Junior Hayden O’Connor wins award for essay


By Eva Tooley, Round Table Executive Editor

Middletown High School junior Hayden O’Connor was presented with an award on Oct. 14 for writing an essay for a contest run by the science education program InnovatioNation from Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.

O’Connor’s essay was about how the education provided in school won’t carry students through their lives, and that to really gain something from an education, students must apply themselves.

“I wrote about how the knowledge you learn in the classroom isn’t enough, and your education will only take you so far. Your mind is what takes it a step farther,” said O’Connor.

O’Connor’s friends, family, and teachers, as well as MHS Principal Lee Jeffrey, gathered in the media center after school to honor her achievement.

“I think it’s exciting because Hayden took the initiative to share her passion about science… and it’s really an inspiration to other people,” said Jeffrey.

InnovatioNation, the program that put on the contest, was created to help introduce K-12 students to “cutting-edge science through hands-on learning, with the goal of inspiring the next generation of scientists,” according to InnovatioNation’s website.

Sharon Steger, O’Connor’s biology teacher last fall, told her about the contest in the spring. She asked O’Connor if she would like to write an essay, based on her interest in the InnovatioNation program, and just found out this fall that O’Connor won the contest.

“It’s a nice conclusion to the program because it’s made up of four components, and the fact that she wrote the essay and won is a nice end to all the individual parts,” said Steger.

The InnovatioNation program includes a field trip to a local facility, a classroom visit by scientists from Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc., a teacher job shadow and a Family Science Night, where students can showcase the research they performed. O’Connor took part in all four of these components, displaying her research on genetic diseases on Family Science Night.

O’Connor has long been a science enthusiast. She attended a three-week science camp last summer for synthetic biological research in Wellesley, Massachusetts, on the campus of the Dana Hall School, and she’s also attended a weeklong forensic science camp.

She received an iPad Air at the award ceremony as an honor for her winning essay.