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Nontraditional Eastern Student Wins Statewide Playwright Contest

Published on October 11, 2016

Nontraditional Eastern Student Wins Statewide Playwright Contest

Debbie Stauffer ’16, a recent graduate of Eastern Connecticut State University, is the first winner of the “Wright the World” playwright contest, a new category of the annual “eesmarts Student Contest.” Her play, “Earth Day Every Day,” is geared toward elementary schoolchildren and slated to tour Connecticut schools in spring 2017.

The eesmarts contest is a program of Energize Connecticut, a statewide initiative focused on smart and sustainable energy choices. While the program has been running for 12 years, 2016 marks the first year the contest was open to college students.

The “Wright the World” category challenges college students to write a 25-30 minute play for children that supports the eesmarts curriculum: explaining energy production, identifying energy resources, and being energy-efficient and sustainable.

“I have worked for Ellington Youth Services part time for nine years so I am familiar with the attention span of children and the interests of principals,” said Stauffer, a formerly nontraditional student who resides in Ellington. “I chose to focus the play on recycling.”

Stauffer was honored at the State Capitol in Hartford this past April and received a prize of $500, but returning to school was the real achievement for her. “Life has its twists and turns,” she said. “After raising four children for 20 years I decided to finish the degree I started in 1978 at Manchester Community College.” Stauffer now has a Bachelor of General Studies degree from Eastern with a concentration in communication.

The task to write the play was assigned in her script-writing class. “This class was extremely out of my comfort zone; I considered finding a different communication course,” she said. The course not only involves the writing of scripts, but also presenting and acting them out.

“Thank heavens I didn’t! Script writing ended up being my favorite class, so to win an award on top of it… that’s so amazing. I encourage people like myself to step out of their comfort zones. College has been my most rewarding and uplifting experience — well, besides having children!”

The eesmarts program is sponsored by energy providers Eversource and United Illuminating, and “Earth Day Every Day” is in the very beginning stages of production, with tour dates and locations yet to be determined.

Written by Michael Rouleau