Essay Contest Essay Contest
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CONTESTS CLOSED and will Begin Oct 1, 2019:

Who is eligible? All students in North Texas,  in 4th through 12th grade.
When does it end? Friday, Dec 14, 2018.
What are prize amounts? Prizes will range between $25-$250. 
Where do I send my Essay entry? LISD offices, your teacher will arrange.
How large an essay is permitted? See contest rules.

Excerpts from 2015 MLK Essay Winners

First Place 4: David Thang, Lakeland, Mrs. Collinsworth 
Every day we hang out with people that are not the same culture as we are, but we still make good friends. Look at us right now. We are playing and joining hands with every child, no matter what color they are. I live in a very diverse community …Together we can make the world a better place and we can still live the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Second Place 4: Sarah Morrissey, Liberty, Mrs. Pool 
Martin Luther King stood for love, peace, hope, equality and making American dreams come true... MLK lived those every day… He showed us that not only is being different good, but that it makes the world a better place. Why not see and appreciate the diversity in our beloved community?  

Third Place 4: Bianca Lopez, Lakeland, Mrs. Collinsworth 
Thanks to Martin Luther King, Jr. we can explore different traditions and cultures that we never would have before. I have so many friends that are not like me… To make friends, you have to use some things Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted like love peace, together and caring. You need all of these things to have a good friendship with someone who is not like you. That is why our beloved community is Awesome!

First Place 5: Joshua Smith, B. B. Owen, Mrs. Watt
Dr. King believed in a “Beloved Community” where all people shared the wealth. Poverty, hunger and homelessness would not happen because people’s goodness would not allow it. He believed racism and prejudice could be replaced by “the love in sisterhood and brotherhood”... 

Second Place 5: Paige Brown, B. B. Owen, Mrs. Watt
Martin Luther King thought that all people should be treated equal no matter who they were. He thought that the equality of people should be reached by using education and other peaceful ways. My community has carried on part of his philosophy by creating and supporting anti-bullying programs for kids at school and in the community… I think this shows how our beloved community has learned to use one of Martin Luther King’s ideas for an issue that is happening to us now that is similar to what happened in the past… 

Third Place 5: Helena Hawi, Vickery, Mrs. Stokes
Our beloved community is the greatest place to be! We have different cultures which change how we are… This is why our community is the best. We don’t treat people rude and mean because of our differences. Our differences make our community special...Diversity creates unity in the community.  
FIRST PLACE: Zoe Mertz, Downing, Mrs. Clements
One person smiles and another smiles back. In that moment there is a human connection. In a smile, it doesn’t matter what race you are because in that moment you belong to the Beloved Community… Embracing those that are different creates Dr. King’s Beloved Community. Our nation has always been a nation of diversity, with people from all over the world who have different abilities and disabilities, living in harmony. 
SECOND PLACE: Yasmeen Siddiqi, Lamar Middle, Mrs. Robertson
The community is a box of sweets mixed with sour candies… Knowing about the past and the present, I know that our family has expanded with love but also hate. There is still sour in the sweet… My family is beautiful. The sweet will always overpower the sour.
THIRD PLACE: Emma Adair, Downing Middle, Mrs. Leverett
In order to find people like us, first we identify who we are. Then, we compare everyone against that standard. We create stereotypes to speed up the process. Are all Asians good at Math? Are all Europeans privileged? Are all Jewish people good with money? 
FIRST PLACE: Asees Sarkaria, Hedrick Middle, Mrs. Large
The dream of a beloved community is a tough task to achieve even after decades of sorrow and loss… If we could embrace each other with our unique differences we could build a strong foundation for a Beloved Community.
SECOND PLACE: Mariah Wheeler, Lamar Middle, Mrs. Hatcher
You can compare creating a Beloved Community to conducting a science experiment. In an experiment, different elements are combined to make one product. Without each element, the outcome would not work. Without our differences, the amazing potential we have will not function. 
THIRD PLACE: Aryel Jacques, Downing, Mrs. Phan
A community is a like a puzzle. In order to create the desired picture all the pieces must be different… Each and every piece has its own significance and serves its own purpose. Pieces with intricate color design are equally important as pieces of solid color… Today, our communities are composed of so many parts that there is a place for everyone to thrive and succeed. 
Diversity in our community is very important because if we don’t learn to come together on a lower scale, the probability of becoming one world is drastically slim… Applying King’s ways to our communities worldwide would decrease the racial divide and ethnic segregation. 
When I hesitate to help someone, I think of one thing. This person may discover the medicine that saves my life someday. This person could be the one that fabricates the revolutionary idea that rids us of economic problems. This person may be the greatest leader that brings us to eternal world peace. But only if I help him. Because if I don’t help them right here and right now I am demolishing their potential…
There is diversity in everything else in our community and there doesn’t seem to be a problem with it… When man finally rids itself of revenge, aggression, and retaliation in our lives we can truly live in a diverse community.

FIRST PLACE: Abigail Henderson, TCHS, Janet Shideler
This particular concept of diversity is so embedded into our being that we don’t even realize that we see it everywhere, but it wasn’t always this way. About 50 years ago, the global diversity we have today was non-existent. Racism was rampant across our country… I see Dr. King’s work in my everyday life. And so we are. We are free from the horrid racism of our past and we can now embrace and enjoy the diversity we have.
FIRST PLACE: Raashi Kulshrestha, FMHS, Mrs. Knowles
Impressionable young girl goes to school every day where she engages in the same learning experience as the white girl behind her and the black boy in front of her… She is a child oblivious to the battles fought, the stands taken, and the displays of courage that got her here today… The broad perspective of gradual change in civil rights can be compared to that of a pawn moving across a game board towards finish line. Simply put, the finish line is Dr. King’s Beloved Community.  
SECOND PLACE: Myles Wheeler, Marcus, Mrs. McKnelly
Dr. King envisioned a beloved community being a place where each person is viewed and valued as an individual… First, there is abundance of diversity within our communities, consisting of various ethnicities, religions, and genders… Then, the challenge is to stand up courageously and break the silence of tolerating inequalities within our community… Finally, the most significant aspect of creating a beloved community is a changed heart.
FIRST PLACE: Michael L. Davis, Marcus, Ms. McLeod
The goal of people working together is to increase individual self-esteem, understanding, and appreciation of others in our society and deepen concern for the needs of all people in our world…
When we love one another in our families that is a glimpse of the beloved community. When we care for one another that is a glimpse of the beloved community. When we see justice in our world that is a glimpse of the beloved community.
SECOND PLACE: LeAndre Brown, FMHS, Mrs. Knowles
When people learn to accept and live with each other, in spite of our differences, we can learn to work together. When one person is kind and accepting of another, they’ll want to return the favor. If we could make this concept a reality on an individual level, eventually it would grow within our household and reach out to our schools and workplaces, then into our local communities and eventually make its way across our nation. 
FIRST PLACE: Brooklynne Edley, LHS, Mr. Grant Wilhite
Dr. King’s dream has not been completely fulfilled. Sure, various ethnic groups are represented in our miniscule area but we are not standing hand-in-hand fighting towards one cause. This is not to say that Dr. King’s dream has not made progress. Be reassured that my beloved community has taken a step towards eradicating stereotypes… My beloved community has made progress because different ethnic groups have the opportunity and ability to get the same educational benefits. 
SECOND PLACE: Maria Mancilla, LHS, Mr. Grant Wilhite
Humanity has the potential for greatness as a whole but the only way that everyone could achieve their utmost potential will be granted when there is communication, love, justice, education, friendship and courage. To have Dr. King’s Beloved Community in the future, we need to grow together and create this community where everyone is equally able to strive for their dreams.
Excerpts from 2014 MLK Essay Winners

This essay was read from the podium as it was written by a member of the MLK Committee and could not be given a monetary prize. Alex Lleras January 2014 MLK Essay, Downing Middle School:
"Due to Dr. King the flame of racism is all but extinguished and the children of this age have accepted the colors of all races. However, the embers are still smoldering and smog hazes the vision of a few who cling to racism like a Teddy Bear. Dr. King has taken their guns but has yet to change their minds. We need is a cleansing rain that will heal even the most ravaged minds in our nation. Flood the plains of discrimination and shower the land with an encouraging mantra that will bring together the broken pieces: Embrace Our Diversity! May this ring true to everyone not just in America but the entire world!" 
Grade 4:
1st: Sarah Mullens, Heritage ES, Ms. Buchanan: “I cannot even begin to imagine living in the America that once existed! Not being able to go to the same schools, ride the same buses, or drink out of the same fountains… I am thankful to be living in America today! ” 
2nd: Zane Hicke, Prairie Trail ES, Ms. Kelley : “I want to ride the same bus as everyone else, swim in the same pool, and use the same restrooms even though I am mixed. I choose to embrace me!”
 3rd: Iris Lim, Hebron Valley ES, Ms. Rehfuss: “While I was writing this essay, I realized that while I was born in the United States, I have a different skin color. If dr. king didn’t exist, I cannot imagine how hard it would be for me to live here. He helped a lot of people.”
Grade 5:
1st: Tyler Neumann, Prairie Trail ES, Mr. Clayton
“Dr. King believed that love through non-violence can concur all. He believed it so much that he went to jail for it. I am proud to celebrate him today because he let all people help and join hands to make this country better.”
2nd: Josiah Bradley, Valley Ridge ES, Mrs. Rowell 
“Dr. King believed in non-violence no matter what you did or what color you are… I love playing football. Many different people come to play. We are all different but in the game we are all the same. Football is a way for me to live out Dr. king’s dream.”
 3rd: Emily Reynolds, Prairie Trail ES, Mr. Clayton
“Dr. King’s persistence and determination has inspired me to stand against bullies. By standing up for myself and others, I can help embrace and protect diversity around me.”
Grade 6:
1st: Tatum Green, Downing MS, Ms. Clements
“every person is a blank canvas. Races and cultures add color and character to the canvas. The result is a masterpiece where every feature has an important value. Dr. King tried to apply this idea to the nation and knew that to embrace every feature of the masterpiece of nation, diversity not only has to be accepted but celebrated. He encouraged people of all races and differences to unite and create a masterpiece for the future. ”
(Tie) 2nd: Kira Koh, Downing MS, Ms. Rodriguez
“One way to embrace diversity is to accept that is everyone is different and no two people are the same. A common difference is religious belief. Instead of discriminating, we should try to learn about other religions and understand others’ beliefs. Accepting different appearances is another way we can embrace diversity… The final way to embrace diversity is by taking a stand against bullying…”
(Tie) 2nd: Mariah Wheeler, Lamar MS, Mrs. Robertson
“Dr. King taught us to embrace and cherish our diversity and differences that we cannot help having. Embrace our diversity, use it to make good in the world, like Dr. King. ”
(Tie) 3rd: Ryan Morris, Hedrick MS, Mrs. Hicks
“Once there was a family who had a daughter born in 1950. Her dad was a teacher at an African-American school and was very upset about the condition of those schools… One night, they were watching the news on their fuzzy black and white TV and they heard about a man, Dr. King, who was leading a civil rights movement. The family was excited to do their part in helping the movement. Even though the family faced many trials, their hard work paid off . They and many other families were now free. Sadly, in the process, dr. king lost his life. ”
(Tie) 3rd: Sydney Neuman, Hedrick MS, Ms. Winterroth 
“Embracing diversity means that we’re happy to have different people and things in the world… It’s always important to be helpful and respectful of all kinds of people.”
(Tie) 3rd: Olivia Oomen, Lamar MS, Mrs. Robertson
“If we create an uncomfortable atmosphere because of hatred then it would be very challenging for our nation to progress… Loving our differences will help to create happiness throughout our lives because it would help us be more independent and not always go with the majority.”
Grade 7:
(Tie) 1st: Emily Martinez, DeLay MS, Mrs. B. Williams 
“Diversity is beauty. The problem is that people don’t see the beauty that is diversity… The world is filled with experiences from each different face that you meet. Everyone has some talent and something to add to our lives. After all, our world is like a bag of Trail Mix. Some people may be sweet and small like M&Ms, others may be tough to crack like a nut, and some may be fun to have like a pretzel...”
(Tie) 1st: Zelda Mutoke, DeLay MS, Mrs. J. Johnson
“Have you ever looked at a painting and it’s all shades of gray? One color throughout the whole painting! You’re looking at it like ‘’this needs more color. This is boring!” This would be like to go to a school that all students and teachers were the same race, ate the same food, spoke the same language, same everything. Then you go to high school and you see all different races and colors and foods and personalities you don’t like it. In other words, you were living in a little model of segregation… In today’s world we often get segregated by our neighborhoods. There are even cities with their own race name like China Town. Dr. king’s dream has nearly been fulfilled but not entirely.  
(Tie) 2nd: Kiya Brown, DeLay MS, Mrs. B. Williams
“When you think about it, it is like a mother. Whatever you do – good or bad- mothers will still love you. That’s what people should strive to mimic every day… The assumptions people make based on nothing but fear are how discrimination starts. We cannot allow our lives to be based on poor assumptions.” 
(Tie) 2nd: Callie Goetz, Downing MS, Mrs. Fields
“We were made to be original. We were made to be unique. We were made to be different. Why is it so hard to embrace our diversity if this how we were made? Dr. King was one of the first to publicly deviate from the lies our world was trying to proclaim at that time. ”
(Tie) 2nd: Yesenia Mortero, DeLay MS, Mrs. B. Williams 
“Let’s face it. People may know your name and how you appear but they don’t know your story. The story is important. By learning other people’s stories, you also learn their commonalities. This is how embracing diversity brings us closer.”
(Tie) 3rd: Calvin Clement, Hedrick MS, Mrs. Maimone
“In reality, we are all the same inside. Making fun of someone is like insulting ourselves... Now, we can live together and make new friends and learn about them. That’s what makes our country great. ”
(Tie) 3rd: Nikita Jacob, Shadow Ridge MS, Mrs. Mosher
“Did you know that the health of a pond ecosystem is determined by counting the different number of species that live in it? The more variety, the healthier the pond! Embracing the world’s diversity is about all kinds of people getting along and working together. It’s about not caring whether you’re rich or poor, young or old, or short or tall.”
(Tie) 3rd: Yulyana Clemente, Hedrick MS, Ms. Winterroth
Dr. King had faith that people would realize that they all matter not by their skin but they matter for what’s in their hearts.
Grade 8:
1st: Zoe Rodriguez, Downing MS, Mrs. Lentz -- “…society should embrace people’s differences and find ways of weaving together their uniqueness to form a strong beautiful tapestry. In this way, people can finally banish the bitter hatred from their souls and replace it with tender empathy.”
2nd: Zoe Bixler, Shadow Ridge MS, Mrs. St. John -- “The world is not a perfect place and probably never will be. We can at least try to make it perfect by not only accepting ourselves but by embracing our diversities.”
2nd: Kelsey Sullivan, Downing MS, Mrs. Lentz -- “I hope that one day the future generations of the world can live in a discrimination-free environment; one where they are accepted as who they are and people are okay with that, one where people will embrace their diversity instead of rejecting it. ”
3rd: Maleeha Ahmad, Killian MS, Mr. Fletcher -- “By refusing to alienate, we can avoid the darkness Dr. King fought to eliminate… It is necessary to embrace our diversity; it is the key to opening the gateway of freedom and moving toward ‘The Dream’’. ”
3rd: Lindsey Golden, Huffines MS, Mrs. Hadley -- “ He (Dr. King) was the voice for those who were frightened to have one. He was the voice for the generations to come… There is diversity all around me. If it wasn’t for him I might not have gotten to see the outrageous laughs of the ones I love that light up my world. ”
3rd: Brian Tamayo, Hedrick MS, Ms. Winterroth --- “We need a new Dr. King to be part of an “I Dream of Diversity ” speech in the future. Without diversity, the world will be a nightmare filled with fights, wars, and crime. If we embrace diversity the world will be peaceful.”
Grade 9:
1st: Dexter Jones , MHS 9th, in honor of Mrs. Rebecca Wilson 
“These are not just some random people. These are my boys, my pack, my clique, these are my teammates. These teammates of mine are of different kinds of races including Hispanic, Asian, black, Native-American, and white. I said earlier that we did everything together. That’s how I feel about embracing our diversity. We help each other out and find a way to do it, together.”
Grade 10:
1st: Jovesh Zachariah, Hebron HS , Mr. -
“The distinctive array of contrasting characteristics that mold a person’s authentic identity, whether skin pigmentation or various cultural attributes, is what gives every single human a distinctive flavor duplicable by no other.”
2nd: Bumhee Kim, FMHS, Mrs. Knowles 
“In addition, we think that people are treating each other equally but are we really? If only everyone would reflect on their treatment towards others, there would be a society which Dr. King would’ve embraced. Not only do we have to embrace the diversities for African-Americans but also towards everyone we encounter in society.”
3rd: Hannah Miller, FMHS, Mrs. Crabtree 
“As for the entirety of the world, diversity continues to fuel the successes that occur every day. The world is becoming interconnected now more than ever so embracing people’s differences and unique traits is the best way to move forward.”
Grade 11:
1st: Kourtney Foster, Hebron HS , Ms. Mayo 
“The key to embracing one another starts with empathy. In Kindergarten, we learned “to treat others the way you want to be treated.” In elementary school, no one had harmed our trail of thought, no one had told us about a traumatic history that could change our view of our best friend.”
2nd: Hector Hernandez, Hebron HS, Mr. Stroud
“Trade and commerce embodied the primary form of interaction with diversity. Where there was trade, culture followed. Acculturation and globalization are not 20th century phenomena… Dr. King’s success as leader in the civil rights movement catalyzed social reform, advanced legal milestones, and sparked public support from all demographics.”
2nd: Wesley Jones, MHS, Mrs. McKenelly 
“Each and every day, the sport of Football provides all with a deep seated brotherhood whose grasp surpasses that of any prejudice one might hold in their heart…Embracing our diversity is not about simply tolerating others’ beliefs but learning to respect them.”
3rd: Victoria Davis, TCHS, Mr. Blodgett
“Dr. King believed in the ideal of non-violence, that a non-violent person has control of himself spiritually, mentally, and emotionally... We are a people of many cultures, of many backgrounds, and many histories. We come from all over the world and we embrace it.”
3rd: Melani Shi, FMHS, Mrs. McMichael
“Moreover, appreciation of diversity metaphysically circles back to self-dignity: in order to acknowledge the worth of others and the benefits they bestow upon our lives by living their on idiosyncratic lives, we must carry true self-respect. Embracing others has the prerequisite of loving ourselves enough to extend that love to the diversity around us.”
Grade 12:
1st: Farhan Ahmad, Hebron HS, Mr. Shelton
“Dr. King envisioned that his fight would culminate in a nation that embraces – rather than suppresses- its diversity… We must realize that Dr. King sowed the seeds for equality and it’s our duty as the next generation to bring that idea to fruition. ” 
2nd: Lakshmi Menon, FMHS, Mrs. McMichael 
“As I look out the window of my room I see children jumping into a pile of vibrant leaves. Flashes of green, yellow, and red fly through the air like confetti. Different ages and races are mixed in a boisterous group as black hands clasp white ones, a stunningly beautiful contrast. ”
3rd: Kristen Brehm, FMHS, Mr. Kenny
“I am thankful that God filled the world with a people who would lead black society to freedom. It is unbelievable to me that the world could have treated God’s children in such a way... Dr. King maintained a Ghandi-like perspective refusing to give society a dose of its own medicine but instead a dose of the forgiving, loving attitude he was fighting for. ”
Essay Snippets MLK North Texas January 2016

