Ricci student earns first place in Gandhi essay contest

Ricci student earns first place in Gandhi essay contest

Jeevika Thazhaiselvam is the 2019 R.I. 8th Grade Gandhi Essay Contest winner.

NORTH PROVIDENCE – An 8th-grade student at Ricci Middle School recently placed first overall at the 9th annual Rhode Island 8th Grade Essay Contest hosted by the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island.

On May 3, Jeevika Thazhaiselvam was chosen out of more than 100 applicants and 27 finalists from middle schools across the state for her essay titled “Happiness in Unanimity.”

Participants in this year’s contest were asked to reflect on the Mahatma Gandhi quote, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” In light of recent violent and tragic events occurring in schools and communities nationwide, the essay contest prompts students to draw connections between their own lives and the teachings of Gandhi.

“Gandhi’s thoughts, words and actions reflected his righteous quality of Ahimsa, compassion in the form of nonviolence. Therefore, he was able to establish peace and happiness in his life,” Thazhaiselvam wrote in her essay. “In other words, he was ‘walking his talk.’”

“It’s like saying practice what you preach,” she told The Valley Breeze. Giving advice is easy, but following it is the real challenge. Before recommending a young boy stop eating so many sweets, Gandhi had to take his own advice.

“I believe that Gandhi wants us to be an ideal of our thoughts when we want to change something for good,” Thazhaiselvam said. “When Gandhi wanted to see tranquility in the world, not only did he voice his opinion to others, he also lived a life of nonviolence and became an example of this moral.”

Thazhaiselvam has attempted to follow Gandhi’s principles in her own life, at Ricci and beyond. As a child in India, poor infrastructure and lack of resources were common. From a young age, she said she has been determined to help raise awareness to protect resources like water and energy supply, making speeches during school programs and creating posters.

She was being the change she wished to see in the world.

Gandhi’s lessons in peace and nonviolence are still relevant and applicable today, Thazhaiselvam said.

“In the past year, the negative influences of social media, violence in our schools and hostile behaviors have increased. Today, our society needs peace, optimism and cordiality. If every individual adheres to our society’s needs by starting to cultivate positive thoughts within oneself first, we will be able to spread our joy through our actions,” she wrote.

As an example of this, she cited Ricci’s gratitude program, introduced by teachers from her team “to enrich student social life and develop self-esteem” by completing activities that help students tap into their strengths and work together.

Gandhi’s teachings also apply at home, where we should strive to accept the differences of opinion within our families to prevent unnecessary conflict, Thazhaiselvam said.

“Our words and conduct have the power to hurt or heal, and we shouldn’t try to hurt our society that is already bleeding the effects of cruelty and criticism,” she said. “Being humane and thinking about doing good for others should become a part of our routine.”

Thazhaiselvam, whose parents are Bavaneethan and Birla Thazhaiselvam, was the only person from Ricci to enter the essay contest, doing so at the encouragement of her teacher Teresa Connors. She won a $100 prize, which she plans to put toward a yearlong project in Connors’ class to sponsor the education of a young girl in Ethiopia.

On Friday, May 3, the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies held its 9th annual Rhode Island 8th Grade Essay Contest awards ceremony at the University of Rhode Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center. Out of more than 100 essay submissions, Ricci Middle School 8th-grader Jeevika Thazhaiselvam won first place for her essay titled “Happiness in Unanimity.” She is pictured, second from left, with her father Bavaneethan, her mother Birla, Center Director Paul Bueno De Mesquita and Education Coordinator Kay Bueno De Mesquita.