Avon Theatre Announces Winners of 2024 Scholarship Awards Essay Contest “Film Matters”

The Avon Theatre – Deborah & Chuck Royce Cinema Arts Center is pleased to announce the winners of the 15th Annual Avon Scholarship Awards Essay Contest.

At an awards reception and ceremony held at the theater on June 6, 2024, Sue Baker, an Avon Board member and chair of the Education Initiative Committee, introduced the winners and presented them with prizes totaling $8,500.

Students, their families, and guests were invited to stay afterward for the screening of Disney’s new film, Young Woman and The Sea.

“It has been so exciting to watch this essay contest grow over the past 15 years,” Baker said. “We have had entries from private and public school seniors in Fairfield and Westchester Counties. It is a true scholarship – the money is sent directly to the college or university, not just given to the winners.”

Baker added, “Some of the most rewarding experiences for me have been the emotional stories of the recipients, who are so grateful. We have had winners who are first-generation Americans, some who are the only person in their family ever to go to college, some for whom this money is a game changer in paying the university bills.”

The program is supported through donations from the Avon’s Red Carpet Gala and Annual Appeal campaign. Tamar Bundy and the Wireless Zone Bedford, Hope, and Canal Street stores also provided a $3,500 grant from the Wireless Zone Gives Foundation, which helped to underwrite several scholarship prizes.

The top three winners include First Place—$2,000, Hannah McCall, of Wilton High School, who will study film production at Emerson College.

Second Place—$1,500, Sienna Alday, of Stamford High School, who plans to study zoology at the University of New Hampshire.

Third Place—$1,000, Genevieve Baske, of Greenwich High School, who will focus on English and the arts at Wesleyan University.

An additional $4,000 in Honorable Mention prizes went to eight students, each receiving a $500 prize.

The winners are:

Bianca Benedetti, AITE – Stamford, CT State Community College – Norwalk – digital media and cinematography

Anouska Singh, Trumbull High School, University of Connecticut – economics and film studies

Molly Fitzgerald, Stamford High School, Emerson College – writing, literature, and publishing

Miles DeSantis, AITE – Stamford, New York University – Tisch School of the Arts –  sound design and drama

Logan Jozwiak, Greenwich High School, State University of New York at Buffalo – political science, history, and law

Alena Simonova, Stamford High School, Hunter College (CUNY) – nursing

Zachary Price, Westhill High School, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill – business and real estate finance

Wendy Aguirre, Stamford High School, Iona University – psychology

Students were asked to submit a 500-750-word essay on “Film Matters” based on a film they have seen in a movie theater or online released in 2023 or 2024. The film could be a feature, animated, documentary, short, or foreign language film. Students were invited to share how the film impacted them personally, and the questions they answered included: Did the film change their mind about something? Did the film make you feel seen or accepted? Did the film inspire you?

The winning entries covered a wide range of movies, including Barbie, Red, White & Royal Blue, Nimona, Laapataa Ladies, Past Lives, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, The Iron Claw, Civil War, and Elemental. Participants did not need to be film majors to enter the contest. However, two of the winners will be attending college this fall to focus on film production and drama.

The essays were read without the student’s name or school affiliation by at least two independent judges from a panel of professional journalists, published authors, editors, educators, and filmmakers. An additional pair of judges read the top three finalists, as there was a tie. This year’s competition was fierce, with the top three winners’ final scores being neck-and-neck with a perfect 50, 49.7, and 49.

Several judges commented they thought the quality of writing was the best ever, with students describing profoundly moving and emotional reactions to the films.

The judges included Sue Baker, Heather Bianco, Kelly Bridges, Mimi Cohen, Louisa Greene, Camilla Herrera, Beth Levine, Arlene Mark, Mary Gayle Meyer, Joe Meyers and Donna Moffly.

The Avon Theatre – Deborah & Chuck Royce Cinema Arts Center is a member-supported, nonprofit, independent cinema committed to showcasing a curated selection of independent, foreign, classic, and documentary films. Nestled in the heart of downtown Stamford, CT, the Avon has stood as a cultural beacon for 85 years, enriching the community through unforgettable experiences that promote dialogue and inspire an appreciation for the art of cinema.

Through its special programming, educational initiatives, and community engagement efforts, the Avon strives to create a dynamic space where film enthusiasts of all ages can come together to explore, discover, and celebrate the magic of the silver screen.

In particular, The Avon is dedicated to educating the community about how film changes lives. For students, cinema can provide a pathway to appreciating the arts, accepting cultural diversity, and understanding civic responsibility. The Avon Scholarship Awards Essay Contest is one facet of the educational outreach the theater is committed to bringing to the greater Stamford community.