“You are not alone” felt like the resounding theme in this year’s 10th annual “Stop the Hate Youth Speak Out” essay writing contest.
High school students, from schools such as Solon, Hawken School, Gilmour Academy, Twinsburg, Orange, Fuchs Mizrachi, and Cleveland Heights, wrote about issues of racism, sexual assault, anti-semitism and discrimination against people with disabilities in the contest from the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood.
The contest, focused on students speaking out in support of diversity and inclusion, has engaged an estimated 30,000 student participants across 12 Northeast Ohio counties and awarded $1 million to students and schools in scholarships and anti-bias education grants over the last 10 years.
Ten high school juniors and seniors competed last month for the title of grand prize winner at an event at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The top essays were selected from thousands of entries and were read by the students in front of an audience of more than 600, each hoping to win the top prize, a $40,000 scholarship.
Maria Zou, Hudson High School, the second runner-up ($10,000) and Megan Lebowitz, Solon High School, third runner-up ($5,000) both felt the contest makes an impact.
“This was a very powerful experience,” Megan says.
“My own words, it can really help stop the hate,” Maria says.
Dahlia Moskowitz, junior at Fuchs Mizrachi School, who was first-runner up ($15,000) says she is grateful for the experience and it helped her to know that she was not alone and “other people are with you.”
“Hopefully others can stand up to hate and stand up for other people,” she says.
Hannah Shuffer, junior at Orange High School was named grand prize winner ($40,000).
“I was shocked, happy, excited and relieved,” Hannah says about when her named was called as the grand prize winner. “It means a lot to me that other people received my words well. I think this is good; now my message, and everyone else’s that spoke tonight, can be heard.
“Knowing that there are other people who are standing up to discrimination and I am not alone in this, it’s a good feeling,” she adds.
In her essay, she wrote about her brother Nathan, who has cerebral palsy, saying, “It is inexpressibly hard to watch people treat my brother like he has no feelings, like he is lesser than, like he is not human. I soon began to realize that like most forms of discrimination, people’s preconceived notions had blinded them from truth.”
Hannah and her friends decided to start a campaign to make people aware that people with disabilities are like everyone else. They put together an awareness week, which was held this past April.
“I am happy to have another year so I can make sure it meets and accomplishes everything that I want it to and it can become an annual event at the school,” Hannah says.
YOUTH SPEAK OUT GRAND SCHOLARSHIP WINNER
(4-year $40,000 scholarship)
Hannah Shuffer, Orange High School
YOUTH SPEAK OUT FIRST RUNNER-UP
Dahlia Moskowitz, Fuchs Mizrachi School
YOUTH SPEAK OUT SECOND RUNNER-UP
Maria Zou, Hudson High School
YOUTH SPEAK OUT THIRD RUNNER-UP
Megan Lebowitz, Solon High School
YOUTH SPEAK OUT HONORABLE MENTIONS
($500 cash prize)
Tadj Adams, Hawken School
John Kunzo, Gilmour Academy
Peyton Lunder, Padua Franciscan High School
Julia Mayer, Solon High School
Hailey Nudelman, Twinsburge High School
Schuyler Radivoyevitech, Cleveland Heights High School
2018 YOUTH SPEAK OUT ESSAY STUDENT FINALISTS
1st Place: Sabriya Zaman, Solon High School
2nd Place: Emi Cummings, Laurel High School
3rd Place: Whitney Young High School
1st Place: Rileyanna Karic, Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School
2nd Place: Jonah Gilbert, University School
3rd Place: Cara Finnegan, Elyria Catholic High School
1st Place: Elana Rouse, Rocky River Middle School
2nd Place: Alexandra Holtz, Chagrin Falls Middle School
3rd Place: Bowen Zhang, Beachwood Middle School
1st Place: Maggie Chen, Memorial Middle School
2nd Place: Rebecca Lawton, Beachwood Middle School
3rd Place: Jennifer Williams, Old Trail Elementary
1st Place: Scott O’Neill, Newton D. Baker School of Arts
2nd Place: Isabella Kovacs, Rocky River Middle School
3rd Place: Flannery Costello, Rocky River Middle School
YOUTH SPEAK OUT SCHOOL WITH THE HIGHEST PERCENTAGE OF ESSAYS
($5,000 Anti-Bias Education Grant)
Newton D. Baker School of Arts
YOUTH SPEAK OUT SCHOOL WITH A GRAND PRIZE WINNER
($5,000 Anti-Bias Education Grant)
Orange High School
2018 YOUTH SING OUT WINNING SCHOOLS
1st Place High School: “Words on the Wall” Cleveland Heights High School ($5,000 Anti-Bias Education Grant)
1st Place Middle School (tie): “Keep History Alive,” “Why Hate” Newton D. Baker School of Arts ($5,000 Anti-Bias Education Grant)
Runner-Up High School: “Too Much Going On” Shaw High School ($2,500 Anti-Bias Education Grant)
Runner-Up Middle School: “Between Me & The Media” Harding Middle School ($2,500 Anti-Bias Education Grant)