M.S. 101 students Christopher McKenzie, Laura Rivera, and Ogechukwu Uwanaka were announced as the winners of this year’s contest about Edward Byrne, a police office slain while guarding witnesses to a case against a drug gang in 1988.
Each of the three lucky students, chosen by the school’s PTA, received a $500 prize for their reflections on the tragic murder of one of the NYPD’s finest during a ceremony at the school on Thursday, June 19.
The Throggs Neck middle school, also known as the Edward R. Byrne School, awards the scholarship every year in honor of its namesake.
This year’s essay had a special theme, focusing on the 20th anniversary of the horrible shooting. The students had to write a two-page essay on how drugs affect individuals, the community and the impact it had on Officer Byrne.
The school’s principal, Kim Lisa Hampton-Hewitt, said the eighth grade class writes the essays as part of their English-language arts requirement, but go beyond the curriculum to the hearts of their writers.
“The writing project affords opportunities for debate about gun laws and inner city living,” Hampton-Hewitt noted. “The students write about something real to us.”
Hampton-Hewitt said some of the children lost family members to gun violence, making Byrne’s murder particularly profound.
Byrne was parked outside the house protecting a witness, a Guyanese immigrant whose report of illegal activities in Jamaica, Queens in 1988 led to his home being firebombed, when the slaying occurred.
Principal Hewitt said the essay contest affords an opportunity for students to make real world connections between their coursework and their lives, making the essays written even more powerful.
“Every year through this essay, we realize how thankful we are to have a police department, and it hits home in many ways for the children,” Hampton-Hewitt continued. “We always talk about Officer Byrne.”