From the Keyboards of 6th Graders

DPA Insights
By Antonio R. (Tony) Rodriguez, CMC, President

Hope for Our World. Support to Our Communities.

During my presidency of the Rotary Club of West Hartford from 1993 to 1994, I initiated – and continue to manage – a yearly program that helps young people develop critical thinking and communication skills, a strong sense of community and an empathy for others.

I remain dedicated to this project because it is important for me, in a small way, to support young people’s growth and positive change in our world.

Our Rotary chapter’s Writing Project works with English teachers of West Hartford’s three middle schools – King Phillip, Sedgwick and Bristow – and their 6th grade students. We encourage students to write essays that express their opinions about important topics and themes that affect our world and our communities. Since its inception in 1994, over 14,000 West Hartford 6th grade students have participated.

This year, as part of their English class curriculum, 800 6th graders submitted 500-word essays that incorporated the theme Peace Through Service – Reach Within to Embrace Humanity.

From the Keyboards of 6th Graders: Hope for Our World. Support to Our Communities.

6th grade student finalists in West Hartford Rotary Club’s annual Writing Project celebrate their literary achievement with the club’s members during a March 18 luncheon at University of St. Joseph.

On March 18, we held a luncheon at University of St. Joseph to celebrate our young writers’ work. Three students from each class team were selected by their teachers to attend the luncheon based on the quality of the piece they wrote. One student from each team was selected to read their piece at the luncheon.

This year, the aspirations (and actions) students expressed in their essays moved me to tears.

From hunger to water shortages to employment and skills training, these young writers acutely felt the pain of people in developing nations. They clearly discussed their responsibility to help alleviate suffering and improve economic conditions, from Central America to Africa to the Middle East.

The student authors demonstrated that they also know pain and suffering don’t just happen in far-away places. Two students wrote about the comfort they provide to the elderly by volunteering at the local Hebrew Home, and by helping elderly neighbors with their chores. They told us how they fought bullying and alienation in their schools by reaching out and befriending kids that had been picked on and isolated by their peers. One author writes to veterans thanking them for their service to our country.

In perhaps one of the most moving essays, ‘Spotlight on Ability’, a writer told us of his involvement in the community’s Unified Theater, a group that has encouraged students with disabilities to pursue their passions on the stage and in their lives.

Every year, these talented 6th graders take to their keyboards and show us that they’re not only great communicators, they’re also caring citizens. They make us proud, and they give us confidence that our world’s future will be in great hands.

Now imagine if each one of us followed these young people’s lead and focused on making just one positive contribution to our community and/or world – it can truly make a difference in building a better humanity for us all.

Antonio (Tony) Rodriguez, CMC, president of Daniel Penn Associates, LLC, is a certified management consultant with 35 years experience in encouraging collaboration and progressive thinking to bring about effective change and organizational transformation. With expertise in facilitation/team development, Lean Six Sigma, re-engineering and supply chain optimization, supplier diversity, strategic sourcing, asset management and productivity improvement, Rodriguez has successfully directed projects for large and medium size entities, both public and private, national and international.


  1. David Joy says:

    Tony, what a great cause! A program that builds critical thinking and communication skills, a strong sense of community and an empathy for others – it’s the perfect package. And it targets a perfect age group — old enough for all to understand our planet’s and societies’ challenges yet young enough that they still see the world for all its good and possibilities. You have to believe that for some of those 14,000 kids over the last 20 years, this program helped to chart a life-long course. This year’s topic sounded especially moving. Thanks to you and the Rotary for being there throughout the years (great picture, too)!

  2. Patricia Richards says:


    Kudos to you and other leaders who understand the importance of mentoring students and providing them with a way to express their “voice”. These types of actions will pay dividends in fostering introspective and an inclusive mind-set within our young people.

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