Winning Essays

First Place: “Contemporary Superhero” by Samarah Bentley, ninth grader at Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle Orleans in New Orleans, LA

Second Place: “My Voice Will Be Heard” by Samantha White, tenth grader at Saint Mary’s Dominican High School in New Orleans, LA

Third Place: “An Educated Population Starts with Students” by Annabel Beatmann, eleventh grader at Ursuline Academy in New Orleans, LA


Honorable Mentions

Ronnie Bergeron, twelfth grader at Jesuit High School in New Orleans, LA

Olivia Boyd, tenth grader at Academy of the Sacred Heart in New Orleans, LA

Carleigh Breaux, ninth grader at Archbishop Hannan High School in Covington, LA

Janey Hynes, eleventh grader at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago, IL

Lauren Linzmeier, eleventh grader at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago, IL

Scott O’Donnell, twelfth grader at Flathead High School in Kalispell, MT

Analise Plunkett, ninth grader at Archbishop Hannan High School in Covington, LA

Lakayiah Prince, twelfth grader at Captain Shreve High School in Shreveport, LA

Clara Reyes, eleventh grader at Mother McAuley High School in Chicago, IL

Christiana Williams, eleventh grader at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, LA




Contemporary Superhero

by Samarah Bentley


In a country where creative suppression, discrimination, and a lack of education are prominent realities, it seems almost impossible not to become a changemaker. Changemakers are the modern day superheroes, and who doesn’t love a good superhero? 

Subconsciously, I keenly observed and began questioning the things around me. I would ask “Where are the black girl superheroes? Why is creative expression deemed unnecessary in schools? Why do people want to silence others who merely want to speak their truths?” These types of questions went on for years, until my mother got tired of hearing it all the time. She told me, “If you want to see more representation or want things to change, I suggest you get started.” That’s when improving the lives of others became my aspiration and my inner superhero developed. I began using my voice more to advocate for others who felt they didn’t have a voice. 

As a member of my school’s student council, I have the power to represent my peers and their concerns. This position gives me the ability to advocate not only for myself, but on behalf of my classmates. My classmates are also superheroes. Together in school, we voice our thoughts and visions and work hard to make those a reality. 

I am a changemaker because I spread messages of capability, perseverance and hope to youth in my community through storytelling and advocacy. For example, after learning about the racial inequalities in how students of color were treated in today’s schools, I sought to research and educate others in my school about this topic. My presentation on racial disparities in education was eye-opening to many. As a result, several of my schoolmates were empowered and eager to help change the way some students were perceived by teachers and administration. Each social issue I address has importance for the community it impacts. I am showing other youth, other black youth, that they can thrive and bring about greatness - because greatness doesn’t care how old you are. I illustrate these same points through my writing and stories, and include a diverse cast of characters and cultures. My writing work incorporates diversity and activism, reflecting real life struggle and success through these character’s lives. My writing enables me to communicate messages in a form many audiences can understand and relate to. 

Just like superheroes gifted with a great power and responsibility, I use my talents and gifts to help people. I am putting my artistic and communication superpowers to use in order to create change. And my goal is to inspire others, no matter how old they are or how they look, to do the same. Whether you implement something on a larger scale or smaller scale, you are changing someone’s life. Changing someone’s life for the better is an accomplishment that you should be proud of. Where would the world be without change makers?




My Voice Will Be Heard

by Samantha White


When I was a little girl, my parents took me on a trip to Memphis, Tennessee. We visited the National Civil Rights Museum. Learning about the African American leaders before me, who made a difference in America, made me proud to be an African American. By visiting the National Civil Rights Museum, I was able to learn more about racism, inequality, and the injustices African Americans endured during the Jim Crow Era. 

During a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, I saw the Lorraine Motel. This was the motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It felt so surreal to be in the same place Dr. King was when he was murdered. My mind brought me back to the 60’s, a time of repulsive police brutality and segregation. I visited the Dexter Avenue Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama. Seeing both of these historical sites was an unforgettable moment for me. 

A few years later, I joined one of Dillard University’s summer programs. At the end of the program, some students were selected for an educational trip to Atlanta. I was one of those fortunate students. While in Atlanta, we toured Spellman, Morehouse, and Clark University. We visited the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park and it included the Ebenezer Baptist Church. When we arrived at the church, we witnessed something beyond terrible. Someone had put four confederate flags in front of the building. Newscasters followed us to the scene. They asked us how we felt about this disgusting hate crime. Every last one of us said how angry it made us feel to look at those flags. To know there were still people trying to degrade African Americans was beyond my belief. It was infuriating to witness the hate and discrimination that was still present in America. 

 I told my grandmother about the incident in Atlanta once the trip was over. She told me she never thought racism would go away. My grandmother dealt with racism when she visited Mississippi. She said the best thing to do in those situations is pray and speak up for what’s right. My grandmother and the students from the Atlanta trip spoke up for what was right. Dr. King died speaking against racism. My way of speaking up is through my participation in my school’s diversity club (Students for Human Dignity and Diversity in Action). I’ve learned more about injustices and the actions necessary to promote change. Dealing with issues involving racism has made me stronger as a student and as an overall person.

Every culture is unique and beautiful and no one deserves to be treated unfairly because of their race. Being a member of diversity club has given me the initiative to fight for what is right. Seeing the difference my voice has made tells me that I must continue fighting for equality. I am the change, and so is my generation.




An Educated Population Starts with Students

by Annabel Beatmann


Less than a year ago, a five minute conversation with a friend changed my attentiveness to the world around me and ultimately altered the way I live my life on a daily basis. Clare is an eighteen year old high school student who I have known for a long time; she does well in school and is now the president of her senior class. In a casual conversation, Clare brought to my attention the startling fact that she would be able to vote in the next presidential election, and she was seriously concerned. She told me she felt not only worried and unprepared but “unequipped with everything she needed to know to be an educated voter.” This stuck with me more than I thought such a seemingly trivial conversation ever could. I realized that I was likely to be in Clare’s position in a year, and that there are millions of teenagers around the country who are probably facing this exact realization. The day after I had this conversation, I actively decided I would take it upon myself to get more involved with what was going on around me, which started with being well-informed. I now listen to the news every day on the way to school, fact-check information, and encourage my peers to do the same. I believe that having these important and current conversations in a classroom setting is not only necessary for the students and their ability to successfully participate in our democracy, but for the health of American civil society as a whole. 

Only nine states and the District of Columbia require a full year of instruction in U.S. Government or Civics. Thirty-one states require a half year, and ten states have no civic education requirement. Most commonly, when students take this required course, it is during a student’s senior year. This means that many students who turn eighteen during election yearshave not even completed their required civics course and therefore feel unprepared to vote. This is an issue because at school, teenagers could be learning about what actually pertains to their lives and futures, while forming and navigating their own political opinions at the same time. Starting these conversations and introducing important issues earlier in students’ careers is a way to make this problem less prominent. This way, students are given information about current events and issues at school, and are encouraged to continue researching them in their own time, eventually making this more normal for teenagers in general. 

Frequent discussion about politics and current events in schools is essential to the formation of young Americans and to the cultivation of well-informed, engaged citizens. It does not take grand, extraordinary experiences for teenagers to get involved in politics; however, it does take conversation. Something as simple as talking about current events in class can not only help students to increase their political efficacy and confidence, but hopefully create more widespread political engagement within younger populations.