Watertown Junior Chosen as a Winner in National Essay Contest

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The international nonprofit organization Facing History and Ourselves today announced the seven student winners of The 2016 Facing History Together Student Essay Contest. The winning students – including a Watertown junior –and their classrooms and teachers will receive over $9,000 in scholarships and prizes.

This year’s contest, “Student Voices: To Kill a Mockingbird in Today’s World,” invited students to reflect on the themes, characters, and settings from Harper Lee’s classic American novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, in order to make connections to their own experiences. Nearly 4,000 seventh-12th grade students from across the U.S. submitted an essay.

Meet the Winners:

Cicada Scott, Senior
Manitou Springs High School, Manitou Springs, Colorado
“Congratulations! It’s a Mockingbird”
Winner of the $2,500 Benjamin B. Ferencz Upstander Scholarship, made possible by the Planethood Foundation.

Diallo Thornton, Junior
Moore High School, Louisville, Kentucky
“Black Is…”
Winner of the Harper Lee Memorial Award & $1,000 Scholarship, selected by Facing History and Ourselves President & CEO, Roger Brooks.

Amber Bhutta, Freshman
American Heritage, Plantation, Florida
“I Am Not A Terrorist”
Winner of a $500 Upstander Award.

Ewurakua Dawson-Amoah, Senior
Linden Hall School for Girls, Lititz, Pennsylvania
“Facing Hate With a Voice of Reason”
Winner of a $500 Upstander Award.

Kelsie Jackson, Freshman
The Barstow School, Kansas City, Missouri
“My Community and Me”
Winner of a $500 Upstander Award.

Rosdom Kaligian, Junior
Watertown High School, Watertown, Massachusetts
“Different not Less”
Winner of a $500 Upstander Award.

Cecilia Pires De Oliveira Capela, Freshman
Brookline High School, Brookline, Massachusetts
“To Lock A Mockingbird”
Winner of a $500 Upstander Award.

“Almost every student in the U.S. reads To Kill a Mockingbird at some point in middle or high school – and has for decades,” said Facing History’s President & CEO Roger Brooks. “In an increasingly divided nation, reading this book is perhaps as close to a common experience as many Americans have.”

The 50 judges, including honorary judge Margaret Stohl, co-author of the young adult novel, Beautiful Creatures, selected a group of 17 student finalists. Members from the public then voted to help choose the winning essays.

Each of the winning students’ teachers will receive a Classroom Award and free access to Facing History’s “Teaching Mockingbird” online course. Facing History has developed resources for English Language Arts (ELA) and history educators atfacinghistory.org/mockingbird. The site includes a Teaching Mockingbird study guide, in-person and online professional development courses, and lessons around Go Set a Watchman that offer educators a contemporary lens and help students make connections between history and the world today.

Facing History and Ourselves was founded in 1976 by educators who believed that instilling intellectual vigor and curiosity goes hand-in-hand with teaching facts and figures. From the disturbing lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides to struggles for civil rights from Birmingham to South Africa, we trust students to wrestle with complex moments in human history, and work to help them understand the range of human behavior. These students learn to connect the dots between the ethical choices they’ll face in life and the positive outcomes they can create in their community and the world. Visit facinghistory.org for more information.

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