Syosset-based ERASE Racism announced the five Long Island students who won its annual essay and t-shirt design contests. The essay contest is for public high school seniors; the t-shirt design competition is for middle school students. The awards, which include a $500 scholarship for each high school student and a $250 award for the middle school student, were presented at a virtual celebration on Wednesday, July 8.
The winner of the middle school t-shirt design competition is Sean Stergis, a seventh-grader at Woodland Middle School in East Meadow. Contestants in sixth through eighth grades were asked to submit a design to advance the effort to erase racism. Sean won with the powerful visual “Make Love Not Hate” shown below. T-shirts with the winning design are available here.
The four winners of the high school essay contest, which is sponsored by SCOPE Education Services. The students were asked to write 400-500 words on the following topic: “Based on your own experiences and/or advocacy efforts, what can you do to build a racially just, more equitable Long Island for your generation and future generations?”
Faith Shaw, a senior when the essay was submitted and now a graduate of Westbury High School, was one of the winners. Here’s an excerpt from her essay:
I learned how to make my presence quiet, how to not draw attention to myself when my skin had already made me the lone wolf. I learned how to change the way I talked, my deep timber exchanged for something softer, lighter, higher. How to make my tall frame disappear amongst the crowds. It wasn’t until I was in a room that looked so different from my neighborhood that I learned what it felt like to feel other. It became difficult for me to navigate these situations with any sort of confidence. I had already felt a plethora of eyes looking at me for reasons I could not control. So to find any sort of comfort, I subconsciously worked to make myself as unmentionable as possible. This is how I spent the first two years of High School whenever I found myself in these situations. It wasn’t until 11th grade, and my discovery of spoken word poetry that things changed.
“At a time of racial unrest nationally, these Long Island students are lighting a path of commitment, reflection, understanding, and optimism,” said Elaine Gross, president of ERASE Racism. “They represent a new generation of leaders, on whom our nation’s promise and future depend.”
Additional information on ERASE Racism is available at www.eraseracismny.org. The regional civil rights organization based on Long Island that exposes and addresses the devastating impact of historical and ongoing structural racism, particularly in public school education and housing.