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MLK Contest

The Ohio Civil Rights Commission is pleased to hold an annual statewide Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Art, Writing & Multimedia Contest. This contest is intended to encourage students to reflect upon Dr. King’s life, philosophy, and impact on the Civil Rights movement and present day America. It is meant to challenge students to think about how civil rights and diversity affect their lives and how they can continue the work of Dr. King in their own way.

All Ohio students in grades 6-12 are invited to enter this contest and may submit one entry per student. Students may choose which type of entry they wish to submit. All contest entries must be accompanied by a clearly written official entry form, completed in its entirety. (Submissions are not considered without a completed entry form).

2023 MLK Contest

The 2023 MLK Contest is now closed for submissions. This year's theme is "Small Things in a Great Way":

During the civil rights struggles of the 1960's, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leading voice against social injustices. Though he reached great fame and led many in the fight for equality, he understood that change relied on everyone. He believed that if everyone contributes what they can - even small contributions can lead to big changes. The following quote is often attributed to Dr. King:

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

Contest Entries: Each participant in the contest is invited to participate by creating work that creatively responds to the following question:

Important change and greatness do not always come from activities that receive fanfare. How have you or will you work to promote equality and justice in your own way?

2023 MLK Winners

Essay Winners:
6th Grade Essay: Meredith Wakefield - Boardman Center Intermediate School
7th Grade Essay: Aamiah Marcano-Hatcher - St. Benedict Catholic School
8th Grade Essay: Hazel Shanahan - West Side Montessori
9th Grade Essay: Nathan Hustey - Tri-Valley High School
10th Grade Essay: Abigail Derenberger - Orrville High School
11th Grade Essay: Aiden O'Bryant - Boardman High School
12th Grade Essay: Seynabou Ngaya - Westerville Central High School

Art Winners:
6th Grade Art: Jozi Getsy - Struthers Middle School
7th Grade Art: Landon Kristoff - Lake Center Christian School
8th Grade Art: Cloey Hughes - Chillicothe Middle School
9th Grade Art: Hannah Bender - Hoover High School
10th Grade Art: Micah Bell - Hoover High School
11th Grade Art: Ruishen Hu - Hoover High School
12th Grade Art: Alicia Cook - Pickerington High School North

Multimedia Winners:
Samiya Mendiratta, Reese Silverman, and Brodi Hedaya - Ballard Brady Middle School

2022 MLK Winners

The 2022 theme was "Fighting Against Injustice." During the civil rights struggles of the 1960's, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leading voice against social injustices. He helped others see that the fight against racism was connected to other injustices because all people are connected to one another. In his renowned essay, "Letter From a Birmingham Jail," Dr. King said:

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Contest Entries: Each participant in the contest is invited to participate by creating work that creatively responds to the following question:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that we must stand up for the rights of all people, not just our own. Describe an event of injustice that you have seen or experienced and explain what you did or would do to fight against that injustice like Dr. King?

2022 Contest Winners

Essay Winners:
6th Grade Essay: Victoria Gavin - TCP World Academy
7th Grade Essay: Skylar Sachs - West Side Montessori
8th Grade Essay: Zoe Reicheimer-Lee - Granville Middle School
9th Grade Essay: Makayla Arambula - Newton Falls High School
10th Grade Essay: Curtis Ngidari - Dayton Christian High School
11th Grade Essay: Aissata Diallo - Colerain High School
12th Grade Essay: Kiera O'Brien - Steubenville High School

Art Winners:
6th Grade Art: Ivy Berlin - Ballard Brady Middle School
7th Grade Art: Lauren Gasser - Hubbard Middle School
8th Grade Art: Amber Andrews - Hayward Middle School
9th Grade Art: Emily Clay - Hoover High School
10th Grade Art: Sophia Blondheim - Hoover High School
11th Grade Art: Lillian Bowen - Hoover High School
12th Grade Art: Sophia Murphy - Hoover High School

2021 MLK Winners

The 2021 theme was "Keep Moving." During the civil rights struggles of the 1960's, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a leading voice against social injustices. The fight he led against racism and bigotry had many setbacks along the way, though. Dr. King understood that resilience and persistence would be necessary to achieve the goals of the Civil Rights Movement. Despite this trouble, Dr. King never strayed from his mission and he continued to speak out against injustice. In a speech at Spelman College on April 10, 1960, Dr. King said:

"If you can't fly, run; if you can't run, walk; if you can't walk, crawl; but by all means keep moving.”

