With the theme of "The Beloved Community Begins Here," more than 225 students from second through 12th grades in 15 area schools presented their thoughts about their dream for the beloved community, and what they can do to bring it about.
This is the 10th year of the essay contest sponsored by the University of Illinois Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Symposium and coordinated by the Center for Education in Small Urban Communities in the College of Education. Since 2003, more than 2,500 local students have been challenged to examine the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King in their lives, and their role in social justice.
Twenty-four readers from across campus volunteered their time to ensure that each entry was read several times. Submissions included essays, poems, multimedia presentations and artwork. Judges selected five winners and five honorable mentions in each of four grade divisions: 2-3, 4-5, middle school and high school.
Here is a look at the students honored for their work in the 2012 Martin Luther King Jr. writing contest, listed by student, school and teacher:
Anisha Gubba, Booker T. Washington Elementary, Mayer; Teja Guntupalli, B.T. Washington, Mayer; Sher Amer, Campus Middle School for Girls, Nolen; Ellen Loucks, Edison Middle School, Kuppler; Leland Jackson, Jefferson Middle School, Baird; Regan Christensen, South Side Elementary, Browning; Ben Corum, South Side, Browning; Rowan Enstrom, Stratton Elementary, Newman; Audrey Simone, Stratton, Newman; Courtnie Hilson, Stratton, Snyder; Gloria Park, Stratton, Uppinghouse; Riley Smith, Stratton, Uppinghouse; Ethan Simpson-Palmer, Stratton, Uppinghouse; Lihi Catriel, Stratton, Uppinghouse; Jefferson Fu, University Laboratory High, Mitchell; Jazmin Tweedle, Uni, Rayburn; Lawrence McMillion, Urbana High, McDermott; Macenzie Olmo, Urbana High, McDermott; Justen Ettel, Urbana High, McDermott; Catherine Cruikshank, Urbana High, McDermott; Zina Dolan, Urbana Middle School, Searing; Aja Trask, Urbana Middle School, Searing.
Lyndon Pelmore, Stratton, Newman; Mayahuel Butierrez Malik, Stratton, Uppinghouse; Donghwan Lee, Stratton, Uppinghouse; Grace Song, Stratton, Uppinghouse; Maria Heller, Stratton, Uppinghouse; Cynthia Nyemitei, Academic Academy, O'Connor; Madelyn Childress, B.T. Washington, Mayer; Alexia Popa, B.T. Washington, Mayer; Andrea Cunningham, Campus Middle School, Nolan; Sierra Trammel, Campus Middle School, Nolan; Rebecca Hanks, Campus Middle School, Nolan; Samantha Porter, Circle Academy, Miller; Jack Dryden, Jefferson, Baird; Chris Walker, Jefferson, Ramirez; Cole Anderson, Robeson Elementary, Reger; Daniel Scott, Unity East Elementary, Garrison; Saul Downie, Urbana High, Dahlke; Hannah Burnett, Urbana High, McDermott; Dominick Mosley, Urbana High, McDermott; Brishaun Cunningham, Wiley Elementary, Endsley.
Here are excerpts from some of the top essays and poems:
Anisha Gubba, B.T. Washington, Grade 5, Mayer
People litter because they have no sense of pride in their community. When they find numerous pieces of litter at a place, they think that it won't make a difference if they throw one more piece of litter. In clean places, they don't want to throw litter on the ground because it would then make the place look dirty. Actually, it makes the same difference to the world no matter where you litter. In the year of 2009, we were careless enough to throw such an ample amount of plastic water bottles on the ground to be able to go around the world 10 times! Just NEVER try to litter. This is why littering affects the beloved community and how we can help it to cease with community service. If we all put an effort, then we can help our locality immensely.
Teja Guntupalli, B.T. Washington, Grade 5, Mayer
Do you want to solve global warming? If you do, then adapt to alternative sources of energy which are cleaner and safer for the environment. Reduce the production of greenhouse gases by reducing the consumption of fossil fuels.
