Warner Norcross & Judd LLP announced the results of its Ninth Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest.
The contest, which was open to all sixth-grade students attending Grand Rapids Public Schools, asked the students to prepare an essay focused on how Dr. King’s legacy of peace and justice applies to the world in which they live. This year’s competition included entries from 289 students at nine schools.
- Sofe Christine Blomeling, Riverside Middle School, grand prize
- Sophia Crumback-Tarrien, Center for Economicology, first runner up
- Maya Barbee, Center for Economicology, second runner up
Each winning student will receive a certificate of deposit and a gift card to Schuler Books and Music. Additionally, 20 students from five schools received an award of honorable mention and a gift card to Schuler Books and Music. All participating students will receive a personalized certificate of completion.
Blomeling has been invited to read her essay at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Community Peace Program on Monday, Jan. 20 at 12:30 p.m. following the Community Peace March and again at the Annual Celebration program that evening at 6 p.m. Both events will be held at the Grand Rapids Community College Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse. All winners and honorable mentions are invited to attend both events and will be recognized as a group.
The three winning students will be given an opportunity to read their essays at the GRPS Board of Education meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 3, if time permits. Warner Norcross Diversity Partner Rodney Martin will be in attendance to introduce the winning students and will present each winner and honorable mention student in attendance that night with their prizes and certificates.
Essays were judged by more than 40 Warner Norcross attorneys and staff according to Michigan Education Assessment Program guidelines for narrative writing. The essays were evaluated for ideas, organization, style and conventions.
Here are the winning essays:
GRAND PRIZE WINNER: SOFE CHRISTINE BLOMELING
Riverside Middle School, Ms. Emily Holt, Teacher
“Dr. Martin Luther King, Izzy, and Me”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is one of America’s heroes. He took the time and patience to try and fight calmly and nonviolently to win some of the true freedom of the United States of America. But anyone can be a true hero, not by a cape or tights and underwear, but having a kind heart, patience, and the willingness to put anyone else in front of them. He inspired me to think of other people first, and put their needs before mine. But I’m not writing about me. I’m writing about a true friend who saved me, and her name is Izzy.
When I was younger, I attracted bullies like a magnet. I was so broken. I was super shy, and I always wore a scarf to hide myself. On one particular occasion, I decided not to. That was the day I made a new friend. It was at the Boys and Girls Club. I sat alone, afraid that if I left my spot I’d be bullied again. For some reason I got up and drew a picture on the chalkboard wall and sat back down. After about an hour, I heard someone yell saying, “WHO DREW THAT PICTURE?!” I went up to the girl and stammered, “I-I-I- I did. I’m so sor . . . “ Before I could finish, she interrupted me. She hugged me tightly and said, “It’s okay, I like it!” I was so shocked! It felt so nice to feel a friendly touch from somebody else.
Izzy, Izabella, was like a true heroine. Before she came along, I used to feel depressed and kind of hopeless. She saved my life! She could relate to my feelings because she experienced pain from being bullied herself. Even so, she took the time to help me gain some self-confidence. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be such a good artist, singer, or have so many friends. She put my needs in front of her own, just like Dr. King would have. She put color back into my life! Whenever I try to give her something in return for her kindnesses she says, “You don’t need to give me anything. Just stay the way you are and be my good friend.” Izzy has the characteristics of a true personal hero, just like Dr. King did.
America is still not entirely fair, and we may have a little too much freedom with things like bullying, stealing, kidnapping, murder, etc., but thank goodness Dr. King DID make a big hole in some of it. Some of Dr. King’s dreams have been fulfilled today. Dr. King, a man who started a fight for freedom without using violence, would’ve been proud to see that America is a bit freer than it was before he started this social revolution. No one’s life is insignificant. Saving anyone from life or death is a HUGE accomplishment.
