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Students explored “Healing Without Hate” in an essay competition honoring civil rights activist Rosa Parks

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Students in the city of Grand Rapids were recently honored for their contributions to an essay competition aimed at preserving the legacy of civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

This year’s theme was “#Healing Without Hate,” according to Misti Stanton, chair of the Rosa Parks Sculpture Education Committee and Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Mercantile Bank.

Stanton said the theme honors Parks by recognizing and celebrating the impact she has had in promoting change. She said the competition gives students a platform to express themselves.

“It was powerful to see the individual voice that each student brought to how they could impact healing, without hating,” she said. “When you allow people to be seen and heard and their voices heard, then you can collectively find solutions so that we are all respected and exist in our respective communities.

What I hope is that the students understand the impact they made, and that they will care about it and do it in another space; use your voice, experience it, promote it. The work Rosa Parks has championed and the impact she has had is relevant in any space when you talk about equity and inclusion. “

On December 6, in partnership with the Rosa Parks Sculpture Education Committee, the city of Grand Rapids announced the winners of the 2021 essays. The competition committee also unveiled a commemorative video recognizing the notables of Grand Rapids who have advanced civil rights.

Thirteen middle and high school students from the Grand Rapids School District received certificates and monetary awards during a December 2 ceremony for having arrived in first, second or third place in the competition or for having obtained an honorable mention. There were 314 essays submitted.

Parks helped start the civil rights movement in the United States. In 2010, the city dedicated a bronze statue to him downtown at the corner of Peal Street and Monroe Avenue NW. Mounted on a black marble plinth, the bronze statue depicts Parks standing resolutely in front of the famous steel-framed bus seat she refused to cede to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1959.

A panel of 19 community volunteers rated essay submissions in three categories for grades 11-12, 9-10 and 6-8. First place winners received $ 500, second place $ 300, third place $ 200 and honorable mentions recipients received $ 50.

Dani Sadowski, an eighth grader at City High Middle School, won first place for her essay, “Remember Rosa.” She chose an acronym of “Rosa” to signify her heritage.

“I thought about the idea when I was in the Be NICE club because I know the word ‘Nice’, which means to notice, invite, challenge and empower, and so it inspired me to use an acronym for the test, ”Sadowski said. . “It was a great opportunity, and it made me realize that I am a good writer.”

City High Middle School principal Ryan Huppert said he was proud of the essays submitted by their students and their ability to connect academics to something they are passionate about.

Alea Fitzpatrick, a ninth grade student at Westwood Middle School, also won $ 500 for her first essay, “Legacies Help us Lead. In her essay, she talked about being well informed and informed, being an ally and being persistent.

“I especially want to encourage myself and others to reflect these actions, and I want to encourage people to be allies of the black community,” Fitzpatrick said. “Rosa Parks left a great legacy, and if we follow in her footsteps, we can lead by example.”

Ashley Girrado-Tapia, 16, of Union High School, won the award for her essay, “A Voice,” where she highlighted her thoughts on how to impact people’s lives.

“I didn’t have a lot of time to write this, and so when I started to write, all I was interested in was saying what I thought, my truth and my opinion,” Girrado-Tapia said. . “I knew he would be judged and that there would be an award for the top three writers, but I knew; even if I didn’t win, and I couldn’t share my thoughts with others, at least the judges could see my essay and they too could make a difference.

You might not think it will make a big difference, but as long as you’re willing to stand up against it, you can have a much bigger impact on people’s lives than you think. “

City officials said there is an endowment with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation for continuing education on the life of Rosa Parks.

Check out the full list of Rosa Parks Essay Contest winners below:

High school winners (11-12 years old):

A total of 39 qualified essays were received. The judges selected the following Union High School winners:

  • 1st place: Ashley Garrido-Tapia for “A Voice” ($ 500)
  • 2nd place: Giomara Talledo for “The injustice of inequalities” ($ 300)
  • 3rd Place: Shekela Wortham for “The Change Begins With You” ($ 200)
  • Honorable mention: Aisha Mohamed for “Helping our community better” ($ 50)

High school winners (grade 9-10):

A total of 154 qualified essays were received. The judges selected the following City High Middle School winners:

  • 1st place: Dani Sadowski for “Remember Rosa” ($ 500)
  • 2nd place: Alexis Kloet for “Ordinary Remarkable” ($ 300)
  • 3rd place: Ivy Maynard for “Support, Communication and Connection” ($ 200)

Honorable mentions

  • Maize J. Brower for “Where the Journey Continues” ($ 50)
  • Kenaria Marie Drones for “Bandaid” ($ 50)

College Winners (6-8 Grade):

A total of 121 qualified essays were received. The judges selected the following winners from Westwood and Riverside Colleges:

  • 1st place: Alea Fitzpatrick, Westside Middle School, for “Legacies Help us Lead” ($ 500)
  • 2nd Place: Demitrius Ryder, Riverside Middle School, for “Violence is NEVER the Answer” ($ 300)
  • 3rd Place: First Sanders, Riverside Middle School, for “Don’t Waste It! “($ 200)
  • Honorable Mention: Laniyah Mena, Riverside Middle School, for “Hate Doesn’t Work” ($ 50)

To stay up to date on more educational opportunities coordinated by the City of Grand Rapids, visit the website.

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