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This Year’s Winning Authors in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest

The winners and honorable mention recipients in the 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., essay contest for sixth graders in the Grand Rapids Public Schools.

Last evening, Diversity Partner Rodney Martin had the honor of presenting the winners of the firm’s 13th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., essay contest to the Grand Rapids Board of Education. The Grand Prize Winner, R’Mani Belcher, of Riverside Middle School, the First Runner Up, Alayne Anderson, of the Center for Economicology, and the Second Runner Up, Sha’Myah Dixon, also of Riverside Middle School, each read their winning essays at the meeting. In addition, Mr. Martin presented 23 students with certificates of honorable mention and gift cards to Schuler Books and Music.  The essay contest drew 342 essay submissions by students from 16 different schools in the Grand Rapids Public Schools Systems.  You can read the winner essays here.

 

R’mani Belcher, Riverside Middle School, Grand Prize Winner, Sha’Myah Dixon, Riverside Middle School, Second Runner-up, and Alayne Anderson, Center for Economicology, First Runner-up

MLK Essay Contest Winners Recognized by the Grand Rapids Board of Education

Last evening, the Grand Rapids Board of Education recognized the winners and honorable mention recipients in this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.  Rodney Martin, the firm’s Diversity Partner, introduced the winners, who each had an opportunity to read their essay during the public meeting.  Mr. Martin then introduced each of the 24 honorable mention recipients, who came forward to receive their awards.  You can read the winning essays here.

This was the 12th year that Warner Norcross & Judd has conducted the essay contest for sixth graders in the Grand Rapids Public Schools.  Over 300 students from 12 different middle schools submitted essays that responded to one of three prompts concerning the legacy of  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The essays were read and judged by over 50 attorneys and staff members at Warner.  Here are photos of the winners, and the honorable mention recipients.

The Winners of the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest (left to right): Tess Cepaitis, Grand Prize, Riverside Middle School; Myaja Dunning, 1st Runner Up, Gerald R. Ford Academic Center; and Carmen Perdomo, 2nd Runner Up, Southwest Community Campus

The Winners of the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest (left to right): Tess Cepaitis, Grand Prize, Riverside Middle School; Myaja Dunning, 1st Runner Up, Gerald R. Ford Academic Center; and Carmen Perdomo, 2nd Runner Up, Southwest Community Campus

The winners and honorable mention recipients in the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.

The winners and honorable mention recipients in the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.

Warner Norcross Announces Winners of MLK Essay Contest

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a major impact on the lives of many and his legacy still rings true today. This year, Warner Judd Norcross LLP asked sixth grade students in Grand Rapids to enter an essay contest to discuss the lasting impacts of his legacy. Now in its 12th year, the contest asks students to explore the work of Dr. King. Students wrote about the impact he had on equal rights in society, a conversation they would have with Dr. King or the impact of one of his many famous quotes has had on their lives. The competition is open to all sixth graders in the Grand Rapids Public Schools district.

This year the firm received 314 essay submissions from 10 different schools. Essays were judged by more than 50 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.

This year’s winners are:

  • Tess Cepaitis, Riverside Middle School, Grand Prize
  • Myaja Dunning, Gerald R. Ford Academic Center, First Runner-Up
  • Carmen Perdomo, Southwest Community Center, Second Runner-Up

Each winning student will receive a a gift card to Schuler Books and Music.  Additionally, 24 students from seven schools received honorable mention recognition. They each will receive a gift card to Schuler Books and Music. Every student who submitted an essay will receive a certificate of participation.Cepaitis and all winners are invited to attend the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Program held Jan. 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Fountain Street Church. All winners will be recognized by their peers and parents and listen to Cepaitis read her winning essay.

The grand prize winner and, if time permits, the two runners-up will be given an opportunity to read their essays at the GRPS Board of Education meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20. Warner Norcross Diversity Partner Rodney Martin will be in attendance at both programs to introduce the winners.

Here are the winning essays:

Grand Prize Winner

 Tess Cepaitis

Riverside Middle School

Ms. Holt’s Sixth Grade Class

“Silence”

 Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 This quote has had an impact on my life as well as on the lives of others. Kids in school struggle with this situation as well as adults in society where witnesses to crimes and other bad things stay silent out of fear. Most people would like to step up and do the right thing, but they are afraid. We need to get some guts and do what Dr. King suggested.

