The second annual African American History Essay Contest, sponsored through partnership between the Petersburg chapter of The Links, Incorporated and the Petersburg Public Library took place during the opening weeks of February. Middle and high school students from the greater Petersburg area were invited to submit essays of at least 500 words which explored this year’s theme, “The Crisis in Black Education.” After the submission deadline, each essay was blind scored by a panel of judges, and participants were personally notified at their schools by a member of The Links, of a reception being held Feb. 28 in their honor Petersburg Public Library.
The reception, held in the multipurpose room of the library, was attended by many chapter members, parents, contestants, and other guests. After opening remarks from Kimberly W. Nunnally, essay project manager, the top three contestants presented their essays to the crowd’s rapt attention. Petersburg library’s director, Wayne Crocker, remarked that he was delighted to see young people committed to engaging in such a necessary and important global discussion as this year’s theme. Following his comments, he presented Christine Stewart, an eighth-grader at Peabody Middle School, with a certificate and monetary award for third place, and Alexandria Johnson, a ninth grader from N.B. Clements Junior High School, with the same for her second-place designation. Madyson Fitzgerald, a sophomore from Matoaca High School, was given the honor of first place for her essay, which according to the source “explored how the breakdown of family, our country’s financial woes, and perceived white privilege have all played a part in what has led to ‘The Crisis in Black Education.’” Madyson is currently an honors student and has plans to attend college with a major in either law or journalism. When asked what inspired her persuasive and passionate composition, which according to the source “was only eclipsed by the poise and spirit with which she read it to participants in attendance,” she replied, “My mom is a school teacher [who] encourages me and my sister to ask questions and to have open and honest conversations about the things we see going on around us. I have watched her and some of the struggles I see her go through as an educator, so it was not hard to think of ideas to write about.”