest winners include: Steve Paul Jr. (First Place), Clea Ramos (Second Place), and Celine Silvera (Third Place). Additional photos and video of award winners can be found online at www.hdf-ct.org/essay.