I remember a time when I stayed silent. It was a gloomy day when I was in the third grade. We had gone outside for recess, and the snow was covering the wood chips and play things. A quiet girl sat on the cold swings a couple of yards from me as I was making a snow angel. A boy ran over to the girl demanding that she give up her swing. She refused, quietly telling him there were lots of swings open. He pushed her off the swing into the snow. She stood up and her pants were soaked. The girl tried to wipe the slushy snow from her pants, I don’t know why, but I just went to the other side of the playground and kept making snow angels. After the lunch bell rang, I just walked back into the building and left her standing there all miserable and cold. The whole time I was thinking, You should have done something! You should have helped her! But I did nothing.

Ever since that day, the experience has haunted me. I still feel the same shame I did then when I remained quiet. Now I try to speak up for what is right and stop things like this at school, at the park, and everywhere I go. I now realize that I need to stop a bully’s tauntings right as they start instead of silently letting them happen. Every word we speak or don’t speak can make an impact. Dr. King tried to tell us that, and finally, I am listening.

 

1st Runner Up

Myaja Dunning

Gerald R. Ford Academic Center

Mr. Gleason’s Sixth Grade Class

 “The Quote I Like the Most”

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This is my favorite quote from MLK because it really spoke to me. It told me that if a person says something mean to me, they are just bringing darkness. But if you say something back to them you are bringing more darkness. It’s like the saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.”

This quote makes a positive difference in my life because I used to get called mean names all the time. I don’t let that bother me because I’m not going to hold a grudge or bring darkness into the problem. The only way you can bring light into the problem is if you bring light and positivity into the problem. This quote helps me make a positive difference in the lives of my family and friends by encouraging me to be positive as much as possible. There are times when I may disagree with someone close to me, but that does not mean I have to be negative or dark about the situation. Reflecting on this quote encourages me to think positively about the situation, even if it may not be in my favor. It’s important to think about, and to consider, other peoples’ points of view, as it shows that you embrace diversity of thought.

Negativity breeds negativity, which is why it’s so important to be a beacon of light, positivity, and love through all circumstances. People tend to feel and feed off of positive energy. If more people can change their attitudes toward more positive thoughts, the world would be on track to become a better place, just as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. envisioned it.

In an effort to make the world a better place, we should aim to drive out hate by filtering in positivity and love. Dr. King said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” I think people can look up to this quote.

 

2nd Runner Up

Carmen Perdomo

Southwest Community Campus

Ms. Quinlan’s Sixth Grade Class

“Judge Yourself First”

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a civil rights activist who believed in equal rights for all. He changed American History

I believe in equal rights. I believe that everyone deserves equality regardless of the color of their skin, the place they are from or the things they believe in. I know it is difficult for certain people to believe in equal rights, but I have a few things to say that just might make them change their minds.

It’s important for people to have equal rights regardless of race, color or beliefs because equality is freedom. Free of worry, free to travel and free to be whom you are when it comes to your beliefs. Being free is important; equal rights make you free.

It’s difficult for certain people to believe in equal rights. For example, some Americans believe if you aren’t from America you don’t have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Why does where we are born change the word ‘equal’ to ‘unequal’? I believe these people are wrong. The places we are or where we were in the past may define culture and traditions, but they don’t define our character. We all have hearts and care; that makes every single human being equal.

I would say the following to someone who doesn’t believe in equal rights: I think you may not believe in equal rights because of how the world is separated into different places. You may think all of the different places people come from means they are different. Like maybe you think they have different hearts, different ways to show kindness and different minds. It doesn’t. No matter our color, race or believes we are all the same. Human.

At the end of the day, regardless of race, color or beliefs, we all are the same. Nothing else but our character tells us who we are as people. If you’re going to judge, quietly judge yourself. Judging is a sign of lack of character. Be friendly, be nice, be peaceful, be willing, be someone who believes in equal rights.

I leave you to think about the following quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.:

I look to the day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

A Letter to Dr. King

Twanyea Smith, the winner of this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., reads his Grand Prize winning essay at the Community Celebration to honor Dr. King on January 18, 2016.  To read Twanyea’s essay and those of the other students honored in the competition, click here. Twanyea is a student in Ms. Emily Holt’s class at Riverside Middle School. (Be patient. The video takes a while to load.)

The essay contest, which is in its 11th year, is open to all sixth-graders at Grand Rapids Public Schools.  Winners are selected by the attorneys and staff of Warner Norcross & Judd LLP.

Winners of the 11th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest

Warner Norcross & Judd LLP has announced the results of its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest.  The contest, which is in its 11th year, is open to all sixth-graders at Grand Rapids Public Schools.  Students are 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 297 entries from students at 10 schools.

