More than 2500 6 – 10th graders from throughout Northeast Ohio entered the sixth annual Stop the Hate: Youth Speak Out essay contest created by the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. The contest encourages middle and high school students to focus attention on the corrosive effects of hatred, discrimination, and intolerance while developing critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills. Three finalists from each lower grade level have been chosen and are eligible for cash prizes to be awarded at a ceremony March 13 at Severance Hall.
Finalists in grades 6-10 represent three of the seven eligible counties and twelve different schools. They are:
Carly Conrad Copley-Fairlawn Middle School
Rebecca Oet Orchard Middle School
Jill Klika Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts
Benjamin King Paul L. Dunbar Elementary School
Jeffrey Morgan Academy of Saint Bartholomew
Nolan Weaver Rocky River Middle School
Carter Hyde Eastern Heights Middle School
Jordan Major Roxboro Middle School
Thomas Schill Rocky River Middle School
Gregory Davidson Solon High School
Justin Fitzgerald Cleveland Heights High School
Regina McWillaims Our Lady of the Elms High School
Erin King Magnificat High School
Taylor Jackson Cleveland Heights High School
Madeleine Shutt Cleveland Heights High School
For the past six years, students were asked to describe an act of discrimination, reflect upon how they responded, and put forth a plan of action to affect change. This year, students in grades 6 – 12 were asked to write in 500 words or less about one of the following themes:
- A time you witnessed an act of discrimination or hate toward yourself or someone else
- If you responded, why did you decide to stand up? How can you encourage your peers to do the same?
- If you didn’t respond, why not and what changes might you make to your behavior next time?
Essays are read and scored by more than 200 community volunteers. Jill Rembrandt, Maltz Museum Director of Education and Public Programs, stated, “We are so pleased to be a part of encouraging dialogue about ways to put an end to hate and discrimination in our schools and communities. This year the entries for the essay contest doubled. Every student who entered should feel proud of their effort, as we at the Maltz Museum are proud to have encouraged nearly 4000 Northeast Ohio students just this year to think and talk about what it takes to affect real change.”
Junior and senior scholarship semi-finalists will be announced later in January. The junior or senior with the winning essay will receive a $40,000 Grand Scholarship Prize. First and second runners-up will receive a $15,000 and $10,000 scholarship respectively; and seven honorable mentions will receive a $500 cash prize. In addition to student scholarships, three schools will be eligible to win $10,000 for their schools, to be used specifically toward anti-bias education. The three prize-winning schools will be:
- The school with the grand prize winning entry
- The school with the highest percentage of student entries
- One of 8 CMSD schools chosen to participate in Stop the Hate: Youth Sing Out
The contest is open to public, private, and home-schooled students in Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage and Summit Counties. Juniors and seniors complete for three four-year college scholarships (one each $40,000, $15,000 and $10,000); they and younger students compete for cash prizes, class visits to the Museum, and resource materials for their schools.
About Stop the Hate: Youth Speak Out
The essay contest is a yearly initiative that supports our mission to build bridges of appreciation, tolerance and understanding of persons of all religions, races, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. It reflects Jewish values of responsible citizenship and respect for all humanity by challenging young people to consider the consequences of intolerance and hatred and the role of personal responsibility in affecting change.
The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture.
The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this organization with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.