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National Contest Encourages Students to Watch Selma, Reflect on MLK

National Contest Encourages Students to Watch Selma, Reflect on MLK

The National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia has announced a contest for high school students across the nation that honors and acknowledges the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Selma Speech & Essay Contest encourages students to reflect on individual freedom and determination. It also falls on the 50th anniversary of the Selma March and Voting Rights Act, according to a press release.

“On the heels of the debut of Paramount’s new film Selma, the National Liberty Museum is asking high school students to view the inspiring film and then use their own voice to practice the rights of individual freedom and self-determination,” said the release.

“At the age of 15, a young Martin Luther King, Jr. entered a high school public speaking competition with his submission called, ‘The Negro and the Constitution,’” the release said. “He was in his junior year, and he won the competition. On the bus ride home, young King and his three companions were told to give up their seats to a white couple who had just boarded the bus, and they stood for several hours on their way back to Atlanta. It has been widely written that the high school speech Dr. King wrote inspired his ‘I Have a Dream’ oration. That is the power of words. We invite students to use this power through the Selma Speech & Essay Contest.”

According to the release, high school students interested in the competition are asked to write a 500-700 word speech and video responding to the following prompt:

“The movie Selma tells the story of how Martin Luther King Jr. and others peacefully protested to advance voting rights. What do you think needs to be done today to protect individual freedom and self-determination? What are you doing or will do to peacefully advance those rights?”

Winners will be selected by a panel of judges, and all submissions are due by January 30th, according to the release. The top ten finalists “will receive cash prizes and the top three finalists will be invited on an all-expense paid trip to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to take part in a 2 day awards ceremony and celebration.”

Prizes include:

  • Grand Prize: $5,000
  • First runner up: $2,500
  • Second runner up: $1,000
  • Seven honorable mentions: $500 each
  • $300 cash prize for each teacher/mentor who sponsors a top 10 finalist

The release said that winners will be notified by March 2015, following an award ceremony will be held on April 20-22, 2015 in Philadelphia, PA.

“For all of us at the National Liberty Museum, hosting this contest feels a uniquely perfect fit, as we are the only museum in the country dedicated to advancing liberty by fostering strong character and civic engagement,” said Gwen Borowsky, CEO of the National Liberty Museum in the release. “Since our founding in the year 2000, we’ve been committed to bringing liberty to life through exciting exhibits, our interactive web platform of curricular activities and our school-based Young Heroes Club program, which teaches students to be the change they want to see in the world. We can’t wait to see the incredible submissions from students around the country, and with 2015 marking the 50th anniversary of the Selma march and Voting Rights Act, we hope this contest sheds light on the past and inspires future appreciation for our Constitutional rights and the preciousness of our freedoms.”

Those interested can learn more about the contest and submission guidelines here. Teachers can also peruse Frequently Asked Questions here

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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