The winners of this year’s contest are:

  • Twanyea Smith, Riverside Middle School, Grand Prize
  • Dayshawn Fields, Riverside Middle School, 1st Runner Up
  • Niko Hinzmann, Center for Economicology, 2nd Runner Up (tie)
  • Kanyia Brown, Riverside Middle School, 2nd Runner Up (tie)

Each of the winners receives a certificate of deposit and a gift card to Schuler Books and Music.  Additionally, 20 students from 5 schools received honorable mention recognition. They each will receive a gift card to Schuler Books and Music.

The essays were judged by more than 50 Warner Norcross attorneys and staff from across the State of Michigan. The essays we judged according to Michigan Education Assessment Program guidelines for narrative writing.  The essays were evaluated for ideas, organization, style and conventions.

The Grand Prize winner has been invited to read his essay at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration program at 6 p.m. on January 18, at the Grand Rapids Community College Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse.  In addition, the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education will recognize all of the winners and the students who received honorable mention at the Board’s meeting on Monday, February 2, 2016.

Congratulations to all of the students who participated in this year’s essay contest and to their teachers.  The winning essays appear below:

 Grand Prize Winner

Twanyea Smith

Ms. Holt’s class at Riverside Middle School

“A Letter to Dr. King”

Dear Dr. King,

Most of the seven billion people on the earth still miss you. Even though you are in a better place, I know you would be willing to help us out like you did in the 1960s. I have to give you credit because even though the world is not a perfect place to be in, you put a giant footstep toward equality in the world. People should keep remembering what you did for our country. You always knew that the most dangerous condition for people is ignorance. Many people have forgotten this, so of course there are some groups of people going against what you stood for.

Now, my question for you is: Would you do it all over again? I can take a pretty good guess that you would. Your answer would be yes because you care for all of the people on this earth today. What I don’t know is what you would advise us to do about Isis and the terrorist people killing innocent ones. What about people who think that only one kind of life matters? Do you think your non-violent approach would work in 2015-16? Many of us are trying it, but nothing positive is happening. People keep getting killed every day.

Dr. King, I’m not trying to ruin your non-violent dream, but in 2015, it is not working out so well. Back then did you have so many people with anger management issues? We do. Some people with anger issues today didn’t learn your non-violence. They will hit back, shoot back, do anything to get revenge. I need some advice to help our world. Getting advice from you is like getting advice from Stephen Curry on shooting a basketball.

Well, Dr. King, I guess I’d better close now. I sure appreciate you taking the time to read my letter in heaven. So Dr. King, I will think of you when I am in a heated situation. I will ask myself what you would do or say. Hopefully I can see you in person in heaven one day.

 

1st Runner Up

Dayshawn Fields

Ms. Holt’s class at Riverside Middle School

“Betrayal and Beyond”

            Do you stick up for those in need? A powerful statement by Dr. Martin Luther King says it all, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” If you have a friend, and somewhere down the road that friend needs your help but you don’t offer it, what would Dr. King have to say to you?

There is a main reason that this statement has so much impact on my life. My dad hasn’t been in my life permanently, and I haven’t seen him in a long time. I text him, but he doesn’t reply. While he hasn’t betrayed me physically where I don’t see him at all, he has not been available when it would possible for him to be. He has betrayed his son, a thing Dr. King would not be very fond of. I still love my dad, that’s a thing Dr. King would be exceptionally proud of.

From my experiences, and my studies of the wonderful Dr. King, I feel that someday I will be able to have a positive impact on my family by being the best father I can be. I don’t ever want it said of me that my children suffered the silence of betrayal. I don’t want my children to have their father not there when they are going through the difficult or stressful times. Kids need their dads when they first enter preschool, or when they make their first sports team. Event things like relationships can use advice from a father. Then there’s the start of high school and college with no father figure around for support and love. I don’t want any of those negative possibilities.

Dr. King would be very proud of those looking out for others, and he would be very thankful to those putting others in front of themselves. He would also be very appreciative of those who defend America. These include all the military groups, SWAT teams, our local policies officers, and of course, the mighty firefighters. They do their jobs, just like Dr. King did. He spent his life defending America from itself.

While I gave a negative example of the impact this statement has had on my life, it also has provided me a positive one. Dr. King’s words remind me how important it is to be there for others. It must have had the same effect on many other people, so for those of you who are always there, especially when you are needed the most, what would Dr. King have to say to you? I think he would say, “Well done!”

2nd Runner Up (tie)

Niko Hinzmann

Mrs. Phillips class at the Center for Economicology

“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

 

You don’t have to look very far back in history to see that things were very different. People of color were strongly discriminated against, even after years of being enslaved. Some may find it hard to believe that a person would be treated so unfairly just because of the color of their skin. Sadly people were and sometimes still are.

