Black History Month Essay Contest Shines Light on Outstanding Students

Each February, our staff reads more than 1,200 student essays submitted to Florida’s Black History Month essay contest. It’s a challenge that our entire office looks forward to, in large part, because of the passion, insight and creativity weaved through every submission.

Last year’s best essays shared numerous true stories of incredible heroism and sincere hopes for the future. Our 2014 high school essay winner, Javan Latson, shared the powerful story of his grandfather Leonard, a law enforcement officer, who challenged a policy barring black officers from driving police cruisers.

In Brooklyn Sheppard’s winning essay, she wrote about a world where she is judged solely on her “talents, kindness and compassion.” The fourth grader ended her essay with a call to “give a hug, and lend a hand.”

You can see why I am so eager to dive into the essays we will begin receiving during the next few weeks. I hope you will share this important contest with the students in your life and encourage them to participate.

More about the Contest:

Excellence in Education Award:

Students, parents, teachers and principals are invited to nominate full-time, African-American educators in elementary, middle and high schools for the Black History Month Excellence in Education Award. All entry forms and guidelines for the contests can be found at

Student Art and Essay Contests:

Art and essay contests are open to students in Kindergarten to 12th grade. The theme for this year’s essay and art contests is “A Celebration of African-American Innovation and Innovators.” Students are asked to share how African-American innovators have shaped Florida.

The art contest is open to all Florida students in grades K-3, and two winners will be selected.

The essay contest is open to all Florida students in grades 4 through 12. Three winners will be selected: one elementary student (grades 4-5), one middle-school student (grades 6-8) and one high school student (grades 9-12). Winners will receive a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.

Information about the contests and Florida’s Black History Month is available on Florida’s Black History Month website at

About the author: Commissioner Pam Stewart leads the Florida Department of Education, which supports Florida’s Pre-K-12 education system, serving more than 2.7 million students and 192,000 educators. She is a former teacher, principal and deputy superintendent.


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