ST. PETERSBURG — Enoch Davis Community Center sponsored its 31st Annual MLK Essay Contest Thurs., Jan. 15 to celebrate the life and legacy of one of our staunch bulwarks for justice and equality, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
After a panel read through a stack of essays written by high school students form Gibbs High School, six finalists were chosen to present their essays and compete for prizes.
Audience members waited to hear what the six students had to say about the impact of Dr. King then and now. Each recipient acknowledged that progress has been made, however, they also emphasized that we have to lock arms and minds together to defeat the cancer of bigotry and racism whenever it surfaces because its sole purpose is to divide and conquer.
Community advocate Charlene Sanders introduced the finalists to the panel of three judges and the audience before they read their essays.
The freshmen and sophomore contestants who presented their essays ranged in age from 14-16 years old. Two 10th graders Evan Randolph, 16, and Aidan Schaffert, 15, both won honorable mention and a cash prize of $25.
Tenth grader Kinah Seu, 15, took third place in the competition to win $75. Freshmen Abigail Altieri, 14, represented her grade with a powerful speech that propelled her to first runner up and a prize of $100.
Sophomore Jason Charos, 16, came in first place with his essay entitled “The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—There is More to Be Done.” He won a $200 cash prize.
“There are still people that long for justice and equality,” read Charos. “There are certain avenues on which change can be driven forward and arrive at men’s hearts.”
In his essay Charos observed that the media must play an important role in the future of social equality:
“The mindset of superiority and of social prejudices are what must come to a complete stop…with wisdom, the media can be used as a tool to improve people’s understanding of a human quality…we must use the media in order to give comments to pictures of justice, equality, love and compassion between all kinds of people to affect attitudes in a positive way.”
Charos was honored with the opportunity to present his essay at the Memorial Service at Greater Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church Sun., Jan. 18 and early Monday morning he and an accompanying adult were able to attend the 29th Annual MLK Leadership Awards Breakfast at the Coliseum.
One finalist, Skyler Tuason, was unable to attend the event due to a prior school commitment.
Jarrish Jones, a program specialist for Youth Build, presided as the Master of Ceremonies, and Andrew Dixon, of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., presented the awards to the finalists.
Sponsors for the event were Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Theta Eta Lambda Educational Foundation and the St. Petersburg Chapter of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Committee.