Not only are people of color discriminated against though. Even something as simple as having a different believe from someone can get you treated in an unfair manner. It’s not fun to think about, but people even today discriminate unfairly. Everyone deserves equal rights in my eyes. If we want the world to live in peace and harmony we cannot be racist or closed-minded. Being open-minded is an important life skill that you will need to live a successful life.

Throughout your life you will need to work with people of different races that possess different believes. If you want to get things done, you have to be accepting and have open arms for equal rights. Some people have troubles with grasping this concept. Not everyone thinks that everyone should have equal rights. Lots of older people are still racist because of how and when they were raised. People tend to have the same morals and ways of raising their children as their parents. If you grew up in a racist and closed-minded household, you tend to think in that unfair way.

You don’t even have to be older to have these ways of thinking. Often times children grow up to be racist because their parents were racist. If all you hear while you’re growing up is negativity and racism, you grow up to be that way. No one is born racist; you are simply raised that way.

Equality and equal rights for everyone will take lots of time, but I do believe it’s possible. Many people in my neighborhood are racist and rude to those of whom have different beliefs from them. Instead of getting upset with them for their ways of thinking, feel bad that they aren’t accepting and won’t be able to experience great things in life because of how they view others who are different.

If you feel like you want to help others see how beautiful equality can be, don’t force it on them. Force can lead to violence, and like how Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed, violence is not the answer. Don’t get mad if you can’t help the person, just hope that they will see how amazing equal rights can be.

You don’t even have to say anything; be a silent role model for those around you.

Even if you’re the only person you know who supports equal rights 100%, don’t ever change that part of yourself. Just because you’re standing alone doesn’t mean you have to change what you believe is right. You shouldn’t be embarrassed of supporting equality; be proud. Stand tall and support equal rights!

 

2nd Runner Up (tie)

Kanyia Brown

Ms. Holt’s class at Riverside Middle School

 “The Unseen Staircase”

            Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., what are we going to do with all this violence in our world? You once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” I need to keep this in mind when I look around at our world.

To me, your words mean believing in something that you’ve never actually seen before. Violence is killing our world; darkness and evil are eating up our lives. People are shooting at students in schools, bombing cities, and fighting each other. People are abusing their kids and some are raising them to hate anyone with skin colors that are different than theirs. I need to keep believing that there are solutions to these problems. I hope we have enough time an courage to figure out what they are.

My teacher says that we often live what we learn. Dr. King, sometimes you can’t change what’s already in someone’s head. Some people are taught to hate others that are different than they are, like a different race than theirs. We have too many people who use guns in the wrong ways or situations. But if you think about it, we need to have the power to protect ourselves too. But not in the wrong way. We have to defeat them with our power. That power is kindness.

Rose Parks and Dr. King both were always kind even when  they were fighting injustice. Rose Parks fought for her seat because she thought it was unfair for African-Americans to be required to sit in the back of public buses, but she wasn’t the unkind one.

Dr. King, you once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” I know it was dark back then, and it’s still dark now. We need the light you shed a long time ago to come back.

I’m just a 6th grader at Riverside Middle School. At my school, our behavior specialist, Mr. Smiley, just had a terrible thing happen in his life. His son recently died in a car crash and I feel for him. I know he wouldn’t want me to keep on feeling back; he would want me to focus on school. He’s always trying to keep us all focused and positive each day. I know these things happen in life; life is imperfect. Yet, even when you, Martin Luther King, was in a horrible situation, you tried to remember to see the whole picture even when it wasn’t done yet.

I hope I can hold on to my belief that faith in good things will carry me through all the rest of my life. I hope I can be like you and see the whole staircase and have trust with every step I take.

MLK Essay Contest Winners Recognized at the GRPS Board of Education Meeting

The winners of Warner Norcross & Judd’s 10th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest were recognized at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Education of the Grand Rapids Public Schools.  Diversity Partner Rodney Martin introduced the three contest winners, who each had the opportunity to read their essays to the Board.  In addition, Mr. Martin introduced each of the 22 honorable mention students to the Board.  Vice President Slade invited each of the students to come forward to shake hands with members of the Board.

The 2015 winners of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.  (From left to right) Second Runner Up Demarus Jackson (Riverside Middle School), First Runner Up Tanya Floyd (Riverside Middle School), and Grand Prize Winner Bodie Bickford (The Center for Economicology)

The 2015 winners of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest. (From left to right) Second Runner Up Demarus Jackson (Riverside Middle School), First Runner Up Tanya Floyd (Riverside Middle School), and Grand Prize Winner Bodie Bickford (The Center for Economicology)

The winners and honorable mention recipients in this year's Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.

The winners and honorable mention recipients in this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.