On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 18, students from five elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school will be honored for winning contests hosted in conjunction with Springfield’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration.
Three SPS students will be recognized as winners of the annual Springfield Public Schools NAACP Martin Luther King Essay Contest. Reed Academy eighth-graders Jade Lashley, Choong (Andrew) An and Cherokee Middle School seventh-grader Khadija Makhloufi wrote the winning essays.
Essays revolved around the theme of marginalization and how Martin Luther King, Jr.’s beliefs might help to combat it in society.
“The dictionary states that marginalization is keeping and/or putting someone in a powerless or unimportant position in a society or group,” Lashley wrote in her essay. “We see this in our daily lives as we walk down the streets of our city, through the halls of our schools and even on social media. It surrounds us like a pack of wolves, hunting down its prey. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘I have decied to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.’ This quote should be more prominent in our society.”
An wrote about his experiences as a theme of his essay. “As a South Korean immigrant to the United States, I encountered many jokes regarding the size of my eyes and my different accent … However, a recent event was one of the first times I was truly marginalized because of my heritage.”
He continued on about the impact and importance of treating everyone equally within a community. “How do we stand as one against segregation and marginalization? The primary objective to standing as one is that we must form a community. In this community, everyone’s voice will be heard and their opinion valued, regardless of their skin color or ethnicity.”
Makhloufi shared her thoughts on marginalization and its impact on her personally in her essay, which called for an end to the practice. “People need to stop judging each other by their race, religion and gender, allowing them to see each other’s true colors and not just their outer shells. Everyone has been judged, but this is the story of the time I was marginalized because of my Islamic faith.”
The three essays were selected by NAACP committee members based on the structure and theme of their essays. The winning students will be recognized on stage at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration at 10 a.m. Monday, Jan. 18, at the Gillioz Theater. In addition to the recognition, each student will receive a $50 gift card.
Elementary students submitted artwork for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Art Contest, co-sponsored by the offices of the NAACP, SPS Diversity & Inclusion, SPS Community Partnerships and SPS Fine Arts. Students were asked to submit an artistic note card that was reflective of this year’s Celebration theme, “We Stand As One.”
The contest’s winners are:
McBride Elementary School
Layla Ellis, first grade
Robberson Community School
Kyla Lewis, fourth grade
Sequiota Elementary School
Catherine Rhoads, fifth grade
Weller Elementary School
Kendahl McCrimmons, second grade
Williams Elementary School
Austin Taylor, fifth grade
Yasmin Claudio, fifth grade
Makydria Harper, fifth grade
In addition, a contest at the high school level was held. Students were asked to submit T-shirt designs for the celebration. The winning submission was created by Zhilin Huang from Glendale High School.