Grade 4
1st Meghann Rachel Slate, Hebron Valley Elementary, Mrs. Walker
Some people don’t do this [Love Thy Neighbor] because they don’t accept other people’s cultures. We need to nurture cultural harmony. We need to live together without fighting. We need to work together as a community. …One way to nurture cultural harmony is to learn about other cultures. If we do this we would see the importance of different cultures. …One other way to nurture cultural harmony is to get to know other people from different cultures. Get to know who they are on the inside.  

2nd Maanya Govil, Liberty Elementary, Ms. Nelson
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This quote is by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech. This was from the time when people from different cultures religions, and ethnic backgrounds were not able to be anywhere together. Dr. King undertook the task of making people from all over the world live together in friendship and peace with no rules separating them. He kept trying to get people to live in harmony. …Although Dr. King paved the way for later generations, everybody still has a part to do. To keep cultural harmony among humans, you cannot call somebody wrong on a religious matter. If you believe in something, someone else might not believe in that same thing. …I believe that if Dr. King were to walk into my community, he would be speechless with tears of joy in his eyes because of all these people who come from different cultural backgrounds. 

3rd Lillian Shai Cassady, B. B. Owen, Mrs. Haines
Martin Luther King, Jr. thought that African American people and Caucasian people should get along in harmony rather than fighting with each other. I think it doesn’t matter the color of your skin, it’s what’s inside that counts. …Everyone is different. When you meet someone new, African American or Caucasian or any other race, get to know them. If someone is being teased about the color of their skin, stand up for them and become their friend. If you do this you could inspire them, and they could inspire someone else. If this chain reaction happens, the world could be a better place. …All it takes is that one little act of kindness towards someone else to have a place with more harmony. …Everyone is unique. People are from different cultures and they may have different colored skin. Why does that matter? We are all human. Choose to get along in harmony and the world can be a better place. 

Grade 5
1st Maggie Mandri, Vickery Elementary, Mrs. Covey
Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if people from all different cultures could get along? We can all work together to accept our differences and create cultural harmony. …One way we can start creating cultural harmony is by helping people who are new to our school and community. When we are helping others learn about us, we are also learning more about them. …Another way we can start nurturing cultural harmony is by getting to know more about people and their culture. I have found that a great way to get to know people is by talking with them. Talking helps us find things we have in common... One of the best ways to make sure we all get along is to include everyone in our school and community in our activities. …When people celebrate together, they learn to respect each other’s culture. 

2nd Brooke Marie Marlett, Prairie Trail Elementary, Mr. Clayton
Dr. King had a dream, the dream to end segregation and realize a world filled with cultural harmony. He followed his faith to change the hearts and minds of people all over the world. Dr. King wanted people of all colors, of all races, of all nations to live in harmony, nurturing each other. …Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is the best example of nurturing cultural harmony in American history. His vision continues to inspire people all over the world to have a spirit of tolerance and peace. 

3rd Summer Hamdan, Prairie Trail Elementary, Mrs. Schnoor
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has given our generation a new perspective on other people around us. …Thanks to Dr. King, we have a different world. I am proud to say he has brought us together. …I’ve learned so much about different people and cultures in this life. For example, I never would have tasted different foods in a separated world. We have Mexican, Indian, and African American food, just to name a few. Foods that possess so much flavor and brilliant seasonings are all unique in their own ways. Then there is the different ways that people dress to represent their culture. It is wonderful to see that in our time, cultures really do help us define ourselves but also make us whole. … I am proud to live in a nation, home to all whether small or big, in harmony and peace.  
Grade 6
1st Rhea Karumuru
Imagine this: a broken seedling atop the soft bed of moist dirt. But then, a kind gardener who plants it properly gives it a perfect pour of water. Later, the slow solemn clouds slowly open up and a beam of sunlight gently kisses the growing seedling. This is nature's harmony in action, because every element is doing its part to make the seedling the best it could possibly be. If we transfer this scenario to a larger scale, it shows that if everyone works together to help create harmony, within our culture, the world would be a great place! Once we achieve this feat, we must nurture and maintain it. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that we can easily conquer hate and live up to Earth's true potential by not just ignoring differences, but by embracing them!

2nd Aniston Nielson
A community is like a machine; it's made of many different parts. Each part or a machine has diverse jobs to fulfill but they can only get their jobs done when they all work together. That's exactly like a community; people in a community have different jobs to do and can only get them done by working together. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that we should live in brotherhood together. If we’re separate, creating harmony is impossible. If we work together, it will at times be difficult but not impossible. Everyone needs to do things smartly, peacefully, and cheerfully to create harmony. Everyone needs to do all these things together along with perfect timing.
3rd Lily Rheinhardt
Martin Luther King Jr. was a great and smart person. But this isn't about who he was. This is about what he did and wanted for our country. He wanted to change our country so we could all live in harmony. No one should suffer for how they look or who or what they believe in. Everyone's culture should be nurtured. So many terrible actions have occurred out of hate. Hate we need to fix. Most see Martin Luther King's speech as a speech about colored men and women having equal rights. However, he really wanted different cultures to see one another as friends, because in reality, we are all the same. Different races, religions, traditions, but the same. It may not make sense at first, but you have to look at it from many different directions. We are human. We all make mistakes. We are not perfect, not even the slightest bit close. We need to wake up. We all need to see that so many people are judged for something they can't help. 

Grade 7
1st Tori Petersheim, Downing, Mrs. Phan
Without love, acceptance cannot develop. This is the key to establishing and maintaining this unity. But love is not one sided, and acceptance does not exclude-- we must all do our part to keep Dr. King's dream alive.
Love is mysterious. It is an unexplainable and familiar feeling, and unmistakable when present. Our society has either ignored or denied love's importance in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream. Acceptance also seems to have eluded us. As a society, we choose to tolerate other cultures rather than accept them. Unity can be achieved through love and acceptance alone. The 21st Century has not changed that. Our society has not yet reached its full potential as Dr. King's 'Beloved Community.’ This is because we do not embrace each other’s differences. All of us have to do our part to change cultural harmony from merely tolerating cultures different from our own into welcoming them. There is nothing more beautiful than harmony in a community filled with cultural diversity. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted nothing more than for us to be united through our differences. Bits and pieces of Dr. King's vision have been fulfilled , and it is only a matter of time before everything comes together. This community is what we make of it. If we all work to simply love and accept our neighbors, we will make an impact like no other. 

2nd Elizabeth Cadungog, Durham, Ms. Bradford
I believe that just because we may look different, or have different interests, it doesn't put you nor anyone else above the other. We were all born equal, coming into this world as a fragile infant with no ideas of all the cruel things this world contains. However, besides these detrimental attributes such as racism, the world has so much more to offer. The only way for these children to have such a perspective on the world is for them to be raised in the right environment. Now to the big question, what can we do to achieve this world? In order to achieve this dream everyone will have to participate. Every little deed or gesture can help to end racism and unfair judgement. Befriending the new kid that everyone else ignored because of his religion. Standing up to the bullies that were teasing the shy girl for her race. Everything helps. We must improve our world for our kids. The children are the future of the world and if everyone can pitch in and help, we can put an end to all of this. Wars, racism, terrorism, everything. In this generation or the next, I have hope that we can bring MLK' s dream to a reality.

3rd Reya Mosby, Briarhill, Mrs. Allison
Equality is priceless. Being given the same rights as everyone else has not always been the case. One outstanding young man by the name of Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for equality in America. His dream was that men and women of all races would live in harmony.
In order for us to continue what MLK started, we need to maintain the cultural harmony that he and others fought so hard to achieve. We can do this by not stereotyping people different from us, continuing to learn from inspiring individuals, and research different beliefs before making snap judgments. Don't be stereotypical! In present day, Muslims are being stereotyped for the horrific crimes Isis has committed. This is happening because Isis is claiming to be Muslim. This isn't fair because innocent people are being grouped as terrorist, when in reality, they are just wanting to practice their religion in peace. MLK wanted to stop the stereotyping of all races, so people would all be given an equal opportunity. He made a great improvement in this movement, but there is still much more to be done.

3rd Jung Min Yean, Creek valley, Ms. Nguyen  
By having an open heart and an open mind, we as one have come together no matter the color of our skin to make the world a more accepting, nurturing place. People have communicated and learned about one another and cherished one another's differences instead of letting them come between us. For example, at my school, we have a multicultural night. Students have the opportunity to learn about different cultures and expand their knowledge about fellow peers. We get to learn different ways to dance, different foods, and flavors from each culture. This experience creates a more unified, tight-knit community among students and staff.

