For many students at Rawson Lighthouse School in Hartford, their mother's love is everything.

So when the students were asked to participate in a contest by writing an essay about the love and support they get from their mothers, the results were not surprising.

Rawson Lighthouse School
Outstanding students: Rawson Lighthouse School contest winners celebrate.

"We have students with various writing styles and abilities, but all were solid in that they described the roles that their mothers play in their lives, and they captured the loving relationship they have," Rawson principal Tayarisha Stone said in an email.

"They used descriptive vocabulary words and told beautiful stories about their mothers' resilience during difficult times, and funny stories about how their mothers run their households."

The Rawson students were invited by Max Kothari, owner of Express Kitchens, to submit the essays on "Why My Mother Is the Heart of Our Family" as part of the company's annual Mother's Day contest.

CBIA's Education & Workforce Partnership teams with Rawson Lighthouse School and the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology in Hartford.

The partnership then works with CBIA-member businesses and other organizations to strengthen the talent pipeline by providing manufacturers with the next generation of skilled workers while setting students on successful career paths.

More than two dozen Rawson fourth-graders participated in the contest along with students in grades one through five.

'Amazing Gift'

And while Express Kitchens saw to it that every child was recognized, one student whose essay was judged the best saw her mom get the ultimate Mother's Day gift—a new $15,000 kitchen.

Fourth-grader Jenallice Alers won the grand prize that gave her mother, Cindy Alers, a kitchen makeover that includes new cabinets, countertops, crown molding, and appliances.

Cindy Alers got the news the day before Mother's Day and cried tears of joy.

"My husband has been trying to redo our kitchen in his spare time," she said. "This is such an amazing gift and one that will make a difference."

Kothari said the entire experience was wonderful.

"I'm thrilled to have been able to not only recognize outstanding students, but also present a grand prize to Jenallice and her family," he said.

"All of the students demonstrated beautifully what Mother's Day is all about, not to mention their creativity and thoughtfulness."

Skill Building

The contest was offered statewide. In Hartford, it was supported by the grassroots advocacy group Voices of Women of Color, which heightens awareness of housing, education, and health issues in Hartford and surrounding towns.

"The Voices know how talented Hartford youth are, and we were excited to partner with Express Kitchens for this contest," said Voices founder Janice Flemming-Butler, who attended the awards ceremony at Rawson.

The parents of other winners—including Angelique Cartegena, Delante Senior, Makayla Brooks, Cavaughn Holness, and Devaughn Holness—were each awarded $50 or $100.

Other Rawson students who also received prizes include Christian Febrez, Xavien Davison, Joshua Little, Alex Diaz, Brian Russell, Mariaselle Hernandez, Jalayah Hall, Rishon Gibson, Nuie Bennett, Naizel Flowers. Shania Mills, Jayvon Jenkins, Quincy Smith, Kamoi Weise, Marcus Pierce, Jhamelia Gardner, John Culbreath, and Shadarach Harris.

Principal Stone said the contest was Kothari's way of giving back to the community.

"We want our students at Rawson School to build on their social skills as well as the academics," she said.

"Community engagement is one piece of our school model. This opportunity reminded our students of the commitment they need to make to build strong ties in the community."