Like I said before, a hero doesn’t have to have a cape and super powers, or even save the world from an evil villain. Being a hero takes bravery, love, patience and the willingness to put yourself out there no matter who or what needs you. And that’s what Dr. King and Izzy have in common. They are heroes, and they are my role models. I think Dr. King would agree with me: Izzy is a true friend.
FIRST RUNNER UP: SOPHIA CRUMBACK-TARRIEN
Center for Economicology, Mrs. Reed, Teacher
“Changing the World”
Martin Luther King Jr. was a courageous man with a big heart. He started out with doing little things that grew and grew until he changed the world. I love animals, and I want to change the world for them. So, if he could do it, so can I.
Animal cruelty is a horrible subject. Sadly enough, some people choose to be mean to innocent animals. My three cats were all strays, which means they came from the streets and from filthy shelters. One of them was abused by his past owner before he was kicked to the curb and then put in a cage. Adopting shelter cats and helping strays are two ways to make the world a better place. When I’m old enough, I hope to volunteer at my local animal shelter to help change the lives of animals in need.
Litter is something else that I fight against. All this trash is damaging our planet, and we only get one to share with all other living things. I get angry when I see litter at my local park because wildlife could get hurt and their drinking water could get filled with garbage. Every Earth Day, my family and I go to the park and pick up almost all the trash we see in hope of saving animals. If I act like it’s Earth Day every day, I could make a massive difference in the lives of squirrels, deer, ducks, and many other animals that I never even see.
Finally, people are animals too, and we can help each other in many ways. I, for example, give my friends and family nice compliments and a warm smile to make them feel better when they’re feeling down. I visit my elderly neighbor because I know that my visits cheer her up. Everyone should be warm and fed and no one should be without friends. Loneliness is like an illness. Laughter is the best medicine, so I pass it around for everyone to share.
All of these things could make a huge difference to a lot of animals, big and small. They could even change the world! All of these subjects I wrote about have two things in common: kindness and hope. I will help as much as I can, but I hope that many will join me just like they joined Doctor King, who spoke to smaller crowds before he spoke to all of the citizens of the world. Right now, I’m just an eleven year old kid, but I’m already a hero to my three cats. When I grow up, there’ll be no limit to the animals I can help. That’s my dream.
SECOND RUNNER UP: MAYA BARBEE
Center for Economicology, Mrs. Reed, Teacher
”Making the World A Better Place”
Have you ever thought of all the problems in this world? For example, so many people without homes, so many people without jobs, kids or animals without homes, world hunger, global warming, pollution, kids without an education, and much more. There is always going to be a problem. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. That’s just the way life goes. If everyone contributes in some way, the world can become a better place for the children of the world to come.
I personally do many little things to make the world a better place. I volunteered in a neighborhood for a program that gives kids free books. That means I helped some kids learn new things. I also convinced my family to get a dog. The dog we found was from a rescue organization. I happily saved a dog from being sent to a medical research facility where she could have gotten seriously hurt, or killed. I support The Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan by going to the Buddy Walk, and their annual Christmas celebration, which supports kids with Down Syndrome, like my sister. I also go to the store the weekend before Thanksgiving with my family. We get two Thanksgiving meals, for two families in need. Also, my grandma lives in a retirement home, so I do some things to help out there too. Many senior citizens get lonely, so even if I just talk to them, that makes them happy. I pass out newsletters, recycle papers, and many other different things.
I want to encourage people to make a difference, by doing little things one step at a time. I think Dr. King would say, “Everyone can make a difference no matter who you are. Even if you give something you can’t see, like honesty or kindness. Even if you don’t have anything, you can give something.” Dr. King encouraged a lot of people, and made a difference. I want to be like him, and I hope everyone else does too.
I can’t make anybody do anything, so all I can do is encourage. So many people don’t realize that they can help the world by doing little things. Dr. King was once a kid, everyone starts small, that’s how people grow. I can give my kindness, my heart, and everything else to try to get people to give back.
Everyone can make a difference, or help in some way. If everyone works together, we can make the world a better place for now, and for the youth to come.