Grade 8
1st Mahek Kakkar, McKamy, Mrs. Swackhamer
It is crucial to respect cultural harmony in order to attain more knowledge about each other. Religion is like a story. Each person has an individual religion that they respect. Whenever we meet new people, we do not judge them based on their race, religion or culture. In fact, we set out to gain more knowledge about their culture in order to build a stronger relationship. By gaining more knowledge about each other, we learn about each other's strengths and weaknesses and nurture cultural harmony.
Whenever we think about friendship, we immediately come to the conclusion that people become friends based on their similarities. This is not true. All around the world, new friendships are being formed. People who come from different backgrounds, race, and cultures are learning more about each other and creating new friendships. By nurturing cultural harmony, friendships become stronger in the long run.
Lastly, along with gaining new knowledge about each other and composing friendly relations it is important to honour equality. We were all born as a clean slate. God created all of us equal and in the same manner. Over time, we all learn new things that cause us to change our viewpoints on some ideas. We process ideas different from our friends and families, but one thing always is equal. Our respect for each other’s opinions! We encourage and inspire each other to be a better person. We are all equal no matter how smart we are or what we enjoy. In order to aid cultural harmony, it is important to honour equality.

2nd Vaidehi Phirke, Creek valley, Ms. Nguyen
In the 47 years since Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, our planet has grown into a place of thriving individuals who live and work together in accord. But though the flood levees of peace, togetherness, and equality laid down by Dr. King have continued to inspire and save thousands, they're slowly giving way to an imminent torrent of problems with cultural unawareness. 

The acceptance of different people by different people achieved through the spread of the values of the previously-stated heroes was only truly possible through one field: Communication... 

The overall message is one of a kinder us, working towards the greater good through a unified acceptance and understanding. Though we've faced the floods head on before, it is only through our greatest failures our successes come. We've learned to love and banish the hate, bringing Dr. King's ideas and concepts to life and proving that love and acceptance are the most important principles to remember, no matter what you do or become. Though we've faced the bashing down of the levees, we are on the path to rebuilding them together, all the while improving ourselves, our world, and our understanding of it all.

3rd Kathleen Kim, Downing, Mrs. Lentz
Out of the clutter of a hundred cultures, there can be simplicity, a pursuit of peace and harmony. Though without respect, even the perfect harmony is unable to be nurtured and grown into a symphony. Respect and cultural harmony walk hand in hand.
Every human who walks this earth was made with a purpose and a certain unalienable responsibility to respect the other in habitants of our world. To respect someone also means to respect their culture. 
We must understand that people have different cultures, but we all see the same sunset. As humans, differences can be something to be afraid of, nevertheless, a chord with missing notes is not a chord. All the different notes played together as one, working together as a team is what is able to bring the joyful sound of music to our ears. A worldly harmony with missing people or cultures is not a perfect harmony. We must learn to work our cultural differences together as a team and join them together harmonically. 

Grade 9
1st Anna Cantu, LHS Harmon, Mrs. Pembroke
Cookies are confectionary treats that many people adore- these tasty treats seem to just be a food that will make you sick if you eat too many, or a food that is known to be kept away in a jar somewhere just almost out of reach, but cookies like all baked goods are intricate. One small change in the recipe could make a vast difference in the outcome. Why? Without butter or oil, the cookie would be dry. Without sugar or sweetener, the cookie wouldn’t be sweet. Without baking powder the cookie won't rise. Ingredients work in harmony with one another to create the best and most amazing desserts. Martin Luther King J r., in my opinion, i s like a baker. His ideas, or recipes, provided the instructions to make the best country possible. He nurtured the idea that without one culture, or ingredient, the world wouldn't be complete.

2nd Ludivina Salas, LHS Harmon, Mrs. Pembroke
A band is composed of various musicians given an instrument. These sections are then divided into Brass, Woodwinds, and Percussion. If you joined multiple instruments, it would create a harmony which can sound exquisite.

People can say they are part of a band and that they see each other every day. But although they may sit on the same ground, breathe the same air, and be 6 inches apart, sometimes they completely avoid each other and call that harmony. A band in reality is a group of people that join together and perform gorgeous music regard less of t heir instruments. A trumpet may sound like you could close your eyes and just reminisce about picturesque memories. A saxophone sound can make your feet tap to the beat and just make you want to dance but together they can sound like your soul has a voice.

Like a band, our world works similarly. People tend to say we are all part of the earth and that in order to live in peace we just have to have the basic knowledge of everyone we’re sharing with this world, which we just can just respect from a distance. But like a band, we have to acknowledge that there are different groups on our earth. Although we are different, we all have the same goa l. That is to finish this long piece we’ve been practicing ever since we were born.

3rd Jacob Herod, LHS Harmon, Mrs. Pembroke
Cultural harmony means not only that do you not care about someone else's race or cultural beliefs, you also love them the same as another human being. Almost every day, I see at least one person who exemplifies our need to better practice and nurture the delicate yet beneficial art of cultural harmony. I see this in racial slurs uttered nonchalantly by the ignorant or shouted by the hateful. I see it in the pointless protests against other religious groups due to events happening thousands of miles away because of a few radicals. I also see it in the wrongly stated insults made by someone to someone else just because that individual just doesn't make the cut by their standards. It relieves me that there aren't too many people like this in our country anymore. Despite our great progress, we still need to work hard to fix this issue. 

I find cultural harmony important because it brings with it a world in which we see everyone for who they really are, not who they are not. We would also see each other as equal, regardless of ethnicity, religion, race, or even sexual standing. Without the presence of this social elixir , one which so many people like Martin Luther King Jr. have fought for , we would still be where we were just a couple of centuries ago- beating and enslaving or killing those whose differences made us deem them inferior to ours. That would be a horrible world.

Grade 10
1st Amil Naik, LHS Harmon, Mrs. Copeland  
But it is not the resounding words or rousing calls of great figures that can bring about change in the world. No, change that is clear to see is brought about by action. Words are heard and inspire but they are just the instrument to create a mellifluous symphony of cultural harmony. It is us, the common men that must take up these instruments and play the melody. The transition to peace despite our differences, or rather fostered by our differences, will be achieved exactly as Dr. King envisioned- by love and tolerance. However, that matter has passed out of his hands and of all those no longer with us. Only their ideals, their legacy, their stories live on. What is done with those resources rests on those who wish to see change and those dreams fulfilled. The burden falls on us- regular citizens- to put into practice what we have learned from these heroes and foster tranquility among diverse cultures 

2nd Brooke Der, Marcus, Ms. Lurvey
As human beings we are supposed to be kind to one another.
As human beings we are supposed to protect one another.
As human beings we are supposed to understand our differences and accept them.
But have we done that?
We use racism, sexism, and other attacks against each other. 
To destroy who we are, and to put each other down.
But aren’t we human beings? 

We are not supposed to tum on one another. That is not who we are. 
That is not what should define the human race. Would you do that to friends? Or neighbors?
So what makes it okay to do it to other countries?

As a young person having to live in what seems like a future full of this, I do not want this.
 I do not want the violence and hatred that we give each other. I was not raised to hate and to disregard other people based off of their race or religion.

You would not want this to happen to you and your family so what makes it right for anyone to shut out people in need?
This is what I believe to be true. We are too harsh to each other. 
We do not give each other kindness and respect.
Our differences should be rejoiced not fought over. 
Our beliefs should be not quarreled over but respected.
Our religions should not make us question people yet instead accepted.
Without reversing what has already started, the world will live a life of despair. 
This is not a world I would like to know. But I am only a student!

3rd Maleeha Ahmad Woods, Hebron, Mr. Shelton
During Dr. King's lifetime, racism was rampant. People of color were segregated from whites, some disrespected. Rosa Parks' story was an example of the disrespect people of color were subjected to. Despite her age, she was still asked to relinquish her seat on a crowded bus to a white person. The racist who wanted her to move was eyeless about anything about Parks--her feelings, her beliefs, her life--except the color of her skin. Parks' story was the apotheosis of that abusive era and was a motivator of peaceful protest for Dr. King. 

Dr. King was a champion for a color-blind society, sensitive to diversity and differences. Though Dr. King's time has since passed and society has made great advances, the legacy of cultural harmony lingers unfulfilled. 

The vital task of creating harmony is not simple: it is stressful and will be accomplished in increments through adversity. With increasing globalization, countless cultures have come into contact with each other. This only provides reason for greater tolerance towards different backgrounds and cultures: our societies interweave and are often dependent on each other. Indeed, the need for cultural harmony has reached new heights and is emphasized by modern society. 

3rd Emily Barton, The Colony, Mrs. Shideler 
We all have dreams. We all have goals. We all have aspirations. What you dream is up to you. No matter who you are, you are capable of something great. It doesn't matter what the color of your skin is or where you are from. Opportunities are out there waiting for everyone, regardless of physical attributes.

Some people are still stuck in the mindset of Anglo supremacy but I would like to think that the American culture has embraced all walks of life. Every day, we grow more harmonious. There are still issues with racism and equality, but one thing is certain, we have come a long way since the Civil Rights Movement. There is no going back.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a vision. His vision was for everyone to have equal rights and opportunities. Dr. King spoke the truth. Although his primary purpose was desegregation and rights for all races to be equal, his message applies to every human being. Discrimination can take on so many different meanings: race, gender, sexual identity, etc. Why do people discriminate? What is the point? We are all the same on the inside, so we should be treated like it on the outside, too.

Grade 11
1st Madison Lopez, LHS, Mr. Fee 
The beauty and serenity of nature stands unrivaled. From the glorious Sequoia trees of the west to the delicate flowers among the forest floor, Mother Nature nurtures her garden. The wind, the crickets, and the birds all sing in harmony. A mesmerizing spectacle, the earth around us, with all its many parts, beautifully harmonizes what can appear as chaos individually. This notion, although it can apply to nature, specifically champions nurturing cultural harmony among mankind. From the principles Dr. King's life exhibited to the deep metaphor of nature's harmony, we as a people can explore the meaning, examine the journey, and understand the benefits of nurturing cultural harmony within our communities.
Nurturing cultural harmony is the purposeful work of creating lasting peace among cultures while also championing cultural diversity. Just as individual notes in music harmonize to create a spectacular sound, when individually beautiful cultures come together in harmony, they create the marvelous music of mankind, the song of the human spirit: desire for community, longing for love, and hope for a better tomorrow. This is the heart of our humanness, what binds us all together.

Grade 12
1st Lauren Hermes, The Colony, Ms. Shideler
Change is the element in which our world revolves. It is the driving factor for all fractions of our social environment. An astonishingly beautiful form of metamorphosis that is life-altering. Like wind it is an uncounterable force that erodes from the past and forms the new. But wistfully a great wall is built to disrupt its natural flow. The occurrence is resisted, feared and discouraged by dejected many. People cringe, scowl, mock, and rebel at such a concept. Arrogance and stubbornness invigorates and empowers this behavior. It is a mentality that concretes the mind making it the hardest to combat. But change is happening, creating a strain, ripple, crack in our entire social structure but for the better. A change that can only lead to a good outcome. A future that can behold a better society in which we are all equal and all the same. It is a change that has been occurring since 1964. A change that should be welcome and encouraged by anyone with common sense or at least a sliver of compassion and understanding. The racial and cultural division has been accepted for too long and we are finally understanding that this is not equality but a mere step towards it.
To change one's state of mind is always on the verge of impossible because very few want to admit their wrongdoings. But with persistence and patience, acceptance is the prize that awaits. Acceptance is the key to balance. A key that unlocks understanding and trust amongst our society. A key that can restore unity within our nation. But it is a Key that we all must work towards.
We can no longer withstand this perfectly painted illusion. Equality in America does not exist and we are slowly beginning to see this. The glass is being shattered allowing the light to stream in revealing the true disturbing scene that is our reality. As we keep getting profiled and labeled based on our skin color and cultural background, we keep segregating each other. We keep ourselves from becoming a strong nation. What people don't understand is that without acceptance cultural harmony will never exist. Disturbances will only continue to happen. Unrest will continue to paint the front page of every newspaper.
But how does this change? How can we begin to accept one another when so much bad blood exist? When so much tension, rage, anger, and confusion cloud the minds, it becomes almost impossible. It seems like we move one step forward but take three steps back each decade. But if we have come this far, we can go farther. We can pursue a better world. And we can achieve this fantasy land. And we do this with understanding and acceptance . We have to understand our differences from all backgrounds and accept them. We cannot use them against one another and continue to look down on others who aren't the same as thou. All men deserve respect. All men deserve the truth and all men deserve freedom because all men are created equal.
If we continue to make this claim that our nation was founded on the basis that all men are made equal then we must practice this in order for it to be the truth. Whether we like to or not, admitting and forgiving can be the two most promising traits that we as a nation can build from. And are the two traits that can lead to understanding and acceptance. If we fail learn these now, then we will fail as a nation. Maybe a world that is fair, equal, and unified is a fairy tale vision for some, but it is a vision that is worth striving towards.

2nd DeQuay Glascoe, The Colony, Ms. Ellis
What drove Dr. King in nurturing cultural harmony was the pursuit of a Racial Utopia. What then is a Racial Utopia? The answer that the majority of people would have given that question is "equality", but, I think otherwise. I think that equality only entails so much. 
I personally have never experienced any racism directed towards me… Telling me that I wasn't different made me different in itself. Sayings like "some of my best friends are black" are ubiquitous. And the condescension and awkwardness in the air when people stumble upon the topic of race feels like it's my fault, they're tiptoeing around the subject because I exist, in that room and yet supposedly, I'm not different. 

Dr. King fought a good fight so we could fight as well, in classrooms, on buses, and in offices. That package was his burden of cargo, on the road to Utopia.
He wanted us to be equal enough to realize that we aren't the same. The same self-awareness allows us to see that there are still things we haven't experienced, things we don't yet know, and people we haven't met.

3rd Hannah Miller, FMHS, Mr. Werts
Without an open mind, one is hindering himself from developing in the modern world, a world defined by diversity. Because I am a child of diversity, I have an advantage in knowing that there is so much out there to learn and to enjoy. All I need to do is embrace new ideas and new experiences and live with a big picture mentality. 
Every day, I remind myself that everybody has their own version of the truth because all people see and experience things differently from each other. I am aware of the importance in understanding the simple fact that an open mind is necessary to thrive in the modern world full of diverse peoples.
Knowing that there is so much in the world to familiarize myself with means that I am one step ahead of most everyone. Because I have an exploratory attitude, I don't get bogged down by preconceived notions or prejudice. All I do is live my life among different people, learn new ideas, and enjoy myself to the fullest extent. 
I have volunteered in hospitals, in a pediatric clinic, and in my school. In every one of these programs, I was in contact with a plethora of cultures. No matter who it is, I help and enjoy doing so. There is no room for any form of discrimination if one is genuinely serving others. I am certain that diversity is the future, and I am excited for all of the new and interesting opportunities to come.

