Kinsella Magnet School Student Earns Top Prize in Hartford Creative Essay Writing Contest

Kinsella Magnet School Student Earns Top Prize in Hartford Creative Essay Writing Contest

Toby Reinhardt is an 8th grade student at Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts.  He is a member of the safety patrol and an 8th grade representative on the Student Government.  Toby plans to follow his dream of creating sets and props so he is excited to be attending Kinsella Magnet High School next year.

Toby also took home a prize for his writing prowess in the 2022 Hartford Creative Essay Writing Contest.

Please read Toby’s response to the contest prompt, “Where do I find beauty within Hartford?” [excerpted]

Where I Find Beauty by Toby Reinhardt

Where do I find beauty within Hartford? Simple, there’s many ways I can find beauty within Hartford, for example, the museums, the successful small businesses, one of which a previous teacher of mine owns, the parks, Nightfall, the list is endless, but where I find beauty the most, is the school system. I know it sounds silly but it’s true. Allow me to explain.

When I started in Hartford schools, I was a student at Annie Fisher Montessori, a wonderful school to say the least, I had many friends, some I don’t talk to anymore, and some I talk to quite frequently. I was engaged in the arts, such as art class and fun acting opportunities. When I was in Kindergarten, I was the flower in a tiny class play, definitely one of my favorites roles, since it was simple, but very important. This school definitely taught me important life skills, such as how to wash dishes, how to fold laundry, social skills, how to get over stage fright, and so much more. In first grade, I was Glinda the Good Witch in a school-wide play. There were about seven Dorothys that would switch places with each other, same for the scarecrow and other characters, but I was the only Glinda, me.

My sister went to the same school as me, and on the other half of the building was a connected school, Annie Fisher Stem. So whenever it was my turn to bring a lunch bin to my sister’s class, I would rush to the cafeteria, grab the cart, and rush back to my sister’s class, and hug her. It was the simplest things that made me happy there. But when 5th grade ended, I was switched to my town school, McGee Middle School, located in Berlin. It was the budget issues that pushed my mom to switch me and my sister. McGee was no walk in the park, I’ll tell you that.

At McGee Middle School, everyone was the same, there was barely any diversity…  There were some ups of course, for example, there was a girl I had met over the summer at a Hartford convention, we didn’t give each other phone numbers or anything, but I remember having that feeling of ‘Wow, I really wanna be their friend’ and during my time at McGee, I had met her, now we’re best friends. Of course there were more ups than that, for example, we had tiny controllable robots, after school clubs, VR headsets, an ice cream cooler, a chip rack, and a soft pretzel machine. Those were the only ups I can remember. But even those ups had their downs, the food cost money, even just the plain normal lunches, only a few people could use the VR headsets at a time, the after school drama club left me with the worst roles, I had maybe like, sixteen lines in all four musicals I was in, and my friend group size always differed, the one determining factor was if any of the friends were in fights with other friends. Then, quarantine hit. My grades fell drastically, I couldn’t focus, and I wasn’t getting the help I needed. I nearly failed 6th and 7th grade. I was a D and F student, my mother was happy if I got a C. It was around the middle of the year when I was having severe breakdowns over grades and terrible roles when my mom decided to switch me and my sister back to Hartford schools, Berlin just wasn’t right for me.

We decided on Kinsella Magnet School, it was a comfy size, not too big, not too small, plus me and my sister could go to school together for a year before I would go to Kinsella High so we could both get adjusted. Both schools are absolutely wonderful. Once the lottery was drawn and we got in, I was ecstatic, I finally had something to look forward to, I wouldn’t just sit at a desk where I did virtual learning, dreading tomorrow. The first day was great, I had six friends on day one, and now I have many more. When I was in shop class, we got to learn about power tools, and even use them! A bit later in the year, I auditioned for a small play. I wasn’t expecting much of course, as I had gotten terrible roles the past two years, but I ended up getting the role of one of the main characters! This school had so many more opportunities than any school I’ve been to. I got to work with electronic tools, learn more about tools, be a part of the student government, get the education I needed, and more to come. Now I am even part of the High Honor Roll, getting only A’s the entire year, with my lowest grade being a 91, which is still an A. Kinsella High School will be so much fun, especially since I get to work with my shop teacher again. I wonder what opportunities the high school holds for me.

The Hartford School System is such a wonderful thing, it’s absolutely perfect for me, plenty of friends and diversity, no one is the same, and that’s absolutely beautiful, this school system gives everyone a place to be themselves, and not to mention I haven’t been sent to the counselors office for just talking about being queer, like I had at McGee. I’m so glad that Hartford has these opportunities for everyone attending their schools. Beauty is everywhere in Hartford, but to me, the most beautiful part where I can express myself, and learn the most, is school.