SPARTA, NJ – The Sparta High School Media Center was silent as 20 Russian Language student competed in the National Russian Essay Contest. This was the 35th year of the contest sponsored by the American Council of Teachers of Russian and the first time "in a long time" Sparta students competed, according to Russian teacher Erick Hood. 

Students received the essay topic on the day of the competition; write a letter to an historical figure, dead or alive, asking for advice on a personal or national challenge.  They had two hours to create the essay, assisted only by a Russian dictionary and classroom textbook.

Participants chose a variety of subjects including Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama and George Washington.  One student even chose Alexander Hamilton “because I love the Broadway show,” she said. 

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“Your knowledge of Russian is competitive with any high school student in the USA,” Russian teacher William Brennan said, encouraging the students as they came to the end of the alloted time. 

After it was over the students had the opportunity to have a bagel and some hot chocolate and reflect on the experience.

“It was a good experience because you don’t usually get to write a whole essay,” Sophie Venus said.’

Jillian Parks said, “It was good, even though we’re not fluent yet.”

Hope Zwigard said, “I thought it was easier than Mr. Brennan made it out to be.” 

Students agreed, acknowledging it was likely due to “being prepared by their teachers, in the classroom.”

“Mr. Brennan – Gospodive, is a great teacher,” Delanney Sniffen said.   

Bill Brennan’s students:

  • Brian Cabrera,
  • Stephanie Downes,
  • Kaylea Gaughan,
  • Juleanna Green,
  • Katie Hannan,
  • Caroline Kepler,
  • Slvia Kloian,
  • Simon Levien,
  • Sophie Venus,
  • Jessica Longstreth,
  • Patrick McGurrin,
  • Zoe Merold,
  • Sara Nigro,
  • Jillian Parks,
  • Rachel Raffino,
  • Delaney Sniffen,
  • Hope Zwigard

Eric Hood’s students:

  • Hannah Newbold,
  • Ryan Cilli,
  • Lauren Groff,
  • Kathrik Selvaraj

With the largest Russian program in the state, Sparta students joined more than 1,400 students nationally in this contest.  In the spring, the Spartan contingency will travel to the campus of Drew University in Madison to compete in the Olympiada of spoken Russian, sponsored by the same organization.