Selected Essay segments from 2016-17 MLK Contest winners

4th grade
1st Place - Aniya McGowan, Peters Colony, Teacher - Mr. Carroll
“Dr. King’s accomplishments during the Civil Rights Movement have made the world a better place for everyone. He may have been killed decades ago, but Dr. King lives on in the hearts of people who believe we are all the same.”

2nd Place - Sydney Etufugh, Castle Hills Elementary, Teacher - Mrs. Howell
“The world would be better if we cheered for each other and taught others how to do things instead of putting up walls to separate ourselves. Living Martin Luther King’s dream means all races are stronger together and not separately.”

3A Aanya Nura, Old Settlers Elementary, Teacher - Ms. Weaver
“Every day at school I look around and feel so happy because I see so many people of different races playing with each other. Imagine how boring a garden of flowers of the same color would be.”

3B Noorain Amatul Aziz, Castle Hills Elementary, Teacher - Mr. Henderson
“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great man and always will be. Instead of honoring him once a year, honor him every day by standing up to all the injustices we see today. He has given us a dream to dream.”
​5th grade

1st Place - Sakshat Puri, Coyote Ridge Elementary, Mr. Hall - teacher
“In conclusion, Martin Luther King was a magnificent, inspiring, and influential person. His patience and dedication to build the “Beloved Community” is just breathtaking. If his philosophies exist forever, the Earth will become a planet of paradise!”

2nd Place - Kylie Johnson, B.B. Owen, Laurie O’Casey - teacher
“To make peace remember change starts with you. When you see people who are hurt or need help give them help and when you see people without a smile be sure that you give them yours.”

3A - Olivia Fouratt, Prairie Trail Elementary, Mrs. Miller - teacher [Also a WINNER in Photography Contest]
“Sometimes words are better than hands, they fight for themselves. Imagine a canvas touched with brushstrokes of love and not hate. Dream in color where anything is possible. Live the dream.”

3B - Christopher Blair, Old Settlers Elementary, Mrs. Smith - teacher
“Dr. King wanted fairness for everyone. He wanted a world of love for all races. Dreaming in Color - Living the Dream means to me that no group of people are mistreated or forgotten.”

6th Grade
1st Place Cassidy Wong
Long ago, America was one color, white. All the other colors were unwanted by the racial majority. America was a canvas of blandness, a polar bear in a snowstorm. Many people were content with that, and hung the painting in a gallery saying “look at this beautiful work of art!” That’s just how the world was.
Then, one brave artist decided that one color wasn’t enough. His name was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was the Henri Matisse of this time. When Matisse lived, many people nicknamed him “The Wild Beast” because of his revolutionary painting style. He was ridiculed and laughter at because his ideas differed from the norm. This was exactly what happened by Dr. King. That didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream and sharing his ideas with the world.  

2nd Place Munachiso Nnamani
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the first people in history to live and dream in color. Colors have symbolic meanings, which can be used to illustrate Dr. King’s vision. 
Red means sacrifice. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that if his dream of colors together was going to come true, sacrifices would have to be made. Nobody could have guaranteed that people would listen to him while he preached, however somebody needed to preach the truth. Martin Luther King, Jr. was ready to put his life on the line if it meant that things were going to get better. “Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle”. 

3rd Place Cara Johnson
What if everyone looked the same? Wouldn’t that be boring? Nobody would be special in their own way. Shouldn’t we respect our differences, and at the same time, be treated the same? Our differences make us special. They make us unique. This is part of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was standing up for. He dreamed of a world where people looked past skin colors and races, but instead look instead. 
7th Grade
1.Esther Ju, McKamy, Mrs. Warriner
 Just like objects, we were given labels, "colored" and "white". It was the labels that defined who we were and how we were treated. This was the way society was before anyone had the courage to  speak up. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that one day, children would be treated equally no matter what label they wore. MLK's dream in color can be represented through many aspects. A blank canvas lacks color and design but given color it creates a beautiful and stunning masterpiece.
2. Elizabeth Riekse, McKamy, Mrs. Warriner
But like all technology some people don’t upgrade, they stay stuck on that old channel, behind. This dream still has to go on, so one day a little child won't wonder why they are different and be ashamed but embrace their differences…So I'm dreaming in color: A world of accepted diversity where everyone can have freedom over his or her choices. Martin Luther King, Jr had a vibrant mindset for his time when red, white, and blue weren't necessarily colors for freedom to all in the land of the free. But everything is better, it's water under the bridge, right? No… There is still an underlying tone and whisper of intolerance. Only a mindset of acceptance can cause this intolerance to change.

3A. Calvin Nickerson, Downing, Mrs. Phan
Imagine every person is an instrument. Each one has unique characteristics and plays their own songs. Then a few friends decide to play together, and the sound is incredible. Imagine if everyone in the world played together in the same symphony, it would be beautiful.
Almost all activities are better together. Whether sports, hobbies, careers, or anything else, teamwork is prominent because people are sharing with their teammates , more people can enjoy it at once. They are being friendly, and in a way serving others. Service is one of the best ways to express love to others. By serving one another you show that whomever you are serving matters to you, and is worth spending time and energy on them. Similarly to how playing with other people will be more fun, and just be overall more enjoyable, so will living in unity with everybody around us.

3B. Ella Greene, Lamar, Ms. Hicke
Every morning I wake up and I see my hands. I see myself in the mirror as I brush my teeth. I feel my abnormal curls as I take a comb through them. Every one of these actions is taken with great appreciation because I'm not only white or only black; and the exuberance I feel when I realize that I'm an example of acceptance is astonishing.
When I look at people on the street I don't think or their color, or their clothes. I see the way they feel comfortable to be themselves in a society that is trying to limit them from doing just that. Martin Luther King saw that no one should be ridiculed because of the way they looked or acted. He believed that violence based on judgement wasn't the answer to our troubles. Although today people may still think that it is the only way, we have seen that peace can accomplish stupendous things.
8th Grade
1.Susana S. Park, Creek Valley, Ms. Nguyen
Human writing is an interesting spectacle for some. Every word and symbol is beautiful on its own, but when woven together, writers can create new universes of tangled emotions and strange new worlds. Like these words, each human culture is magnificent on its own.
However, when working together, the diverse histories and experiences can combine to create a better world. Dr. King dreamed that someday, every child would go into the world knowing they would be accepted and appreciated for their uniqueness. He dreamed that every nation would walk hand in hand to build a better world... No book was written with identical words, no painting created with identical shades and hues. Although it may seem impossible, we can still continue to live Dr. King's dream for cultural harmony today. Earth is a developing planet, and we will change it for the better. The future is a blank canvas, our cultures the colors that paint it into opportunity.

2. Claire Kimbel, Killian, Mrs. Russell
Martin Luther King was one of our nation's most important human beings. He encouraged that the color of your skin doesn't determine who you are as a person. King believed that we are all one. An equal human. An equal person. An equal mind... They say no one is born racist, but they learn it as the grow up. I believe we should all retrieve back to the early stages of life when we only labeled people as human. Not boy or girl. Not white or black. Not gay or straight. But people who could be a friend not an enemy... King saw the people's true colors not the ones they were defined by but their own selves and personalities. I refuse to see black and white but only the true colors inside.

3. Ashna Mulastanam, McKamy, Ms. Miller
Dreaming in color creates strong relationships with diverse races. Relationships are the heart of human lifestyle. Something as simple as color or ethnic cultural differences should never obstruct forming fundamental relationships. Undeniably, students should be able to form relationships with anyone, regardless of race or color. Strong and influential leaders like Gandhi and King never let color or religion stop them from seeing someone's inner beauty. Therefore, dreaming in color breaks down the barriers separating people with differences and allows any group to form a bond.
Grade 9
 1st Vaidehi Phirke, Hebron, Ms. Leach
Dreams are windows into life that is yet to happen, helping us view glimpses into possibilities which could transform the world for the better. …An artist fuses dream with passion, living the idea and hoping to cultivate it in the minds of others. An artist transforms dreams into reality. …One of the greatest artists of all time – a dreamer who dared to dream bold and colored the great canvas of society, was none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. … The masterpiece of Dr. King’s we witness today is truly awe-inspiring. Its rich depths of color coming together as a whole remind us of the values of cultural harmony, and the different styles of strokes help us see that everyone must be valued for who they are. …In his sketches of his ideal world, he chose undertones of love over hate, and used deep strokes of nonviolence to convey his message. …Soon, he wasn’t the only one working on the masterpiece of a colorful future. …Whether dream or reality, instead of stark black or white, he chose the harmony of the rainbow. 
2nd Mariah Wheeler, Marcus, Mrs. Minich
Personally, living the dream of diversity means not only respecting the different races and backgrounds of others, but enhancing the way we communicate and work with one another. …Through his hard work and perseverance during harsh times, Dr. King exemplified the importance of working together and utilizing our past to shape our future. …Dreaming in color not only means striving for racial equality, but also seeking inclusiveness for all races, cultures and backgrounds. …When we live to our full potential together, without racial discrimination, we are pursuing the dream that Dr. King fought so hard to peacefully achieve. 
3rd Ria Nuna, Flower Mound, Mrs. Baker
Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy came down to a simple principle. It is the little differences between people that make mankind so beautiful and unique. Relatively, different cultures can be compared to the different colors that are incorporated into a painting. Our differences splash together to create one vibrant rainbow of diversity that shapes our world. …Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream was to see his children hand in hand with children of other races. He was dreaming in color, while everyone around him only saw beauty in uniform. 
Grade 10
1st Wesley Brewer, Lewisville HS, Harmon, Mrs. Copeland
Something that has influenced my life is when my sister had an accident on a Moped. She made a full recovery with the help of so many people of all different nationalities. We received support from our neighbors, the teachers she had, people in our church community I had never talked to before and of course, her doctors. That moment opened my eyes to what living the dream really meant. It means showing unconditional support and love for someone no matter how you are different. …Looking back to those moments, I now know what dreaming in color really is, for I do not remember the race or ethnicity of the people who helped my sister, I just remember the action they took. Dreaming in color is not ignorance to color, but acceptance of it. Once we learn to accept and love one another we will be living the dream. 
2nd Ludivina Salas, Lewisville HS, Harmon, Mrs. Copeland
I am surrounded by talented and stupendous people who I can call my best friends. Our friendships started from the common activities we participated in and not by the color of our skin. The friendships I have made have introduced me to different cultures and beliefs. Dreaming in color is a concept that should be embraced, a concept where you hope for a future and world filled with people of many colors and ideas. …I will continue to dream for a day where we aren’t divided as separate races like the brown race, the white race, the black race or others, but as the colorful human race.
3rd Camille Parker Mims, Lewisville HS, Harmon, Ms. Squibb
…Over the decades since Dr. King was a “drum major for justice”, much progress has paved avenues of harmony. We live now in a more inclusive society than the society that existed nearly seventy-five years ago. People of color, women, the disabled, gender-blending and various other divides have gained greater access, making “the Dream” our reality! …Although we have progressed, we still face obstacles and have to fight against hate and fear. …Life matters in all colors! Until all lives matter, we do not yet “live the dream”! …we must continue to Dream in Color! Only then can the colors coalesce and encourage us to all Live the Dream!
3rd Justin Park, Hebron HS, Ms. Bertrand
…Martin Luther King’s hallmark inner thought was that “the universe is for justice”. …Seeing in color gives a purpose of enjoyment in life versus a monochromatic one. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that the world that approved one-color superiority would not enable a life that God gifted His creations with. …The 21st generation knows that the God whom Martin Luther King, Jr. believed in was faithful in his prayers. Thus, as long as the grass is green and sky blue, equal opportunities must be given to all colors of people to enable them to fulfill their purpose and dreams. I live the dream that Martin Luther King dreamed in color. My life is enriched because of the freedom Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for me to gaze at “Van Gogh’s Starry Night” and appreciate the role of color in all aspects of life: the arts, experiences, nature, humanity and my own life.

Grade 11  
 1st Lindsey Golden, Lewisville HS, Ms. Squibb
…Perceiving the world in black and white keeps us from ever embracing every color found in the totality of the ten million colors we can see! To deny that all colors are beautiful restricts those people you could love, those places you could see, and learning knowledge that you could use. …Justice must remain colorblind. Justice possesses beauty that many are reluctant to see. Dr. King described his dream, and now it is time for each of us to view all life as precious, and love one another! …Artists know that the stark contrast of black and white naturally combine in a continuum that produces shades of gray! Is there never a chance to escape that dichotomy? Truly, the continuum of color is all that offers us any hope!

