MARCO ISLAND — It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. Words have their value too, as Marco Island Charter Middle School student Madison Hopkins found out. In her case, they are worth a college education plus an invite to the Governor’s mansion.
Madison, a seventh grader, wasn’t even sure she was going to submit her winning essay.
“Everybody had to write an essay, but Ms. Heidenreich said we didn’t have to send it in,” said Madison. Margo Heidenreich is Madison’s Spanish teacher, and the essays were part of the 2013 Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, which included contests for students and teachers. Madison was the sole middle school winner, out of all entries received from students statewide.
She traveled with her parents to Tallahassee for the Hispanic Heritage Month reception at the Governor’s mansion, and received her award from Governor Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott.
“I am excited to join community leaders, educators, and students across our great state to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month,” said Governor Scott in a prepared release.
For her essay, “From Cuba to the Courtroom,” Madison focused on the life of Margarita Ezquiroz, the first female Cuban-American judge, and drew parallels to her own life experience. Born in China, Madison was adopted by her parents, Tom Bower and Mary Hopkins.
“We’re married, my wife just never changed her name,” explained Bower, talking at the school with “Maddie,” as she is called, and MICMS Principal George Abounader. Mary Hopkins teaches art at Seagate Elementary School in Naples.
In the essay Madison wrote, she tells the story of how Esquiroz overcame adversity after fleeing the Castro regime with her family, earned a G.E.D. and continued on to law school. Citing her as an inspiration in her ambition to become a lawyer, Madison said, “I find her legacy to be motivating because at the time, there were not many women in the law profession.”
Along with the piece on Esquiroz, Maddie included a “personal essay,” telling some of her own story.
“I was born in a country that did not respect or honor my birth in any way that forced my biological mother to place me in an orphanage merely because I was a girl,” she wrote. “My forever mom and dad adopted me and brought me home to America, where I am free and it’s OK to be a girl.” She talks of saving her allowance for three things her education, to donate to her mom’s underprivileged students, “and lastly, to save money for my reading habit!”
In addition to being an avid reader, Madison has shown talent on the golf course, and her father thinks she just might be a pro golfer presumably before taking up her law career. She said her favorite subjects were math and science, but obviously has a talent for communicating in writing, as well.
Abounader expressed great pride in his star pupil.
“Among the thousands of middle school students throughout the state who submitted essays,” he said, Madison “has brought great honor to our school.” Abounader is not shy to brag about MICMS, with one of the top scores for middle schools in Florida.
“You have to go over 100 miles, to Fort Lauderdale or Sarasota, to find a middle school with a higher score,” he said. Both Abounader and Bower pointed out to Madison that she still has to work hard in school, although that does not seem to have been an issue. Maddie said she wasn’t sure where she wanted to go to college, but her father jumped in.
“Somewhere in Florida,” he said.
Another of the honorees for Hispanic Heritage Month was also local. In the Excellence in Education awards presented to teachers, the statewide winner for middle schools was Manatee Middle School developmental reading and language arts teacher Lucie Rodriguez, who won a $1,500 award.