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May 15, 2007 > Local student wins national essay contest

Local student wins national essay contest

Submitted By Cathy Renna, Renna Communications, LLC

On May 21st, the National Coalition to Restore Civil Rights will hold a media briefing in New York City with the winners and select runners-up and finalists of their national essay contest, "Does Diversity Matter?" Over 1500 submissions came in from around the country, with young people 12-17 writing essays on the question and kids younger than 12 sending in short quotes about why diversity matter to them.

The essay contest was conceived in response to the Supreme Court's hearing cases that could overturn or curtail historical advancements to promote diversity in schools. These cases mark a turning point in the nation's response to the Court's unanimous 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court ruled that 'separate but equal' has no place in the field of public education.

The essay winner is Jody Leung of Union City. Her essay follows:

Diversity is Our Strength

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter." We must speak out and let it be known that diversity plays a significant role in schools around the United States. The integration of different people in an educational environment has many benefits. Diversity does not only help a student develop into a better individual, but it also allows a community to thrive.

Unlike many other cities in the United States, the San Francisco Bay Area is very diverse. I attend James Logan High School, where there are students of every ethnicity. Our campus is filled with Asians, Caucasians, Latino, African-Americans, and Middle Easterners. We all come from different background and have different skin color, but that is not a problem. It only makes our school stronger.

At the beginning of the school year, my principal announces our motto on the intercom, "Diversity is our strength, unity is our goal." We accomplish this goal everyday by embracing our differences and working together as one. Living in a diverse environment has helped me understand and appreciate people who are different from me. In addition, many students at my school and I have noticed that we achieve our aspirations when we work together as a team. Our different cultures are like puzzle pieces and when we put them together, they are a perfect fit.

Diversity in classrooms is important because it also carries on to the community. In order for a society to flourish, it must have unique characteristics. When students at school are able to work together despite their differences, it will eventually show in society as well. Learning how to cooperate with people who are different from yourself does not only teach patience, but also respect. Many dilemmas that the United States faces today deal with racism, prejudice, or discrimination. When students learn to respect others at a young age, they grow unto individuals that value people of a different race. Furthermore, each and every one of us contributes to society in some way. However, we only notice others' contributions when we open our eyes and our minds. The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open.

A foundation must be set in order to build upon a goal. Brown v. Board of Education was a significant Supreme Court case in our country. It paved the way for integration and the Civil Rights Movement. Without a doubt, these events changed the course of United States history and made America a better place. We must continue to improve not only ourselves, but also the society in which we live in. The support for diversity in school is only a stepping stone that will lead to a better generation in the future. The time is now and we must encourage racial integration in classrooms.

Judges for the contest were: Rev. Al Sharpton, Congresswoman Solis, Los Angeles based civil rights attorney Doreena Wong, former NBA All-star Kevin Johnson, and the American Civil Liberties Union's Director of Racial Justice Program, Dennis Parker.

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