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MLK contest winners walk together

CMS students’ voices are diverse and unified in ceremony at West Charlotte High

By Reid Creager
Correspondent

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  • Art winners

    K-2: Serenity Snead, 2nd grade, Clear Creek

    3-5: David Hill, 5th grade, Statesville

    6-8: Cherise Johnson, 7th grade, Piedmont IB

    9-12: Bre Anna Washington, 11th grade, Vance

    Writing winners

    K-2: Mitchell King, 2nd grade, Cornelius

    3-5: Reynaldo Gomez Jr., 4th grade, Briarwood

    6-8: Sofie Pedersen, 7th grade, Collinswood Language Academy

    9-12: Yeon Jin Kang, 9th grade, Ardrey Kell


  • From winning essays

    “This dream to bring America together peacefully, is it still a dream? Why not make it reality? You say it is reality. Do we live the dream? Do we share the dream? Do we extend the dream?” –Yeon Jin Kang

    “The colors in your drawing … the idea that you started with, the opinions that you’d bet would change the world entirely, of being something different. You could add a splash of color, make it different than the others that only contain thoughts…” – Sofie Pedersen

    “As an immigrant, I live, share, and extend Dr. King’s dream. I show that I’m living the dream by being an example to everyone on how to respect each other because it doesn’t matter what country someone is from.” – Reynaldo Gomez Jr.

    “The world is like a team that moves the ball.” – Mitchell King



One by one, the students walked onto the West Charlotte High auditorium stage as family and teachers applauded. The winners were silent as they wore proud smiles, knowing their voices have been heard.

Students, parents and teachers of many nationalities braved freezing, driving rain and strong winds to fill the building Thursday night for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Art and Writing Contest. The 19th annual event – titled “Live it, Share it, Extend it: The Dream of a Global Community” – allowed students to use various mediums for expressing their interpretation of King’s message.

For Bre Anna Washington, a junior at Vance High, the message is what a diverse country can accomplish together. She got a first-place award for her collage of different cultures that was dominated by a hands theme, featuring King’s face and the Lincoln Memorial.

She said her inspiration came from the heart – and a magazine.

“I opened a National Geographic and the picture was right there. I saw two hands and the hands were both black. I love doing collage work, so I took the two black hands and two multi-cultured hands, and from there I built it off that.”

Bre Anna’s articulate, calm description of her work belied her excitement about her award. When her name was announced, she said, “I was shaking – screaming, jumping in the seat! I was freaking out, I was so happy.”

In addition to the 34 winners in the first-place, second-place, third-place and honorable mention categories, individual school winners were honored onstage for each of the four age groups: kindergarten through second grade; third through fifth; sixth through eighth; and ninth through 12th.

Whether words or art, students’ work shown on the auditorium screen reflected both global and personal themes. Subjects ranged from racial tolerance to peacefulness to teamwork.

At least a couple of the winners mentioned a growing problem they witness firsthand in school: bullying. Sofie Pedersen, a seventh-grader from Collinswood Language Academy who won a first-place writing award, said she was inspired to challenge people’s treatment of others who are different from them, and was thinking of a friend who had been bullied.

Said Yeon Jin Kang, a ninth-grader at Ardrey Kell High: “As an Asian, I was bullied or stereotyped as always being smart, even though sometimes that was not the case. So this contest is how I used my voice.”

Piedmont IB Middle School seventh-grader Cherise Johnson, a first-place art winner, wanted to share a broader message. “When I think about (King), I think about the whole world – and that is how I viewed my project – his impact on the whole world.”

Again this year, first-place winners in the high school category received $500 scholarships from Food Lion. Sixth- through eighth-grade winners got $250; in grades three to five, $150; and K to two, $100.

For the second straight year, Serenity Snead from Clear Creek Elementary was holding one of the oversized scholarship checks after the event. The repeat first-place art winner said she used her inspiration from Dr. King to create a “Pay it Forward” theme.

First-place writing winner Mitchell King said he decided on a teamwork theme after talking with friends. The end of his essay:

“I run the ball to a touchdown of care! Shoot the ball to a touchdown of care! The world is like a team that moves the ball! Save the ball and donate it to others! I score a goal and there is justice!”

“I liked the sports metaphor,” said Mitchell, a Cornelius Elementary second-grader, showing an advanced vocabulary at the post-ceremony reception. “Whether it’s sports or something else, it’s about working together.”

The students’ time in the limelight wasn’t limited to the ceremony.

Each of the first-place winners was invited to be in the Charlotte Martin Luther King Jr. Parade last Saturday, with the winning art pieces on display at the Harvey B. Gantt center. First-place writers were invited to read their work at the Wells Fargo Auditorium at Knight Theater. Overall winners also were to get special recognition at a prayer breakfast on MLK Day at The Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center.

“It’s a pretty great week,” Mitchell said.

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