Grade 12 
  1st Myles Wheeler, Marcus, Mrs. Spurgeon
…We cannot remain on our current path, as it will lead our country to become more divided, the antithesis of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s purpose and mission. …As a nation, I believe that each and every individual has the capability to dream in color, hoping for a life in which everyone is loved and respected regardless of their physical appearance or beliefs. … I believe that in order to dream in color, we must first accept our differences and embrace them. …As we continue to interact with one another daily, I believe that we should make it our goal to dispel many of the negative stereotypes that impact the way that people are viewed at first glance by making ourselves aware of what makes each person who they are and what great things they may one day have to offer. It is at this point where we will start to see a positive shift in race relations, and ultimately, make the dreams in color a reality. 
2nd Eboni Rodgers, Lewisville HS, Ms. Squibb
The philosophical drive of Martin Luther King, Jr. helped to motivate American citizens to take a stand for equal rights and live the dream of accepting all despite their differences in skin color. When we can dream in color, we can live the dream! …At least one phase of Dr. King’s dream to see all races integrate and live peaceful lives together came true on November 23, 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled that segregated busing was unconstitutional. To modern eyes, getting a seat on a bus may not seem like a great feat, but in 1955, simply “sitting down” marked the first step in a revolution sparked by dreams and color. Dr. King truly followed the advice splashed across the wall of one of my classrooms: “Life is a dreamy kaleidoscope of colors: intricate, unexpected, and beautiful!”
3rd Brittany Maniloff, The Colony HS, Ms. Shideler
My dream from when I was a little girl is the same as it is now. I want world peace. …The world should look back at our mistakes and fix them. …We need to come together as one. Not as a country, but as a whole world! I want a world where everyone can dream as hard as they want, a world where everyone can Dream in Color, and Live the Dream. 
Essay Contest Winners List for N. TX MLK 2017-18
Grade 4 : 1. Cameron A. Williams - Valley Ridge, Mrs.Tallas 2. Ava Terefe - Hebron Valley, Ms. Masinelli 3. Tierney Brooke Jackson – Donald, Mrs. Radke
Grade 5: 1. Karlie Watson, Coyote Ridge, Mr. Hall 2. Samuel Salas, Coyote Ridge, Mrs. Lott  3A. Noorain Aziz, Castle Hills, Canida 
3B. Sydney Etufugh,- Castle Hills, Ms. Etherly 
Grade 6: 1. Niraj Yawalkar, Downing, Mrs. Witnauer 2. Christian Burlacu, McKamy, Mrs. Edge 3. Kennedi Petteway, Downing, Mrs. Leverett 
Grade 7: 1. Jianing Lin, Downing, Mrs. Phan  2. Kaira Nobles, Downing, Mrs. Phan 3. Tina Luo, McKamy, Mrs. Warriner  
Grade 8: 1. Aidan Shuda, Downing, Ms. Witnauer 2. Madeline Hoffmann, Downing, Mrs. Anthony 3. Eva Vreeland, McKamy, Ms. Rougeau
Grade 9: 1. Ashna Mulastanam, FMHS, Ms. Harper 2. Tanner Taylor, Marcus, Mrs. Madewell  3. Delaney Swinson, LHS, Ms. Domenech
Grade 10: 1. Wells Lofgren, Hebron, Ms. Bertrand  2. Averi Coleman, Hebron, Ms. Bertrand  3A. Nikhita Ragam, MHS, Ms. Black
3B. Ryleigh Hajek, Hebron, Ms. Bertrand
Grade 11: 1. Camille Parker Mims, LHS Harmon, Ms. Squibb 2. Lauryn Mulkey, MHS, Ms. Madewell 3. Suket Shah, FMHS, Mrs. Gregory
Grade 12: 1. Brynna Boyd, FMHS, Ms. McMichael 2. Lindsey Golden, Lewisville, Ms. Squibb 3. Tin Mawng Shew, LHS, Mrs. Simpson   

N. TX MLK 2017-18 Essay Contest Winners' Snippets

Grade 4, First Place: We all play in the Change process, as well as, have our individual parts. Be the one to make a difference and leave behind a legacy for all to remember. Change starts with the person in the mirror. Be the Change!                              Cameron A. Williams - Valley Ridge, Mrs. Tallas  

Grade 4, Second Place: "So now we can be the change we want to see in the world, whether we make big changes or small ones. We can become great like Dr. King and inspire people around the world, or we can just give our lunch to a homeless person. Everyone an make a difference, everyone can be the change."                                                                                                                                                          Ava Terefe - Hebron Valley, Ms. Masinelli  

Grade 4, Third Place: We can achieve unity by making friends and having relationships. From then on, it's all about working together. 
                                                                                                                                                                         Tierney Brooke Jackson – Donald, Mrs. Radke  

Grade 5, First Place: Dr. King yearned for the day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. He dreamed of interracial children holding hands in unity and all individuals no matter the race will be united as one and have public freedom. 
                                                                                                                                                                                     Karlie Watson, Coyote Ridge, Mr. Hall  

Grade 5, Second Place: Martin Luther King wanted to make big changes to our country and our communities. I know that I can't change the world by myself but I can start with my family and my community and changing the way we treat people who are disabled... I will embrace unity, I will be the change."                                                                                                                                                                     Samuel Salas, Coyote Ridge, Mrs. Lott  

Grade 5, Third Place (A): "But....what is unity? Unity is when we come together with other people or groups to make something greater than any of us alone. And we can embrace unity by being friendly and harmonized so that we have a common purpose to work towards.
                                                                                                                                                                                          Noorain Aziz, Castle Hills, Canida  

Grade 5, Third Place (B): We should live in unity all the time and the change starts with all of us. We have to start by being nicer to each other. We can smile at a stranger. . . .When we treat others with love and kindness, we will begin to change this country for the better.
                                                                                                                                                                                 Sydney Etufugh, Castle Hills, Ms. Etherly  

Grade 6, First Place: Dr. King was an advocate of change. In his heart, he believed that by uniting people who posit his beliefs together, he could make a difference in society. Dr. King used his voice to encourage others to shift their point of view and to work towards a more unified future where there was no segregation and racism. …Recent events show that the world still needs fixing, and it can only happen if we join hands together. Be the movement. Be the change.                                                                                                                                                                Niraj Yawalkar, Downing, Mrs. Witnauer

Grade 6, Second Place: Change is often what sparks breakthroughs and fosters progress. The journey however can be long and tedious, fraught with hardships and prejudice. …Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that the most direct and persuasive way to bring change was to make society look at themselves. …He understood that change should be made by peaceful means and never by spurring violence. …Martin Luther King Jr. was a courageous pioneer and leader with an approach that boldly altered humanity for the better.                                                                Christian Burlacu, McKamy, Mrs. Edge 

Grade 6, Third Place: Change starts with me. I can be the change that needs to be made to bring unity in the community by showing God’s love to everyone I meet. Unity means accepting everyone for who they are no matter what they look like or where they are from…Dr. King wanted all children to attend school together, learn together, live and share this world together in peace, love, and harmony. If we all embraced unity and started making positive changes with ourselves, the mission will be accomplished: Dream becomes a reality.               Kennedi Petteway, Downing, Mrs. Leverett 

Grade 7, First Place: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood a very important thing. He understood that in order to restore humanity we needed to bond with each other. To embrace unity, to embrace a change. Sometimes in order to move forward we have to take risks. Changes start with you. Every minor thing that you have to contribute can turn into something so infinite and boundless. Human nature draws us into our own twisted path, but maybe in order to accomplish the higher goal we need to unify.                                                                                             Jianing Lin, Downing, Mrs. Phan

Grade 7, Second Place: Dr. King began the action of bringing together a society. Individuals saw that they didn’t have to disagree with their peers just because of the color of their skin or that’s what everyone else was doing. They saw that they could embrace unity and come together with their neighbors, friends, family and colleagues at work. …Dr. King took a stand that changed the world forever. He was the change in that time, the start of something new. …In this present time, we need to keep the love going and make a positive difference in other’s lives around us. We need to continue the effort to impact our community and culture.                                                                                                              Kaira Nobles, Downing, Mrs. Phan 

Grade 7, Third Place: Dr. King expressed his desire for all people to come together as a whole, but what are you and I contributing to keep his legacy alive? …While we imprint our marks into this world, we should embrace the special parts of everyone that ultimately piece together the puzzle of unity. In our everyday lives, we must ensure that we are creating a positive impact on the people around us. Loving others for who they are allows us all to become a single, unstoppable team. Together as one, we are capable of preserving and fulfilling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream for unity. 
                                                                                                                                                                                               Tina Luo, McKamy, Mrs. Warriner

Grade 8, First Place: The world is a puzzle being put together by those that strive to change it. Every person can play a part, no matter their circumstances. As each piece is united, the world is changed, however minutely... Embrace unity, and put together the picture that makes up our world. Be the change that people see and recognize…Every person can take part in trying to accomplish the goal of unity. It doesn’t matter if the action is as simple as holding the door for someone. A small act of kindness can go a long way. We only need to believe that what we do it changing the world, and when we do, it will.                                                                                                                                                   Aidan Shuda, Downing, Ms. Witnauer

Grade 8, Second Place: Discrimination is not always based on the color of your skin. You can be discriminated against your weight, religion, race, disabilities, and even your school grades. If discrimination ends, it will ultimately result in a world where all people are standing together, unified as one. The first step in changing this worldwide problem is to silence the arbitrary deceitful judgement and stereotyping of people… Something else we need to replenish is respect for all people. If we refuse to obtain respect for one another, we will most likely never achieve equality. Although respect is a given, it should be inalienable. Even if your personal beliefs do contradict, it should be advocated that no citizen deserves less respect or recognition from a certain community of people.                                                                                                                            Madeline Hoffmann, Downing, Mrs. Anthony

Grade 8, Third Place: Out of those three forms of violence [Triple Evils are poverty, racism, and militarism] I desire to help out with poverty in my community… First, I will participate in any donating programs or anything that benefits the poor. I am going to make sure the word gets spread about those kinds of things… The next part of poverty is hunger and malnutrition. There are so many people out there that are in desperate need of food. There is so much food to go around in this world, but only the people who can afford food are allowed to eat it. But why can't every own the right to have food on their plates at all times? Lastly, some changes that I think should be made are having guaranteed homes for people, the houses don't have to be perfect whatsoever, but just the fact of having a roof over everybody's head is ideal.                                    Eva Vreeland, McKamy, Ms. Rougeau  

Grade 9, First Place: First and foremost, humankind should embrace unity to create change by eradicating poverty. One of King's dreams was annihilating poverty; however, since 1963, the percentage of blacks in poverty has only dropped 14%, whites 5%, Asians a mere 4%, and the percentage of Hispanics in poverty has actually risen 3%. Therefore, eliminating poverty is the first leap on the path to uniting to create change… Secondly, humankind should embrace unity to create change by bridling militarism. Militarism includes war, rape, domestic violence, terrorism, human trafficking, drugs, child abuse, and violent crime. As more and more stories of rape and abuse surface, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the harsh, unjust cruelty that so many innocent people of all types face. Man, woman, black, white, Hindu, Christian, or anything in between, it should not matter because every single one is human. What makes them different is what makes them beautiful, so embrace it rather than fight it. Finally, humankind should embrace unity to create change by banishing racism.                                                                            Ashna Mulastanam, FMHS, Ms. Harper

Grade 9, Second Place: Change is always happening-time never stops and nothing is constant. Just a small action can set off a chain of events that drastically changes everything. One person fighting against the popular opinion can plant a seed in everyone's mind, and just that little bit can start a revolution. The world will change, but it's up to you to change it for the better… Even today there are still racial injustices, prejudice, and hate. If everyone person works together in harmony, we can wash these problems away… Racism is just a belief. It is not real-it's an idea in our mind; and ideas can be changed. The idea that one race is not as good as another is false because there is no differentiating factor that makes one better or worse. Every person is different, and they all have their own separate ideals; just because their skin color is the same does not mean they have the same religion, morals, or beliefs…It's not just race-even today people are killed and looked down upon because of their religious view or political beliefs. Extremists across the world believe if that if you are not following their religion, you should be killed. Every person has a given right to choose for themselves what religion they believe in or what they political views they follow. You should not be judged on your beliefs; they are your opinions and yours only. 
                                                                                                                                                                          Tanner Taylor, Marcus, Mrs. Madewell

Grade 9, Third Place: Embrace unity. What does it mean? Embracing unity means that we must accept others for our differences, and slowly not notice them at all… The only thing that separates us from one and other is our mind set. Change that, and you change the world. Be the change you want to see in the world. You don't have to start big. Start with little things like telling that girl that you like her shoes, then tell that man to stop making fun of someone else, then help initiate others to change. Change is a gradual process and it can't happen all at once. You cannot wait for others to change before you. YOU are the change… Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to show us that if you don't have a huge impact now, that doesn't mean you won't make a bigger one in the future. You have to initiate the change, or it won't happen at all. Accepting the fact that we have differences, and then realizing that they don't define us or divide us will change how the world thinks… You are more important than you know, and everyone needs to realize they impact this world for either the better or for the worse.                                                                             Delaney Swinson, LHS, Ms. Domenech

Grade 10, First Place: 1. There is something inherently magical about love. Love transcends endless boundaries, braves the roughest of waves, and grows like a rose in the smallest of cracks in a sidewalk of sadness. This feeling of love is ingrained into our psyche, so much so that we remember even one brief moment of love over a lifetime. All that love touches is blessed with an incredible feeling, but at moments this pure feeling fades and we are left empty husks without love and compassion. Our culture seems to often be devoid of compassion and understanding leading many to give up hope on ever uniting again. The nation we live in is broken and a mere shell of itself. We spend more time arguing than actually fixing the gaping rift within ourselves. The only way I see to bring our fractured nation back together is love, and a desire to repair what has been lost. .. Change like a dove on the wind will arrive and breathe life into a country that so desperately needs it. This newfound unity will not be the result of one man's work or even a small group of people, it will only be accomplished by a whole society standing up and proclaiming that love is the only way out of the ditch we have fallen into. Love in the form of compassion for the weak, love in the form of patience with each other even in the most trying of times, and love in the form of forgiveness even when they do not deserve it. No other person has preached this philosophy better than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  
                                                                                                                                                                          Wells Lofgren, Hebron, Ms. Bertrand

Grade 10, Second Place: The beauty of life isn't simply that we have it, that's the reality. The beauty- masterful qualification if you will - is that we share it. What would a life without the rest of the world be? Dull, incomplete, undesirable! The list goes on, and an explanation would be useless; without the rest of the world we would be able to accomplish very little. We would be no better than lost ducklings stuck in the middle of a deadly highway. All of us should be so thankful that we have people in this world. The only issue is that we aren't. Oh, we do have ways of showing our gratitude: We wage wars, emotionally disturb others, physically abuse people, mark them as less than we are, or treat them differently for some reason that will never be excused. My sarcasm is nothing compared to this new reality. We accept the unpleasantries which are nothing less than what we call "hatred" these days. In fact, we've gotten used to it, but it's not something that should be comfortable to us. We do, after all, need each other. You wouldn't shoot yourself in the foot, yet, inadvertently, that's exactly what we are doing by being anything other than kind and loving to our equals in life… People in this world are infatuated with love, attention, and the overall comfort of human beings. Times when we are most happy almost always involve another person. This fact alone should spark the desire within us to want to meet others and make them happy. Hatred is the base, the root of all evil and evil doings; division is the cause of hatred, and that leads to dissonance.                                                                                     Averi Coleman, Hebron, Ms. Bertrand