One way you can solve global warming is to reduce usage of vehicles and wherever possible walk or use a bike.
Use energy-efficient appliances.
Change all the light bulbs to energy-efficient light bulbs or lower-watt bulbs.
You can also Reduce-Recycle-Reuse.
Sher Amer, Campus Middle School for Girls,
Grade 8, Nolen
The Children of the East
There is a city way in the east,
where the children do not get enough to eat.
I come from this city; it is my hometown,
I cannot bear to see these children frown.
Poverty, it is the reason,
these children don't get enough to eat each season.
Imagine drunk parents, who don't care about you,
being beaten up each day for something new.
You wake up at the crack of dawn,
begging on the street all day long.
Your stomach is rumbling and you are parched,
wondering what you did to deserve this terrible life.
This problem I shall address,
even if it causes me a lot of stress.
I shall allocate money and persuade,
other citizens to donate.
I'll give these children a helping hand,
for all the injustice they have to withstand.
Ellen Loucks, Edison Middle School, Grade 7, Kuppler
A perfect community is where people don't overstress the idea of grades. For that to be possible, I believe we can encourage instead of pressure students worried about academics. That way, they'll know we aren't expecting them to be perfect, but expecting them to simply try their best, that a B+ isn't the end of the rope. We can also help those kids who believe they are smarter than everybody else by somehow convincing them to take the idea of grades easier. I believe they're simply taking grades much more seriously than other kids, making them so competitive about school. Therefore, using these techniques could make our community a much better, stress-free place, with kids feeling comfortable about themselves, securely knowing no one will harass them over one little bad grade.
Leland Jackson, Jefferson Middle School, Grade 8, Baird
Everyone dreams of being in a beautiful community, but everyone can't. There is no such thing as a perfect community, but I can definitely try my best to make it one. My community is very good but not perfect. It's very dark at night due to no street lights, and because of that more accidents and fatalities can occur. I plan to change that. I will shovel my neighborhood this coming winter to raise money to put street lights in the community so that I can make it a better place.
Regan Christenson, South Side, Grade 3, Browning
Not enough local food here,
Trucks have to ship our produce.
Not enough gardens near,
Homes don't have our local fruit juice.
Plant more gardens by parks,
By our homes and schools.
By working together we'll hit our mark,
Fruits and vegetables are cool.
By building a community that really does care,
Then we'll have a harvest to share.
Ben Corum, South Side, Grade 3, Browning
I've looked to find the word beloved in the dictionary. The word means dear to the heart. Dr. King tried to bring people together by helping them be friends and dear to the heart.
I did not know that there are homeless people in Champaign, but my mom told me that there are. I think people that are homeless don't feel dear to the heart because they don't have a place to live.
I know a way to help homeless people. We need to give homeless people a safe place to stay so they feel dear to the heart. My church has a place for women called Austin's Place. My mom volunteers at Austin's Place by staying overnight. I miss her when she is gone, but I know she makes the homeless women feel dear to the heart.
Audrey Simone Mullins, Stratton, Grade 4, Newman
Every day, lots of people suffer from hunger and homelessness. And that's just making your risk of dying very high. Every human needs three meals a day. So to help prevent these are some things you can do. You can:
— Have a fundraiser.
— Raise canned food with your school, club, group, job or church.
— Tell your friends about this situation.
— Put lots of hope and effort into it.
If you really believe and dream you can accomplish this situation.
Ask ... a local church that you've raised cans and they should cook them (then invite a homeless person to come.)
If you see a homeless person, you should give them your fundraising money. That would mean a lot to them!
Courtnie Hilson, Stratton, Grade 5, Snyder
If you have an elderly neighbor and they have a pet and you are just plain bored or you just want to be polite and help, you can go to that neighbor's door and offer to walk the dog. Even if they offer you money, you don't have to take the money. You can just be polite and say "no thank you, you can keep the money" and then go home.
