More than three dozen local high school students who won new laptop computers for writing about their visions for San Diego transit were recognized on Tuesday at a virtual awards ceremony organized by the Metropolitan Transit System.
The 40 students, who took part in the MTS' 17th annual Laptop Scholarship Essay Contest, received backpacks in addition to HP touchscreen computers, which are needed now that coronavirus concerns have forced classes online.
"Learning is taking a different form, and distance learning is a new normal that many families are doing their best to adjust to," said county Supervisor and MTS board Chair Nathan Fletcher, who hosted the ceremony.
"Many of the students who are getting laptops today have been struggling with older model computers, sharing laptops with parents or siblings, or simply not having a working computer at all," he said. "The laptops we awarded them can give them some relief and peace of mind today and well into the future."
Fletcher noted that one student wrote the entirety of his award-winning essay on his phone.
The students impressed the judges with their knowledge of traffic, air pollution, housing prices and how each issue related to public transit, according to Sharon Cooney, MTS interim chief executive officer.
"We care about what this new generation's priorities are for the future of transit,'' Cooney said. "Students presented convincing ideas, innovative solutions and great insight."
During a video played toward the end of the ceremony, students shared their excitement about winning a new laptop, saying it will help them and their families during the pandemic and into the future.
Fletcher offered this year's contest as a tribute to Paul Jablonski, the MTS CEO who died suddenly last Sunday.
"He cared deeply about this event," Fletcher said. "He is deeply missed."
The contest's sponsors include the Reyes Coca-Cola Bottling Co. and
the San Diego County Office of Education.