Students were asked: When you were faced with a challenge or setback, what did you do? Did it bring out the best or the worst in you? How did you keep moving forward?

2021 Contest Winners:

Essay Winners:
6th Grade Essay: Gabriel Sherman - St. Benedict Catholic School
7th Grade Essay: Shira Baumann - Blendon Middle School
8th Grade Essay: Grant Archer - St. Michael's School
9th Grade Essay: Jordon Manchook - Fairport Harding High School
10th Grade Essay: Kaden Paniagua - Champion High School
11th Grade Essay: Aroonrassamee Wongkeaitaroon - Boardman High School
12th Grade Essay: Chloe Millard - Normandy High School

Art Winners:
6th Grade Art: Gabriela Tiberi - Olentangy Berkshire Middle School
7th Grade Art: Alex LaSalla - Avon Middle School
8th Grade Art: Sienna Stephens - St. Angela Merici
9th Grade Art: Sophia Mancini - Hoover High School
10th Grade Art: Hannah Laing - Hoover High School
11th Grade Art: Erin Barnby - Hoover High School
12th Grade Art: Mazzy Grisak - Hoover High School

Multimedia Winner:
Multimedia: Emma Keykens - Lehman Catholic High School

2020 MLK Winners

The 2020 theme was "Standing for What Matters." On March 8, 1965, the day after “Bloody Sunday,” on which civil rights protestors were attacked and beaten by police on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Dr. King said:

"A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.”

His words remind us that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter and doing what is right may not be the easiest choice, but if justice is to prevail, difficult choices must be taken. Dr. King was a leader because he spoke out when others were resigned to silence.

Students were asked to think about times in their lives when they spoke out against an injustice. What impact did it leave on them and your community?

When have you had or will you have the courage to speak out for something that truly matters?

2020  Contest Winners

Art Winners:
6th Grade Art: Carina Cullen - Charles L. Seipelt Elementary
7th Grade Art: Tieranee Anast - Arlington Local School
8th Grade Art: Andrew Carlson - Lake Center Christian School
9th Grade Art: Rylar Essigner - Arlington Local School
10th Grade Art: Evelyn Flick - Arlington Local School
11th Grade Art: Hudson Leroux - Riverside High School
12th Grade Art: Chenoa Newman - Arlington Local School

Essay Winners:
6th Grade Essay: Natalie Zinn - Vinton County Middle School
7th Grade Essay: Emily Kovatch - St. Michael's School
8th Grade Essay: Julia Biedenbach - St. Michael's School
9th Grade Essay: Joud Kiwan - Lakota East High School
10th Grade Essay: Maurice Harrison - Eastmoor Academy High School
11th Grade Essay: Emma Krantz - Solon High School
12th Grade Essay: Torre Wilks - Solon High School

Multimedia Winners:
Multimedia: Innocence Dague - Port Clinton High School
Multimedia: Emmett Looman, Liam Looman, and Armaan Tindni - The Schilling School for Gifted Children

2019 MLK Winners

This year's theme was "The Journey is Not Complete." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. devoted his life to leading the advances of civil rights through inspirational words and nonviolent actions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is known for leading the Civil Rights Movement in the United States through his dedication and devotion for equality. Through his activism and actions, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. played an important role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the United States. Dr. King’s work influenced many, including his son Martin Luther King III. On the 50th Anniversary of his father’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King III said,

"This task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can do and must do more.”

Each participant in the contest was invited to participate by creating work that creatively responds to the following question:

What more can or will you do to continue Dr. Martin Luther King’s fight for equality and justice?

2019 Contest Winners

Art Winners:
6th Grade Art: Maia Edwards - Sacred Heart of Jesus School
7th Grade Art: Ryan Brigham - River View Junior High School
8th Grade Art: Toney Kight - Lake Center Christian School
9th Grade Art: Mason Thompson - Piqua High School
10th Grade Art: Hudson Leroux - Riverside High School
11th Grade Art: Erin Callahan - Archbishop McNicholas High School
12th Grade Art: Mia Miller - Hilliard Darby High School

Essay Winners:
6th Grade Essay: Mollie Juniewicz- Skill - Incarnation School
7th Grade Essay: Christina Badurik - Hubbard Middle School
8th Grade Essay: Elizabeth Bulanda - St. Benedict Catholic School
9th Grade Essay: Taylore Reilman - Mount Notre Dame High School
10th Grade Essay: Spencer Stevenson - Bexley High School
11th Grade Essay: Delaney Eyanson - Van Wert High School
12th Grade Essay: Cody Gaham - Vantage Career Center