Grade 10, Third Place (A): In one of his sermons, he mentions how his purpose in life was to serve humanity, which proves how King wanted the whole human population to live peacefully and respectfully together. In fact, the number of non-black followers of King increased as time progressed because they finally understood his belief of how at the end of the day, everyone is a human , and things such as race and wealth should have no impact on how one human treats another. Martin Luther King Jr. was the true embodiment of the change needed to bring unification in the American society... In present-day society, there have been multiple occurrences where America has strayed off from the vision King had , but that does not mean that it is impossible to achieve societal unity. Schools and local communities should embrace unity by raising awareness and highlighting the diversity in their societies. Hosting diversity days or engaging the whole community in multicultural activities such as Diwali or Kwanza will strengthen the bonds between different races and ethnicities, eliminating pre-existing tensions and forming unity between members. The transfixing riot that took place on August 12 should never occur again in the United States or in any other community around the world. Racial groups should never believe they are superior to another group because at the end of the day, everybody belongs to the same race: the human race. No matter how many times people want to dissociate themselves from other racial groups, the truth will hit them one day that they are no different than the ones they are shielding. 
                                                                                                                                                                                 Nikhita Ragam, MHS, Ms. Black

Grade 10, Third Place (B): Once people learn that it is unfair to fear someone of a different skin color, we can finally make real progress in the fight for racial equality. After all, Dr. King's biggest desire was for everyone to be judged by their character and not their physical appearance, and for POC [People Of Color] to be respected as equals. Yet it is popular in today's society to undermine black history… The discrimination and mistreatment of POC in the past needs to be recognized in our education. Books such as The Color Purple, etc. are banned for their vivid depictions of how slaves were treated, but what people need to realize is that this is reality. Allowing students to read and understand this truth of American history is absolutely necessary for students and kids to truly learn from the horrible actions of their ancestors. If we continue to skirt around the subject of racism, people will never truly realize how wrong racism is, and finally begin to correct it. It is now that we must reflect upon the philosophies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and his belief that we can peacefully end racism. Dr. King was a firm believer in peacefully achieving racial equality. Yet decades later racism is still prevalent all throughout the US. It is time that we stop trying to censor the hard truth of black history, and learn something from it. 
                                                                                                                                                                                 Ryleigh Hajek, Hebron, Ms. Bertrand

Grade 11, First Place: In order to create a union with the different types of people in our country, we must love one another as we love ourselves and our family. Love is the most powerful force that we can use. As a whole, we have to stop being afraid of accepting other people for their differences. Be it race, gender, disabilities, or sexual orientation we have to love each other beyond what we see as wrong… Each human in this world is born with the same desire to be accepted and to love and be loved as we should… Finally the last step to becoming a united nation is having the courage to accept these differences of other people around us and the differences inside each one of us individually. We have got to stop being afraid of the variations of beliefs and thoughts of the individuals in our country.                                                                 Camille Parker Mims, LHS Harmon, Ms. Squibb

Grade 11, Second Place: At only sixteen, I have witnessed the biggest breakthroughs in terms of society, life, and change. In 2009, I was only eight years old. At the time, I did not realize that my life would be impacted by such an historical moment. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States. People of color...people that were different, broke barriers that society and the world deemed titanium… Only a few years ago, people that were different broke another titanium barrier. Across the world, "Love is love" is a recognizable movement. The thought of two people of the same gender, sharing a love that wasn't completely understandable to some caused much havoc. Protest. Hate. The date was June 26t , 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that states must license same-sex marriages. Gay marriage became legal in all fifty states… For my twelfth birthday I watched Princess Tiana on screen. Disney's first black princess. Lupita Nyong'o, won the Academy Award for Best Actress -- an African-American woman. Television is representing the black community in a way that's broader than just athletes, gangsters, or maids. We're authors, producers, executives, and billionaires… The world makes it seem like people that don't look, think, or act the same cannot come together. It's funny...not only can people come together, they can move mountains when they do.                                                    Lauryn Mulkey, MHS, Ms. Madewell

Grade 11, Third Place: Standing on the center of the stage with the entire nation watching, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. valiantly gazed into the sea of humans of different color, gender, and age and used his courage to articulate one of the greatest speeches in American History, "I Have a Dream". King expressed his emphatic emotions towards a divided nation that was plagued by racism and bigotry. Twenty years before King's speech, on the other side of the world, a similar event occurred. Mahatma Gandhi stood in front a sea of Indians and Pakistanis delivering his famous speech, "Quit India". However, the world that both of these masterminds envisioned still has not come to fruition… Both of these divides display the ugly grip that hatred can have on man or society as a whole. Unfortunately, this ugly hand still has a grip on society today from violent clashes in Charlottesville to terrorism in Mumbai. It seems like despite the works of King or his role model Gandhi our world still has not learned to embrace unity, and in order to create change the current generation has to be the change…9000 miles away, King's ideas can still be used to diffuse the tensions between Hindus and Muslims. In the past 50 years there have been over to 9,000 incidents of violence of these leading to thousands of innocent people dying in India... King famously said "the time is always right to do what is right," and this should be the motto for both sides. The only way the situation between India and Pakistan can be eased is if one side initiates talk for peace. This initiation can only be done if people first clear their preconceived hatred for the other side and unite to peacefully send a clear message to the government to take action.                                                     Suket Shah, FMHS, Mrs. Gregory

Grade 12, First Place: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 was the day I realized I was black. It sounds crazy, but I made it five years, eight months, and nineteen days without having this realization. I suspected something on Halloween when I had no princess option since "The Princess and the Frog" wouldn't premiere until 2009. I had an inkling when no one else wore their hair in braids, and my face didn't turn red from heat like my porcelain peers, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't until that Tuesday, following the long weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, that I recognized this characteristic. We shuffled into our first grade class ready to learn. I sat down, without knowing what to expect. We ended up watching a time travel video about life today but without the Civil Rights Movement. This led to a life-changing conversation. My teacher asked the class, "How would life be different if we didn't have the Civil Rights Movement?" A boy across the room raised his hand while his answer burned his tongue. Our teacher called on him, and he grinned pridefully, ready to give his insight. "Well, she wouldn't be in our class," he said, pointing directly at me. Instantly, my quiet, reserved persona was breached. Being the shy kid I was, having every head turned my way was a nightmare, yet thirty-eight eyes burned into my soul. This was when I realized that although I wore the same clothes, lived in the same neighborhood, and ate the same food, I would always stand out here because I was irrefutably and inescapably black.
Following that day, many things made sense. I understood why everyone knew my name when I was so quiet. It would take years to grasp what being "the black kid" in a town like Flower Mound really meant. It would mean being lumped together with the handful of black kids at school. It would mean going to volunteer events with friends, and having people assume I was there because it was court-mandated, and people would disregard my accomplishments, calling it a "diversity hire." However, these minor negative aspects could never outweigh the good that comes with growing up in my hometown. One of those good things has been the ability to see firsthand the progress that has been made…Today, I think more deeply. I've become fascinated with history, sociology and literature and why people see others the way they do. I've become thoughtful and introspective about life, culture and how people are treated. I've learned that differences aren't just alright, but they're incredible and should be celebrated. As I remember that day in class, I realize the boy wasn't trying to be rude or spiteful. In fact, he was absolutely right. Had it not been for the Civil Rights Movement, there was no way I'd be in that class or even this town. Although my first-grade mind couldn't comprehend it, I now realize these are the conversations people need to have. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Race is one of those things. As we recognize and celebrate the state we live in now, it would be foolish to stop talking as if things couldn't be better. A wise man once said, "if you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward," but we can't do so if we fear the simple conversation. Even though my first grade self was uneasy, today I'm not, and I plan to be a part of the changes that will make the world better and more equal.                                                                                                                                                         Brynna Boyd, FMHS, Ms. McMichael

Grade 12, Second Place: The Sequoia Tree is the world's tallest tree. Many of these trees stand over two hundred and seventy-five feet tall with a base diameter over thirty-six feet! In fact, two of these trees placed end to end would be as tall at The Great Pyramid of Giza! You might not know, though, that the most complex aspect about the Sequoia trees is their root system: one root occupies over one acre of earth and contains over ninety thousand cubic feet of soil! The Sequoia tree is a good representation of an ideal society. Not all the trees in society are the same height, the same coloring, and the same age, but they all come from the same root. Since the Sequoia cannot stand on its own solitary root, that single root system spread underneath the ground, unifies the humanity. That similarity alone should reveal our unity in the same way that the Sequoia trees create a unified forest! Of course, the trees reveal different appearances from the ground up, but they are all unified under the soil. That unity IS their foundation that provides opportunities to grow. Our social foundation lies under each of us: we are human. From the ground up, we are not all the same complexion, we do not have the same features, and we do not speak the same language; indeed, it is these differences that make the human race so alluring. 
                                                                                                                                                                          Lindsey Golden, Lewisville, Ms. Squibb
Grade 12, Third Place:  Grade 12, 3rd Place 
...As a generation reaping the seeds that great men such as Martin Luther King, Jr. himself have sown before us, we need to embrace the principles of unity and the spirit of doing something to change the world. ...Dr. King understood that in order to achieve his goals of justice and equality, he needed to bring together people from all walks of life and get them to stand up against injustice and racism. …We as a generation today must rise together and unify ourselves against evil and injustice. …We must embrace the principles of unity and come together as a people with a common goal in order to fulfill Dr. King’s dreams. …Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not just advocate change, he became the change that the world needed in order to gain equality and justice. As such, we today must also be willing to become the change if we want to transform the world. …If we want something to change, we must take action ourselves in order to make that transformation. …If we as a generation are to fulfill Dr. King’s dreams of a nation where all men are created equal, we must unify ourselves and be the change that we wish to see in the world.                             Tin Mawng Shew, LHS, Mrs. Simpson                 
Grade 4
1. Maryam Amatul Aziz, Castle Hills, Ms. Buell
"Martin Luther King's philosophy contributed tremendously in shaping world peace. His message about Love, Peace and brotherhood is going to echo forever. He is that great hero who will live in our hearts forever."

2. Ava Biggins, Prairie Trail, Mr. Clayton/Ms. Parker
 "He spoke for the voiceless and gave hope for equality. Martin loved diversity and he wanted us to celebrate our differences."

3. Elizabeth Daiva, Old Settlers, Ms. Young
"Just as a bouquet of different flowers is beautiful with different colors even so there is much beauty in diversity."

Grade 5
1. Mia Susanne, B.B. Owen, Miss Wheat
"Due to the sacrifice of Dr. King we have a world, that while isn't perfect, is much better than it was. As a student I am able to experience the different cultures of my classmates and my teachers."

2. Nia Lakhani, Coyote Ridge Elementary, Mrs. Duban
"We should always respect each other and love the diversity in our world by treating everyone equally."

3. Claire Olivia Skelton, McAuliffe, Mrs. Burton 
"I love that I can talk to and be friends with any person I want to without having to worry about their skin color, their beliefs, their looks, or even their families."

Grade 6
1. Noorain Aziz, Killian, Mrs. Cordell
We are wonderful because we are different from one another...Dr. King started a spark that would lead to the fire of people all around the world standing up for equality. He permanently left a mark in history that pressed equality in the minds of young and old everywhere. He taught us that no matter what age race, sex or religion, we should love each other, cherish each other and seek to understand each other. We should all realize that the most wonderful thing about humanity is that we are all different from one another. The important lesson that Martin Luther King taught us is that we should love the diversity in our world. It’s what makes us humans, and what makes us perfect.

2. Ava Linton, Briarhill, Mrs. Oliver

We need the unique talents and ideas of all people to make the world beautiful, just like artists need many colors to make a beautiful painting. An artist does not paint with only one color. The artist creates a blend of green, orange, black and yellow which turns into a breathtaking work of art. Only by using different colors can the artist make the painting interesting. Our work is much more interesting with diverse groups of people.

3. Arav Sawhney, McKamy, Ms. Edge

We should work hard to achieve our goal of a more accepting world. As we reflect on what Dr. King means to us, it is important that we adopt his hopeful attitude and use it to encourage our peers and ourselves to remain hopeful and dedicated to ensuring that all men and women of this country, no matter their differences, experience life-long equality.

Grade 7

1. Erik Soelberg, Downing, Mrs. Phan
If we gave everybody a chance in life, the strength in love and cooperation would put the world in a better place, not just for now, but for many years in the future. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to the Earth to spread the message that everybody is equal and should be loved. He showed love in the way it should be, with peace and happiness. …Everyone is structured in a different, unique way to love each other in the very diverse world that we live in. 

2. Lillian Shai Cassady, Griffin, Ms. Hendrix
Today, even though we have equality in America for people of all races, personalities, religions, etc., there are still people who abuse people that are different than them. …We need to show love to those who are different than us. America is the melting pot of cultures. America shows that it is possible to accept and love the diversity in our world. Personally, I don’t just love the diversity of our world, I find it fascinating. I have learned about many different cultures all around the world. …My mission is to show love to the people who may not be the same as me. You can, too. 

3. Tatyana Panchishna, McKamy, Mrs. Warriner
Dr. King was one of the most influential figures in helping all cultures in the United States learn to accept one another. …The lasting legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. has impacted the world more than he could have ever imagined, changing our attitudes towards equality for the better. The love of diversity that this world has is evident in many aspects of my life. …On my swim team, there are many different people with very diverse backgrounds and there is respect and love for every single one of them. …Each day, I see diversity in school and on my swim team and the love that is included is all in thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Grade 8
1. Tina Luo, McKamy, Ms. Miller

At the age of five, we merrily skipped along the playground with smiles of joy radiating from our faces, hands intertwined in a beautiful rainbow. Our eyes did not peer through the lens of vicious judgement and bitter hatred. As days morphed into years, society slithered its way into our heads, infiltrating our minds with thoughts insisting that certain colors of our rainbow possessed more beauty and value than others. Our contrasts transformed into walls of division that forced us further and further apart. Dr. King envisioned a world where the love of individuals for one another transcended all boundaries, including ethnicity and religion. Dr. King dreamt of a world where these differences were celebrated, and his legacy rests in our hands to preserve and transform into our reality. Today, a decision of paramount importance exists before all of us: degrade others for their individuality or love the diversity in our world.
As Dr. King expressed, we must not only accept, but love diversity, for it is our unique identities that unite to form a world of life and enthusiasm. With a palette of multiple colors, an artist can forge a vibrant and unparalleled masterpiece by utilizing the potential of several colors and blending them together to create new tones and hues. From the colors of our skin to the ideology in our hearts, Dr. King realized that we must love the diversity in our world, for all individuals are special in their own right. Furthermore, Dr. King advocated for equality amongst all, in which everyone treats others with love and respect regardless of physical differences and internal beliefs. In his words, we, as the people of today and tomorrow, must choose to infuse love into our world in order to live in harmony with one another. Diversity stands as a gate, not a barrier, to love streaming through. 
While we leave our impact on the world, we must remember Dr. King and his dream for an inclusive, culturally diverse world. Each and every individual must search past the surface and love the diversity around them. Together, we can live in harmony, standing proudly upon our magnificent rainbow as it sings to the deepest of oceans and the highest of skyscrapers, beaming with gratification at Dr. King's fulfilled dream. 

