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Our Lady of the Hamptons' Eighth Grader Wins NYS Essay Contest

Our Lady of the Hamptons' Eighth Grader Wins NYS Essay Contest

Our Lady of the Hamptons middle schooler Winslow Ryan won NYCOM’s statewide essay contest with his piece that proposed solutions to some of Long Island's water conservation concerns.


In 2018, Agawam Lake had the densest growth of toxic algal blooms ever recorded. Winslow Ryan, an eighth grader at Our Lady of the Hamptons School, won this year's NYCOM's essay contest "If I Were Mayor, I Would..." with his entry proposing solutions to Agawam Lake's algal bloom and chemical runoff issues. Winslow's essay won first place out of nearly 1,000 entries throughout New York State.

"Water use and conservation is an important civic topic and an important biblical topic," Winslow said when asked about his topic choice. "We are here to be good stewards of our environment and water is of great importance."

While Winslow's essay targeted the lake on Long Island specifically, his proposed solutions could be applied to several other bodies of water facing similar issues.

Southampton Mayor Jessie Warren had visited Our Lady of the Hamptons' eighth grade history class in early March to educate students on local government and discuss his role as the mayor. The visit came as the class was learning about local legislation and brainstorming ideas for NYCOM's essay contest.

Stony Brook University scientists have said that Lake Agawam's toxic algal bloom is the densest growth ever recorded in a Long Island body of water. Winslow wrote in his essay that the lake's current state is "unsafe for anyone, including local wildlife who suffer the most [from it] because of their now sullied home." The unregulated buildup of fertilizer and pesticide runoff from nearby homes has stimulating such overwhelming growth that the algae is blocking aquatic plants from receiving sunlight, disrupting the lake's ecosystem.



Winslow's essay included a two-level solution to this problem, addressing both water quality and chemical runoff. Winslow proposed an environmentally friendly method of prevention using native Long Island plants to improve water quality.

"We could try increasing populations of oxygenating plants in the lake," Winslow wrote in his essay. "Plants such as white water lilies or lotus have circular leaves that cover the water and keep algae from receiving the sunlight it needs to survive."

Winslow addressed the chemical runoff issue by recommending the usage of "straw wattles," which he described in his essay as being "man-made logs filled with wheat or rice and encased in biodegradable material. They are buried on the bank of the pond and used to slow down and disperse sediment and water."

Ryan is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and has participated in numerous extracurricular activities, including all-male vocal group The Hamptonix, the drama club, the rock band, and the Student Council. He has competed in six consecutive science fairs at Brookhaven National Laboratory and spends time volunteering as a cantor at Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary Church in Southampton. He says he would like to be a theater performer, a public defense lawyer, or a biomedical engineer one day.

RELATED: How to Make Your House More Environmentally Friendly

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Jamie Fischer

Author: Jamie Fischer is an editorial intern for Davler Media Group/NYMetroParents. She is a rising sophomore at Lehigh University, and enjoys playing tennis and spending time outdoors with her friends. See More

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