Multimedia Winners:
Jamia Greer and Joseph Reynolds - Springfield High School
Anna Chahine, Avery Sandy, Anni McCabe, Juliana Schuld, and Brianna Rotunno - Mahoning County Career & Technical Center

2018 MLK Winners

This year's theme was "Be the Change." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. studied many of the world’s great leaders and philosophers when framing his own beliefs. One of the most influential of those philosophers was Mahatma Gandhi, who Dr. King called, “the guiding light of [the] technique of nonviolent social change.” In 1959, Dr. King even traveled to India to walk in Gandhi’s footsteps and learn from Gandhi’s followers there. Dr. King and Gandhi shared the belief that love and peace are the best way to change the hearts and minds of the public. Both men understood that if they wanted to inspire their community to change, they had to make the same changes themselves. Gandhi said,

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”

Dr. King lived this philosophy by practicing peaceful protests instead of trying to counter hatred and violence with more of the same.

2018 Contest Winners

Art Winners:
6th Grade Art: Gabrielle Herlocher- Waggoner Road Junior High School
7th Grade Art: Mohammed Maalin - Waggoner Road Junior High School
8th Grade Art: Caroline Ryan - Waggoner Road Junior High School
9th Grade Art: Paige Householder - Arlington Local School
10th Grade Art: Selena Chen - Lakota East High
11th Grade Art: Taylor Smith - Washington High School
12th Grade Art: Cassandra Frederick - Garfield Heights High School

Essay Winners:
6th Grade Essay: Genevieve Judson - Ontario Middle School
7th Grade Essay: Seth Stuber - Kimpton Middle School
8th Grade Essay: Anna Knauss - Bluffton Middle School
9th Grade Essay: Meagan Warren - Bexley High School
10th Grade Essay: Danielle Pratt - Westerville North High School
11th Grade Essay: Cody Gaham - Vantage Career Center
12th Grade Essay: Lane Moore - Dover High School

Multimedia Winners:
Multimedia: Emmet Looman, Eva Groff, Christine Shaw, James Shoemaker - Schilling School for Gifted Children

2017 MLK Winners

This year's theme is "Driving out Hate." One of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s basic beliefs was that love should be at the center of all of his work as a community leader. The nonviolent protests he led during the Civil Rights Movement came from the idea that violence and destruction would not change the hearts and minds of others. Still, Dr. King knew that it is challenging to show love and kindness to people who only show you anger and hatred. He believed that a person must look beyond the bad things they see in their enemies and try to find common ground and shared interest to heal wounds and create a community and country that treat all people equally.

In his book, Strength to Love, Dr. King discusses the challenges and importance of loving your enemy, even when they do not love you back. He said,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 

Each participant in the contest was invited to participate by creating work that creatively responds to the following question:

Think about times in your life when you have witnessed hatred and intolerance. What things have you done to drive out hate?

2017 Contest Winners

Art Winners:
6th Grade Art: Ramona Loy Whiteker - Dominion Middle School, Columbus
7th Grade Art: Brayden Courtney - Arlington Local School, Arlington
8th Grade Art: Gabriella Kellogg - Highland Middle School, Marengo
9th Grade Art: Megan Fultz - Jackson Milton High School, North Jackson
10th Grade Art: Madisen Kleinmann - Lakota East High School, Liberty Township
11th Grade Art: Megan Cercone - Dover High School, Dover
12th Grade Art: Kierra Davis - Lakota East High School, Liberty Township

Writing Winners:
6th Grade Writing: Anna Tedford - Harmon Middle School, Pickerington
7th Grade Writing: Michael Watters - St. Michael School, Canton
8th Grade Writing: Owen Conway - North Olmsted Middle School, North Olmsted
9th Grade Writing: Kalila Wilson - Washington High School, Washington Court House
10th Grade Writing: Mira DeAnthony - Mt. Nortre Dame High School, Cincinnati
11th Grade Writing: Cloey Spry - Van Wert High School, Van Wert
12th Grade Writing (tie): Isabel Wang - Shaker Heights High School, Shaker Heights
12th Grade Writing (tie): Martha Reifenberg - Ursuline Academy, Blue Ash

Multimedia Winners:
Carson Barry - Waggoner Road Junior High School, Reynoldsburg
Sophia Marcum - Springfield High School, Akron
Marissa Fuller - Springfield High School, Akron