Sunday, June 10, 2007

Kids SpeakOut! Contest Winners

In the sea of the voices weighing in on the topic of voluntary school integration, the National Campaign to Restore Civil Rights still felt someone was missing: kids themselves. Several months ago, the Campaign launched an essay contest for school children on the topic of diversity in schools, hoping to get enough participation confirm the overwhelming implications of the battle in the courts on the everyday lives of students. The outpouring of student work was even larger than they had hoped: thousands of students wrote in, responding to the broad question of "Why Does Diversity Matter?" Writing about their own experiences with the dangers of isolation and the richness of many different kinds of cultural integration, the seven winners and finalists are eloquent ambassadors for those who will be most affected by the court's upcoming ruling.

My personal favorite is "Invisibility" by Kyle Mealand, a 16-year-old from Seattle, WA, whose own school system is at issue in the voluntary integration cases. Mealand, who bases his essay largely on his time spent in post-apartheid South Africa, conceives of segregation as a force for making entire communities invisible to one another. The implications of such group blindness are devastating to vulnerable or disenfranchised populations, and true communication in this environment is impossible.

To read his and the other winning essays, visit the Campaign's "Kids Speakout!" website.

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