Announcing the Winners of the 7th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest

Warner Norcross & Judd LLP announced the results of its Seventh Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest.

The contest, which was open to all Grand Rapids Public Schools’ sixth-graders, 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. Over 200 students participated in this year’s competition.

Winners were:
• Jamarius McBride, Riverside Middle School, grand prize
• Kevin O’Neil, Center for Economicology, first runner up
• Andruw Sandy, Riverside Middle School, second runner up

Each winning student will receive a U.S. savings bond and a gift card to a local bookstore. Additionally, 20 students received an honorable mention and will receive a gift card to a local bookstore. All participating students will receive a personalized certificate of completion.

Jamarius McBride has been invited to read his essay at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Community Peace Program on Monday, Jan. 16 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 a opportunity to read their essays at the GRPS Board of Education meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 6, if time permits.

Here are the winning essays.


($300 Savings Bond and $50 Schuler Bookstore Gift Certificate)
Riverside Middle School


            Dr. King challenged us to answer his urgent question, “What are you doing for others?” Dr. King wants us to help from the kindness of our hearts, so have you helped someone yet? I once helped a new kid who had autism. I treated him the same as I would want to be treated. I played with him outside, and I also showed him where to go, to get back to his class. He also helped me. I was having a hard time on a math problem so he helped me figure it out. “What are you doing for others?”

            I know Dr. King would be proud of me. In the next two months I will shovel the snow for the elderly for free. I will also help my Mom without her asking me. When my brother needs watching, I will always help out. I also plan to help with the cooking, cleaning, and washing. Maybe I can help my brothers and sisters with their homework. I want to be the brother my brothers and sisters can look up to in a time of need.

            Dr. King also wanted us to work together to stop violence. If the whole world pitched in and helped out, we would live on a planet without enemies and there would be no need for violence. Dr. King taught me to act without violence. If I get hit I will not hit back. I will just tell an adult. Maybe if everyone helps out we all can be friends and no violence will come. Why should we get hurt for doing the right thing that needs to be done? Fairness must be something that we all get and give.

            I wish I could see Dr. King’s face. If he was here, he would not be pleased at the way some people still treat each other. Some people get into fights and don’t tell. Then when there is a fight, no one tells an adult, but when someone did tell they got teased for telling. It is not fair that people get teased for doing the right thing. We could stop the teasing if we work together as a team and stand up for what is right.

            I plan to honor Dr. King by helping, doing the right thing, and acting without violence. I learned that doing the right thing is good, and if someone is teasing you, tell an adult. Maybe Dr. King’s dream is almost coming true. We all need to help and treat each other fairly. Are You Willing?



($200 Savings Bond and $25 Schuler Bookstore Gift Certificate)
Center for Economocology


            What Dr. King meant by saying “content of character” was to not judge people by the color of their skin, but by what is in their heart. Or another good way of saying that same message would be, to not judge a book by its cover. Plus, if you judge someone by their skin color you’ll miss what a good person they could be, worse you’ll miss what a great friend they could be.

            The content of my character is (well, I’m told) I’m funny, smart, strong, and sadly, I’m sort of a procrastinator. I’m honest because it’s too hard to keep up in lies. I know I’m not perfect and I don’t want anybody to believe I am. I make mistakes (a lot!) and that’s a BIG part of my character! It’s kind of cool how not one of our characters is the same.

            People (if they judged me by my character) would miss a good person. If people judged me by the color of my skin, they would have missed great laughs and a great friend. Like I mentioned before, I’m not perfect, but I’m told I have a good heart. So, my overall thoughts on that question would be, I’m funny and loyal so they’d miss a good friend.

            Dr. King has changed a lot of my life because if it weren’t for Dr. King, I wouldn’t  be able to live with my own father! Just because he has a darker skin tone than I do doesn’t mean he should be treated differently. That was Dr. King’s dream, and I’d like to thank him for me being able to live with my own family! Another example would be our president. Around 1963, having an African American (or anyone who looks tan) as president was a laughing matter!

            Sadly, there are still some folks who haven’t seen the way we have yet. Honestly, I’m not sure why people have to be so harsh to other races. So I think we need to pass on the message to the people who haven’t seen the light. Or more importantly, they haven’t seen what’s inside. My parents told me that’s how they were raised. This is my message to all those people out there who are considered “prejudiced,” you don’t have to carry on that tradition – be your own person! African Americans are regular people just like you and me!

            In closing I think that although some people haven’t seen the light we shouldn’t focus on them, we should focus on our futures!



($100 Savings Bond and $25 Schuler Bookstore Gift Certificate)
Riverside Middle School


            In Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech, I think he meant that people should be treated fairly. Dr. King said, “One hundred years later, the colored American is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.” Dr. King meant that all citizens should be treated fairly and have all the same rights as white citizens.

            If everybody judged me by the color of my skin they would miss how fun I am. They would miss how interested I am in school, and they would miss the fact that if I can put my hands, head, and heart together, I can do anything. I would be very hurt if nobody gave me a chance just because of the color of my skin. I am Hispanic American, but I think he meant us, too. Dr. King spoke for all races and wanted us all to be united.

            In my opinion, Dr. King’s dream has come true in many ways. We have had the first black president in history. Now we have a black candidate running for president against him and he is Herman Cain. Since Dr. King’s time we have had many African American governors of some major states and black mayors in places like New Orleans. Now every citizen of every race is able to vote for whoever they want to. If Dr. King was here today, I bet he would be proud of all of us.

            I will fight for the right to make sure nobody gets judged for the color of their skin. I will devote my life to helping every race, religion, and special needs person. It should not matter what skin color people are or what they believe in. Still, to this day, people get treated wrongly in some ways. People shall not care about what others think but only what they think about their own self. We all were put on their earth for a reason but not to treat other people badly.