2. Ji Hoon William Yoon, Downing, Ms. Wittnauer
Throughout history, there is one thing that humans were never able to completely obtain and that is unity. There are many powerful, influential figures who have worked towards bringing us together and have impacted society, but in the end, they all failed. Sojourner Truth, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., are renowned as the most influential people in the fight for human rights, but although they contributed to the cause, they could not bring true unification to the nation, and the question is "Why?" It was because the nation itself obstinately refused to change its ideals and was unable to fully cast away its prejudice towards others, whether it is because of race, looks, intelligence, or skin color. However, this doesn't make unity impossible. Despite our shortcomings, if we make the effort to extend our hand out to others and love them as one of our own, then we can achieve the goal of truly unifying the human race as one community.
Most people already have it [unity] to some extent. They are already in harmony with their family and friends. All they have to do now is to embrace their unity and nurture their relationships. In fact, countless individuals are also one with people that they don't even know. They are tied together by hope, religion, race and language all across the globe. However, there are many people who would rather discriminate against others and put them down rather than extending out a hand to others. Many of us could choose to help others but our prideful, prejudiced minds refuse to change regardless of the situation. Due to this, our nation is not in peace. However, we can help others who are lost in the sea of hatred and despair by simply extending out a helpful hand towards them and unifying with them. In conclusion, since humans are prideful and prejudiced in nature, we may never be able to truly unite together as one nation, but we can still try to unify with others and become the change in their lives. 

3. Aishwarya Aby, Creek Valley, Ms. Nguyen
To me, diversity means having love, respect, and showing harmony towards those who I don't know and those who are different from me. Educating others about the differences among us will ultimately shed light where there would otherwise be the darkness of ignorance. As an Indian girl, I learned to be grateful of my culture rather than be ashamed. There are so many traditions and holidays that have shaped me into who I am today. I do Bharatanatyam, which is a classical Indian dance that I have been learning since I could walk. It is who I am and I'm not afraid to show and teach others about it anymore because I know people will appreciate it and support me. I take every opportunity I can to introduce others to Bharatnatyam. My church offers a Bollywood class that anyone of any ages can attend. My friends and I usually lead the sessions, and we bring Indian food, clothes, and many more. Sharing our culture with others is not only rewarding but necessary.
I look around at school and I realize how diverse my school is and how much I adore it. Rather than discrimination of diversity, our school embraces and loves it. Annually, our NJHS hosts Multicultural Night in which the NJHS students volunteer and set up booths and performances for the whole school and parents to enjoy. No matter what the year, I always went home learning something new. I love learning about others because that is what makes life exciting and adds dimensions of color and light to our world.
Martin Luther King Jr. disapproved of segregation and fought for colored peoples' rights peacefully. Gandhi led India into independence and inspired peaceful protest all around the world. Differences used to be something people felt was a burden and tried to hide away. Nowadays, differences are accepted, acknowledged, and appreciated. I believe Dr. King’s dream is very much alive and well today.

Grade 9
1. Sophia Sutherland, Harmon9, Mr. Boyle
Our world is definitely one-of-a-kind. We are humans with abstract minds, yet we tend to forget that. If there were no diversity and we were all the same, our world would be monochromatic, and our self-expression would be idle.
We need newness and variation to create development. What purpose would we serve, if there is nothing more to create, or to give to the world? Once our expression is pushed away by continuous copies, what else can we do for each other, and ourselves?
The acceptance and appreciation of diversity is beautiful. Learning and experiencing new things should be a part of everyday life, and without diversity, we wouldn't have that. We are able to dive deeper into the wonders of the world, the new discoveries, and form relationships with people of one-of-a-kind minds. Each person you pass has their own stories, morals, appearance, and each has their own complex brain. There is much to discover, and there is much to love and grasp.
At the end of the day, it is a miracle for us to be alive at all. The thought of existing is beautiful in itself and we let that fly over our heads every day. Do not let the routine of life let you forget how vast the world is, and how much there is to love, and discover.  

2. Samanta Lopez, FMHS9, Ms. Harper
Nature gives us the best example of diversity: diversity of the species, diversity of the ecosystems, diversity of the genes and beyond. Yet every living organism in its own is unique and that makes our world so special. The pilot fish needs the shark and the shark needs the pilot fish. And we humans can't survive either without this diversity in the world. The beauty of it all is that diversity is beyond the human race. In order for the human race to prosper in great strides, we need racial diversity, thinking diversity, religious diversity, and more. 
Dr. King wanted racial equality so much that he was willing to put his own life in danger. When we look at the effects he has brought, we know how momentous his existence was. Without him, separate but equal would still be in American society today. There would be separate water fountains. There would be redlining. America would be a different nation. The Declaration of Independence's unalienable rights and the idea that "all men are created equal" would not exist. What then would happen to the American Dream? 
Although Martin Luther King Jr. led great strides toward equality, there is still work to be done. We cannot settle until "justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." We will not settle until redlining stops. We will not settle until there exists no wage gap. If we can learn to embrace each other without exception, we can follow in King's footsteps. We are all the same species and it's time we treat each other like we are. It's time we got over our differences and embrace them. Get involved in your community. Learn about other cultures and your own. Reach out and volunteer. Get out of your comfort zone. Be the change you want to see. 

3. Gabriella Morrison, Harmon9, Mr. Boyle
I am a living, breathing example of diversity. I am made up of a bloodline of African Americans, American Indians, and Creoles. I am the descendant of former slaves, ancient Indian chiefs, and Creoles who cook my now-favorite dishes. Every part intertwines and what do you get? Me. As a matter a fact, there is no one else like me. I'm original. When I look at my classroom, I see people who have come from all over the world. We all have different experiences, different lives. And yet, one thing that we all have in common is diversity. We love our diversity. It makes us who we are, who we want to be, and who we're going to be. 
One particular person we were blessed with was Martin Luther King Jr. Even though we lost him, he has touched our hearts. His ideas, principles, and beliefs helped guide him through life, and will continue to light the way for many others. He fought and spoke his mind about racism, oppression, and segregation. I know that even though we all come from different places around the world, we are all on the face of the earth together. Being made up of a variety of cultures doesn't mean we can't work together. It means we can come as one and help each other out. I'm not the only person who is diverse. There are millions of people made up of different cultures. We are everywhere you turn. We see things differently. We are the ones that have and will change the world because of our point of views. We see the world the way others don't. Embracing diversity is what we need. Embracing diversity gives us life.

Grade 10
1. Sang Bik Thang, Harmon, Ms. Antoine
All living things are a part of God's amazing drawing. God specifically made birds different from fishes so that when one looked at the sky where the birds flew, he would see the goodness of God and when one looked at the ocean, where the fishes swam, he would see the goodness of God. In all aspects of life, it's evident that there is a purpose for why everything is the way it is. So I ask you, why it is so hard for one to appreciate this diversity? See, no matter what religion, race, or gender one is, at the end of the day we are all humans. We should all relish the uniqueness of every single person on Earth as part of the bright and vivid picture of life on Earth. So, for one to truly win the many battles of life, one must be equipped with the utmost wisdom that derives from the acceptance of diversity, and that he alone is not tenacious enough to defeat the beast that lies within all the hardships of life.
Over eight billion people live on Earth, each one unique in his or her own way. No two beings are exactly the same, as each and every one differs in the composition of their characteristics or physical features. So living in a world where no one is exactly the same, why should one create a physical barrier that ultimately separates him from the rest of society? Look at all the religions in the world, no matter what religion it is they are all harmonic in their stands for peace...
Even on a smaller scale, it is evident that one cannot go on nor succeed in life without the help of others. Take a look at all the successful people of today. On their way to fame, other people someway or somehow contributed. Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the most famous and wealthiest footballer on the planet, came from one of the poorest neighborhoods in Madeira, Portugal. He lacked a lot of the resources that others had but took advantage of any help that he could get. He eventually earned the opportunity to play for a youth team. Ronaldo did so well that he had to leave his home to play in the capital city of Lisbon. However, adapting to the city life and culture was very hard for Ronaldo as he would often cry when he talked to his mother. In this harsh time, Ronaldo had a friend by the name of Fabio Ferreira, who encouraged him and gave him a shoulder to lean on. Later, Ronaldo would join Real Madrid for a world record transfer fee of a hundred million dollars. See, although there surely was some talent and true dedication involved in the making of Ronaldo, it is very possible that he might not have overcome these obstacles or be in the position that he is in without the help of his friend. It's true that one person can't help everybody, but everybody can help one person.
In life, people come and go. The love and the relationships we build are the only things that are left to us in memory, so why not build a house full of memories with the people around us no matter who they are or what they are. Everyone's destined to die. We all want to live a lucrative and jocund life, but if one goes around all day complaining about his differences or the disparity of others, the Sun will set before he could ever accomplish his goals in life. So, for one to truly understand the purpose of life, one must have the acceptance and understanding of others which lays deep in the heart of diversity. Learn to appreciate other people and the unique things they bring to the table. Trust me, you'll be more content with life in general, but if, and only if, you break the physical barrier that segregates humanity.

2. Sammi Kwon, Hebron, Ms. Bertrand
To define diversity in our world, we must observe the various identities, people, ideas, and origins. We must be able to acknowledge that our experiences differ from each other. But to define the loving of diversity, we must accept each other's differences and appreciate the steps humanity made towards transforming the stigma to blessing, beginning with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, appreciation of diversity is not solely a single layered concept of just love- it is the process of overcoming hate to grow together as one, despite many differences.
The world in which we live today is a result of the unique ideas that people have provided and pursued. Different environments and thought processes formed diverse ideas and visions. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the United States has become known as the land of opportunity and brought people here from all over the world. So many immigrants and people of different cultures have built upon their roots to bring America their perspectives, creating this melting pot of variety in almost every category. Furthermore, they built the reputation of America's creativity and bravery. Fusion of cultures brought upon thousands of new recipes while cultural backgrounds brought innovations to America's clean slate. Einstein, an immigrant from Germany, represented the United States as he paved a new path in science that impacted the world. Sergey Brin is an immigrant who has created the one of the internet's biggest website platforms. Arianna Huffington is a Greek immigrant who established The Huffington Post, a news platform that operates across the world. We became the great country we are today thanks to the wide set of different people who contributed to their future and connected people from all over the world, despite where or who they were. Without diversity, or the appreciation thereof, there wouldn't be the innovations and inventions that led to the rise of the 21st century.
Though diversity led to improvements and innovations, being different hasn't always been a favorable trait. It was often a stigma, a weakness. People were segregated and hated not only for their skin color, but for their gender identities, appearances, and origins. Segregation was a major barrier to receiving equal treatment and love in the 1960s: People of color were grouped away from Caucasians and were treated differently solely because of how their appearance. Women were rejected their rights to receive benefits for their service in wars as they were segregated, along with people of color, to minor positions that provided no recognition for them. People of different sexual orientations were treated with negligence and hate solely because they didn't love who they were stereotypically supposed to love. However, the mistreatment of people for their distinct traits did not stop at social stigma and negligence. The differences brought upon fear and confusion to those who were so used to homogeneity. This fear gave way to hate and the hate gave way to violence that struck people and killed many solely because they did not fit in the norms. Civil Rights Activists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers were assassinated for their passion to normalize what should be considered normal; Stonewall Riots resulted after police raided gay bars in the Greenwich Village. But this diversity, that was the fuel for hate crimes and violence, was what united the people to appreciate each other and fight for overcoming this hate. Passing of legislation, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and breaking of social norms through constant marches and assemblies helped unite America, and perhaps even other countries, into one country that has diverse traits and qualities that represents a melting pot of so many cultures and opportunities.
Diversity is a multifaceted concept of innovation and break of hate for the sake of unity, regardless of the variety in qualities. Though the appreciation of our differences has grown over the years, there is still much hate and negligence surrounding us. We must never forget the sacrifices people have made for the more widely accepted differences and add on to those achievements by loving our diversity and working for a better future where hate itself is stigma.

3. Gracie Tribolet, Hebron, Ms. Bertrand
I used to gaze upon the world, like I was seeing through a window. Contained in a safe place, protected from the outside world, blocked from the darkness that exists, blinded from reality, and living in a fantasy. Then one day, I went outside and saw the world for what it was. I finally saw the darkness, but it wasn't just darkness it was fear, rage, violence, and pain. But the worst thing I saw was the darkness overtaking humans, we were destroying each other because of our differences. Our diversity is dividing us, by creating a world with oppression. We need to accept and thrive because of our diversity. We need to embrace tolerance; only then we can create a better world for us to live and thrive in. All we need to do is create tolerance among all the diverse groups in our society.
Tolerance is recognizing others’ beliefs without sharing or practicing them. Tolerance is what makes us human, it is a responsibility that upholds human rights, while promoting peace in our society. Every person has an obligation to uphold the meaning of tolerance, by acting toward the common good. We can create tolerance through education and greater efforts need to be made to teach people about tolerance, human rights, and respecting other ways of life. We also need to have more self-awareness of the things we do or say, and how those actions are seen in society. Of course, creating tolerance doesn't happen overnight, it is a process that will take years and years, through the generations and generations of people. 
Dr. King shared these beliefs, he saw the injustice in the world and he didn't hide from it. Dr. King used his knowledge and experiences to teach the world the dangers of oppression and how to better accept diversity in our daily lives. Dr. King was a prominent leader in the civil rights movement and used non-violent protests to peacefully show the world that oppression was not to be ignored. He spurred societal change and not just for equality under the law, but for tolerance and acceptance of all races and ethnicities. 
Once I was outside, I couldn't go back in to the safety of the window. I tried to go back in, I screamed, I cried, and begged for someone to let me back in, to the safety of my safe place. But once you see something, you can't block it, or forget it. You are burdened with that knowledge for the rest of your life. Then, you are given a choice to either ignore the darkness and hide away, or fight to see a better world, a world without oppression. So, do your part and make a difference in society, like Dr. King.

