The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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April 25, 2014

Urban League fetes young essay-writers

SHENANGO VALLEY — Young writers looked as near as their neighborhoods and as far back as the 18th century to find heroes they admired enough to write about them.

Some picked astronauts, athletes, poets, actors and musicians who are living today.

Ja’Mia Jackson, a student at Musser Elementary School in Sharon, picked a freedom fighter from the American South during the civil rights era of the 20th century.

The sixth-grader wrote about Ruby Bridges who was just 6 years old in 1960 when she was the first black student to enroll in the elementary school within walking distance of her home in New Orleans.

“Ruby Bridges was a confident and determined young woman and still is one,” Ja’Mia wrote of the girl who was just a few years younger than herself at that historic time.

Sojourner Truth and Nelson Mandela inspired other students because of their bravery in fighting against slavery and apartheid.

The local students wrote down their thoughts for the 40th annual African-American History & Heroes Essay Contest sponsored by Shenango Valley Urban League.

The annual contest asks students to describe someone famous or close to home who inspires them, loves, challenges and supports or teaches them important life lessons.

Morgan Freeman’s skill in acting charmed fifth-grader Ava Coates.

“He makes every character he plays real,” wrote the student at Blessed John Paul II School in Hermitage. “I think it was because of his struggles as a child that he is what he is today.”

Gymnast Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, a gold medalist at the Olympics, inspired Jacara Green of Farrell and Hayley Gallagher of Hermitage.

Austin McFeaters, a sixth-grader in Sharpsville Middle School, got to know Olive M. McKeithan while interviewing the mayor of Farrell as part of a school assignment.

“The mayor told me that every day is a learning experience,” Austin wrote. “I asked her what advice she would have for our youth and without hesitation she said, ‘say NO to drugs, it is a problem in our country that needs to be addressed.”

Winners of the essay contest received their awards during a luncheon last monthMarch 15 at Sharpsville High School.

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