Jefferson Fu, University Laboratory High, Grade 11, Mitchell
I believe I can contribute to solving the problem of poverty by serving the community with love and devotion. I am planning to work with some friends and our school counselor to create a club through which we can increase the awareness of problems of poverty and social justice in Champaign-Urbana and help the poor by volunteering at the New Covenant Fellowship soup kitchen. I am also going to talk to my neighborhood friends to organize events in the area to collect food, clothes and toys around Thanksgiving and Christmas to donate to some of the local soup kitchens for the benefits of the needy.
Jazmin Tweedle, Uni, Grade 8, Rayburn
In my community, there are many problems that affect the well-being and happiness of everyone that lives here, such as poverty, economical challenges, and lack of jobs, to name a few. However, there is one recurring problem that resides in many (if not all) schools: bullying. When someone witnesses bullying, the first step should be to go tell a teacher/adult. There is a fine line between retaliating in a negative way to the bully and standing up for yourself. Once an adult is notified of a situation, someone knows about the bully and bullying and can effectively deal with the problem. How can bullying be solved if the people that can really make a difference aren't aware of what's happening?
Lawrence McMillion II, Urbana High, Grade 12, McDermott
Everyone in the society should work together to eliminate racial profiling. In the end, it causes death, hatred and pain to others, because at the end of the day, we are all human beings, only difference is the shade or color of our skin. We are all equal and should have the same opportunities and rights in life as the next person regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or social class. I never understood why minorities are targeted, if it is because of crimes committed; if you read and study the statistics, most every one of all ethnicities commit crimes, yet not everyone within a particular race are criminals.
Macenzie Olmo, Urbana High, Grade 12, McDermott
Martin Luther King Jr. not only wanted to achieve social justice, he wanted to achieve a beloved community. We as community members must ask ourselves do we really want the same things in order to promote change in our community. Although this is a college community and thus is extremely multicultural with students from all over the world, we are still a very disconnected community. We must embrace our differences in order to become more connected.
Justen Ettelt, Urbana High, Grade 12, McDermott
Dr. Martin Luther King cited the image of the "beloved community" as a powerful force in his nonviolent protests against the racial social structures of his times. In his words, "the end there is redemption and reconciliation. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community." The members of such a community would be connected by ties of affection and committed to the cause of justice. As an American and a human being, we should all focus on living out King's powerful words. It is our responsibility to care for one another and not discriminate against others, no matter their background, race, religion, physical features or nationality. We should all strive to uphold King's words and create this "beloved community" not only for ourselves, but our future generations.
Catherine Cruikshank, Urbana High, Grade 12, McDermott
A beloved community is one in which there is no hate, there is no judgment, no danger, and equal job opportunities. The community in which we live, though positive in its progress, has a long way to go before it can be considered beloved. My solution to helping our community become beloved is to advocate for the rights of gender-variant individuals through better educating the public on gender-variance, in hopes that it will help them understand gender-variant individuals. I choose to do this, because discrimination against gender-variant individuals creates a hostile and unfair living environment, and causes discrimination in the workplace, thus preventing the community from being truly beloved.
Zina Dolan, Urbana Middle School, Grade 7, Searing
Dictionary.com defines tolerance as "a fair, objective and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own." This is true, but I feel tolerance is so much more. It is asking, listening and observing another's ways so one can better understand that person. Tolerance is the unknown becoming the known. Tolerance is appreciating, respecting and empathizing with others. Tolerance is valuing diversity and accepting differences.
Aja Trask, Urbana Middle School, Grade 7, Searing
My dream of a beloved community is breathtaking. My dream would be that everyone would try to play a part in our community. Our community would help clean up our area and make homes for the homeless. People in the community would try to help each other instead of going against each other because of race, lifestyle or their looks. Somewhere, that is a healthy environment for all ages of people. My dream would be of a place where people encourage each other and don't put them down or make fun of stuff they can't change. My dream is of a community where you're only judged by your heart.