Eagle MLK Essay Contest | Runners up reflect on their dreams for equality, love, inclusion

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When The Berkshire Eagle launched its 2017 MLK Day Essay Contest, entrants were asked to respond to the prompt: What can I do personally and how can we work together to build a world where all feel included?

In her winning essay, sixth grader Olivia Caraccioli told us that the three things we can all do to make the world a better place are: "help each other succeed, don't judge and treat each other equally."

But we also had a chance to hear from other voices too.

Herberg Middle School sixth grader, Riley Laurent, suggests that people step up efforts to prevent hunger, by donating items to a community food pantry, or pitching in at your community garden — a small effort with big impact.

Zenani Santos, a junior at Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, wrote a lyrical essay calling for a stop to racism and violence. She writes, "I want to end this idea of living in the same building but separated by two floors, and not knowing the story of his, mine, or yours."

Another Herberg student, eighth-grader Elodie Theriault calls for people to reach out to people who are financially struggling or homeless, and help them get back on their feet, so that these people "would understand that they are part of the community and are not ignored."

The runners-up in The Eagle's contest also have some powerful ideas. Here they are:

By Shauna Pandell

Syracuse University, freshman


To acknowledge, to understand, and to accept — all three are simple, used in everyday context, yet have the power to shift the world from intolerance and hatred to one full of love and compassion.

The base of exclusivity is the lack of knowledge. The lack of knowledge leads to misunderstanding. Misunderstanding leads to exclusiveness, barriers between people.

For example, in the case of racial discrimination, acknowledgement from people who have a history in society as the oppressor must acknowledge the painful past of the many who were oppressed. They must understand the hardships others had to endure at the hands of their ancestors and how that still affects others today.

Right now prisons are overflowing with people of color for petty and/or misjudged crimes. Right now people of color are being shot on the streets because the color of their skin comes with others judging them too quickly. Right now an entire movement based on people of color wanting to be seen as equal in society is being silenced.

By everyone in society acknowledging and understanding that humanitarian crimes like those are caused by the hateful crimes of the past is how we will move towards inclusiveness in society because that is where compassion derives from. If people cannot be understood in a society, they will continuously feel like an outsider.

It is easy to write down such an ideal on paper, as if understanding and compassion come so easy in a society like ours. Walls have been built between races, between populations. We have come far in tearing them down, but we still have a long way in completely overcoming such obstacles. The road to equality is long, it is taxing, but I do plan to walk, run, and fight with you.

The author is a 2017 graduate of Lenox Memorial Middle and High School.

"A World of Love"

By Nyanna Slaughter

University of New Haven, senior


A world of love is what I long for. I think it's what we all do. In which we all should.

At a young age we learn to treat people the way we want to be treated. A world of love would consist of loving yourself and those around you, caring for everyone as your brother or sister, and wanting to see them succeed simply because they're alive and have the right to.

Stop looking at people differently. EVERYONE is different. He or she may not look like you. They may like different people or things. They may even think differently. Everyone was created individually.

But at the end of the day, who are you to judge someone else? What perfect world are you in that you think you can attack someone else's character without knowing them? And then expect for your own self to prosper? One cannot expect for so many things to be wrong and still to get something right.

This country of jealousy and hatred is the very premise that we should look at. That WE WANT change, a change that MLK will forever live on for, a change that held a dream, a change that brought forward love, and a change that brought forward character. You DO NOT know my story and I DON'T know yours.

So, encourage your fellow brother and sister, and love your fellow brother and sister. Do not dish out hate to your brother or sister. Keep that fake love that you know is not real. Stop looking for something or someone to talk about and worry about how to make change and create love and happiness in a world that was meant for positivity, joy, beauty and compassion, the same way MLK did.

If you see something do something. Learn that you are not the center of everything. Realize that life is difficult. Rough situations come but they do not last forever. Understand that if you work hard blessings will come. But what you do not have to do is ever dim someone else's light for yours to shine.

Learn to listen and listen to learn. Love to care and not care to hate. Realize what you have is enough. Recognize you're still alive. What you dish out is what you get. For if you dish out love, love will come back. The grass would be bright green, the sky a radiant blue, and breathable air for everyone IF WE decided to take care and nourish the planet more than our own selfish wants. UNITY over division.

Love will find you when you become love. And when it seems like no one else may love you, love them anyway, and even from a distance is fine. TRUST YOURSELF and CHERISH and LOVE those that care about you. And share that LOVE with others too.

The author is a 2014 graduate of Taconic High School.


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