Grade 11
Sarah Saleem, MHS, Ms. Popp
 Although the United States has a painfully complex relationship with diversity, we can still strive to overcome it and embrace our diversity by acknowledging the oppression faced by marginalized groups, by educating ourselves on the world that surrounds us, and by taking action through the many resources available to us. From its conception, America has been a study in contrasts. Although our founders prized freedom and the natural rights of man, slavery persisted for nearly a century after the Declaration of Independence. Despite being a country built on immigrants, nativism and hatred of immigration still continues. Though equality has been a value touted by Americans everywhere, racism and the continued suppression of minorities has been a constant reminder that America is just as much a nation of hypocrisy as a nation of liberty. Diversity is beautiful- our racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural differences give the world meaning. Looking back, the civil rights movement of the 1960s fought against the separate but equal standard because it was inherently untrue. Today we stand on a different cliff, where many Americans have professed themselves colorblind, where all races and ethnicities ought to be considered the same in all matters, where there is no difference between black, white, brown, etc. The issue here is not with the idea of equality- of course all races, ethnicities, human beings ought to be given the same rights- but rather with the blatant dismissal of culture and historical precedent. Remaining colorblind is the complete opposite of embracing diversity, because it ignores the historic disenfranchisement that people of color have faced and continue to face in our society. 
There are activist groups for virtually every marginalized group. It is easier than ever to be an activist, because activism today is so varied and widespread. By voting in both local and national elections, we can elect those who hold the power to change the American stance on diversity. We have been on a slow and steady trek towards fully embracing the diversity in our world and it likely won't be finished during our lifetime. But we, as a country, have battled extreme hate with compassionate activism and continue to do so- proving that we are capable of the great change.

2. Alexis Marzawanian, MHS, Ms. Forthun
 The beauty of diversity isn't the range of different ethnicities, cultures, or races, it's the fact that despite our differences we somehow all connect with one another. Whether our connection is through similar beliefs, common interests, or even just the fact that we live near each other. Diversity shapes our society and helps bring people together despite their differences. As a child, prejudice and inequality were not a concern. Life was so simple then, only cares in the world were the simplest of things such as what we were going to play with. We didn't care if our friends were different
I used to be ashamed of my Lebanese and Armenian heritage. I was afraid that if I embraced my ethnicity that I would not "fit in". All of my friends would tell me how they wished to have such a "cool" ethnicity, but I just couldn't believe them. In 1915, the Ottoman Empire exterminated 1.5 million Armenians. My ancestors were part of the 400,000 that managed to escape. They fled to Lebanon where they raised their families and where my grandparents and parents were born. My grandparents fled Lebanon when war broke out, seeking a better life for their children. With little money and not knowing a single word of English, they came to America. They faced many struggles including discrimination. At times they were called "terrorists" simply because they were Middle Eastern. That didn't stop them, though. They raised their families in America with little to nothing and eventually flourished through hard work and persistence.
I am so grateful for all of the sacrifices my family has made to provide a better life me and the future generations of our family and I have come to realize that if I don't embrace my diversity, then all of those people who tried to destroy my race would have succeeded. I lived a lot of my childhood in fear of being judged for my "weird" ethnicity, but now I am happy to accept who I am and where my roots originated. So, I encourage everyone to embrace their diversity and whatever makes them unique and to accept everyone no matter what.

3. Suchitaa Sawhney, FMHS, Ms. McMichael
 My personal experiences have taught me to be more understanding and accepting and to remind others that being different is not something to be ashamed of, but rather, something to embrace. The human race is extraordinarily diverse in gender, ethnicity, race, religion, nationality, sexuality, lifestyle, and philosophy. The areas in which we differ are endless. Yet, at a fundamental level, we are all human — we all experience highs and lows in life, and we all strive to be happy and fulfilled. Our common pains and joys are what unite us but our diversity exhibits our uniqueness. Diversity is what makes each person a distinct individual, one who has never existed and will never exist again. Loving diversity is the key to a peaceful world. 
Many of the world's tragedies have been caused by discrimination on the basis of differences: the Holocaust, the Crusades, and slavery, among others. Yet, this problem exists today. There are numerous examples around us, with various religious wars and genocides happening throughout the world. 
In most of our minds, we possess assumptions that make us judge people who are different from us without even realizing. Yet, if instead of emphasizing our differences, we focus on what we have in common, as Martin Luther King Jr. hoped, we can create more peace in the world. Martin Luther King Jr., like Gandhi, Mandela, and Wiesel, was a champion for diversity — an issue for which he fought fervently. His message and teachings still ring true today, and his dream of diversity and inclusion is a notion for which we are still fighting. May we all continue to push for the equality Dr. King envisioned — today, it is more important than ever. 
In order to fully embrace diversity, it is crucial to be open-minded. For example, focus upon embracing other people, with all of the diversity that comes with them. Avoid defining a person based upon one stereotype or one assumption because everyone has an individual, complex identity. I learned to embrace my differences when I realized that being different was a benefit. Ever since, it has been my goal to teach others to love their differences, similar to how I did. We must join forces and accept our differences, so we can create a better, more peaceful world. 

3. Justin Walker, TCHS, Mr. Meyrat
 With the growing polarization of political landscape into a linear progression of only Liberal, or Democrat, and Conservative, or Republican, comes an immediate decrease in the acceptance of unity. Religious identities are also becoming increasingly problematic; sexual identities are being disavowed, and the divide between the average person and his neighbor is wider than ever. Dr. King yearned for the day when one man is seen no different from another, and the worth of an individual is based on the "color of their character." What we instead have is identity politics where an individual is based solely off of who they are ethnically, sexually, and religiously. Isn't this viewpoint the complete antithesis of unity? That's where the problem lies. True unity is only ever truly achieved through diversity. With all of the different identities of race, gender, or affiliations, diversity is more key to our culture than ever before. 
To view it from an economic standpoint, cultural diversity is critical to growth and development. Cultural diversity improves creativity, allowing more flowing viewpoints and perspectives. Put another way, diversity leads to a variety of perspectives and thinking styles, offering opportunity for new ideas. To view the issue from a strictly biological perspective, biodiversity is critical to the development of the human race. It allows for differences in appearance and personality, and it even lowers risk of disease. Finally, from the viewpoint of the average person, diversity allows for a more well-rounded and educated viewpoint of the world. Those who are closed-minded are only such because of the environment they were raised in. Without the experiences of different variations of culture, race, gender and sexual identities, and religions, no one can understand the viewpoints of others. 
Perspective is the key to an empathetic culture where we can all understand the effects of our actions, which would let us work harmoniously as a society. Diversity, in the end, is the most critical factor in a beneficial human race. Whether it's race, gender, or religion, the things that make us all different are the keys to bring us all together. We must love the things we don 't share to appreciate the things we do.

Grade 12
1. Asyah Jiron, LHS, Ms. Squibb
Malcolm Forbes described diversity as the art of thinking independently, together. In order to love the diversity in our world, we must learn to accept others' differences and seek understanding. Rainbows illustrate how amazing it is when beautiful, different, and precise components come together. Christians feel the seven distinctive colors are a promise from God that He would never flood the entire Earth again. Greco-Roman mythology considers the rainbow to be a path made by the messenger, Iris, between Earth and Heaven. Chinese mythology teaches that a rainbow is a slit in the sky sealed by goddess Nüwa using stones of different colors. The Irish believe that a leprechaun hides his gold at the end of the rainbow. Despite our independent thoughts and interpretations, we can all agree that the rainbow is a symbol of promise, hope, and patience. These three components will help us love the diversity in our world. 
A promise is assurance that something will occur. Marriage vows are elegant, yet powerful. They are a promise that two will spend the rest of their lives together. Now, imagine if we could all elegantly and powerfully vow to love everyone. With so many different types of people in our world that we are lucky to cross paths with other souls and interlock! Of course, marriage should not be the answer every time we meet another and connect, but every interaction is an opportunity to promise that you will be kind and loving, regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation...
Hope creates an optimistic state of mind and optimism can carry us through hard times. Diversity means variety and a variety of different people can help us during hard times. Mandela stated in his books that the only way he was able to get through prison was by clinging to hope. While he was in jail, his mother died and his son was killed in a car accident. Sadly, he was not able to attend their funerals. His way of grieving was to have hope. Nelson Mandela embraced the diversity in our world, so much, that he served time for it. He had hope that his country would get better, and it did. 
Lastly, patience is the ultimate key to loving the diversity in our world. Harriet Tubman said, "Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world." Loving the diversity around us takes time, so we must learn how to be patient. The Greco-Romans, Chinese, and Irish were from different parts of the world; however, all of their interpretations about the rainbow represented something positive. Love is a positive attribute, and so is diversity: why not put two positive things together to make an even GREATER "positive". 

2. Uk Lian Mang, LHS, Ms. Squibb
Loving diversity and accepting our differences in this world is not an easy task. Diversity allows us to cultivate and have better ideas about others. It grants us the ability to paint and see the world in different colors. Since I discovered that I could hold a pencil and draw, I've been using colors. Colors make paintings beautiful and meaningful. You cannot use just one color of paint to draw magnificent landscapes. Not one is more or less important than the other. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream is to paint the world in different colors. He wanted the world to be a colorful place because such a setting is likely to be filled with rainbows and love.
… So, whenever rainbows appear in the Bible, that phenomenon is a reminder of God's promise to Noah that He would never destroy the earth again. God did not choose one color; he used a rainbow-filled spectrum because such a natural phenomenon displays many different colors which results in making the image graceful. Such a natural contrast also reveres diversity. With all the different ethnic groups and different cultures intertwined, we can build a stronger nation and a better world. Some might ask, "The world is already filled with many different people. Why is it still not a better place?" The answer is that it lacks love. Love for one another and love for diversity! 
Like George H. W. Bush said, "We are a nation of communities, a brilliant diversity spread like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky." If there is no love between communities, there cannot be any love in the nation. We must love the diversity that we have within our communities and cities. 

3. Suket Shah, FMHS, Mr. Werts  
Growing up in an Indian household, the war for controlling the single TV in my house raged everyday. I picked American shows like Simpsons with the only Indian character being Apu while my parents picked Indian shows like Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian version of who wants to be a millionaire). Watching these characters was my first real exposure to the diversity in cultures within my life. Never before had the clash between my American culture and my Indian upbringing become so vivid for me to see. But in 2015 this all changed. For the first time my family sat in the living room in a silent ceasefire in the midst of our war. "Quantico", an American show starring the Indian actress Priyanka Chopra, was on the TV. Unlike both of these characters, she was the first Indian character that was able to balance the diversity of both cultures. Sitting on the couch watching Quantico with the rest of my family, I saw the beauty of not only accepting but also loving the diversity in my upbringing.
Throughout most of my life I only saw the two channels that played Simpsons and Kaun Banega Crorepati, but as I matured I was able to, in essence, go channel surfing and see the cultures/races they represented. However, I am just a small part of a movement, created by Dr. King, of exploring and respecting other cultures. Dr. King was a pioneer in convincing individuals to change their perspective on diversity within society. Valiantly gazing into the sea of humans of different color, gender, and age, Dr. King articulated one of the greatest speeches in American History in "I Have a Dream". King expressed his emphatic emotions towards a divided nation that was plagued by racism and bigotry. However, contrary to other leaders during the same time period, Dr. King advocated for a nonviolence approach towards change. After all, the most permanent way for a leader to change societies' ideologies is by peacefully convincing individuals to change. While it has been almost 50 years since Dr. King was assassinated, and while this world misses his leadership, Dr. King has left the world with the ideologies and the movement he started. These have become some of the founding principles for the slow trend to love the diversity we see.
As I graduate high school, I will be entering a new version of the world full of diversity. Just like me, every individual has the choice to push away or embrace the diversity, but it is clear that more individuals currently choose the latter due to the shift in society's perception of diversity. Being one of the strongest advocates for this shift, Dr. King's ideas last beyond him. In the TV that is filled with every culture in the world, everyone has the remote to switch his or her channels in order to explore and love the diversity in our world and continue to follow the always-living philosophy of Dr. King.

List of the 2018-19 North Texas MLK Essay Contest Winners:

Grade 4
1. Maryam Amatul Aziz, Castle Hills, Ms. Buell  2. Ava Biggins, Prairie Trail, Mr. Clayton/Ms. Parker 3. Elizabeth Daiva, Old Settlers, Ms. Young
Grade 5
1. Mia Susanne, B.B. Owen, Miss Wheat 2. Nia Lakhani, Coyote Ridge Elementary, Mrs. Duban 3. Claire Olivia Skelton, McAuliffe, Mrs. Burton 
Grade 6
1. Noorain Aziz, Killian, Mrs. Cordell 2. Ava Linton, Briarhill, Mrs. Oliver  3. Arav Sawhney, McKamy, Ms. Edge
Grade 7
1. Erik Soelberg, Downing, Mrs. Phan 2. Lillian Shai Cassady, Griffin, Ms. Hendrix 3. Tatyana Panchishna, McKamy, Mrs. Warriner
Grade 8
1. Tina Luo, McKamy, Ms. Miller  2. Ji Hoon William Yoon, Downing, Ms. Wittnauer  3. Aishwarya Aby, Creek Valley, Ms. Nguyen
Grade 9
1. Sophia Sutherland, Harmon9, Mr. Boyle  2. Samanta Lopez, FMHS9, Ms. Harper  3. Gabriella Morrison, Harmon9, Mr. Boyle
Grade 10
1. Sang Bik Thang, Harmon, Ms. Antoine  2. Sammi Kwon, Hebron, Ms. Bertrand 3. Gracie Tribolet, Hebron, Ms. Bertrand
Grade 11
1. Sarah Saleem, MHS, Ms. Popp  2. Alexis Marzawanian, MHS, Ms. Forthun  3. Justin Walker, TCHS, Mr. Meyrat 
3. Suchitaa Sawhney, FMHS, Ms. McMichael
Grade 12
1. Asyah Jiron, LHS, Ms. Squibb 2. Uk Lian Mang, LHS, Ms. Squibb 3. Suket Shah, FMHS, Mr. Werts