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ICRC announces winning grade school essays from children

Originally published in the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper.

The Indiana Civil Rights Commission (ICRC) announced Shelby Slaughter, a sixth grade student from Bedford, IN, as the winner of the organization’s annual student essay contest. ICRC partnered with the Indianapolis Indians to present Civil Rights Night at Victory Field last Friday, July 29, to celebrate the progression of equal rights and America’s pastime.

Rick Hite, ICRC Executive Director, addressed the crowd before the ceremonial first pitch and announced Slaughter as the winner. In her essay, on why education needs to be given to all students, Slaughter said “education, it’s what makes America operate. Imagine America without any schools. It would be chaos.”

Moreover, she spoke on the importance of providing an education to students like herself in an effort to keep America great. “There is a reason that America is one of the best nations in the world,” the student said. “It’s because we give all of our children a quality education. If we change that, we might not be the great country that we are.”

Ava Taylor, Events and Outreach Manager for the ICRC, said the organization is dedicated to encouraging young minds to be “engaged and motivated” by education. She said the essay contest is a chance to do just that.

The Student Essay Contest, which was open to all Indiana elementary school students from grades K-6, featured Slaughter as the first place winner, Nethaneal Kent, also from Bedford, IN, with second place, and Austin Betzold, a fourth grade student from Carmel, IN, with third place.

Betzold, in his essay, compared education to a seed that sprouts to create success. “A kid’s life is like a seed,” he said, “but when they get educated that seed grows. When that seed sprouts it is all grown-up. Then the seed stays there!” Then he concluded that when education is taken away the seed inevitably “falls and dies.”

Kent, on the other hand, authored a personal story about his passion for education. He spoke of a time where he was a bully and distracted other students in class, but his teachers didn’t give up on him.

“I was mean in second grade, a bully, and a huge disruption to everyone around me,” Kent said. “Students complained they couldn’t hear the teacher and were scared around me…some said I shouldn’t even be there.”

“However, the school persevered and kept me there. The teachers changed my point of view on everything. Over time, from second grade to fifth grade, I changed from a bully to a nice cuddly bear. Things wouldn’t be the same without my quality education. I love school and can’t wait to see where my education takes me,” he concluded.


Below are the three prize-winning ICRC essays from Indiana grade school children who commented on the importance of education. Their words, for many, will be seen as beautiful, introspective, and brilliant.

1st Place

By Shelby Slaughter

Education. It’s what makes America operate. Imagine America without any schools. It would be chaos. Fortunately, that’s not how it is here in the United States. Sadly, it is for some kids.

Should ALL kids get a quality education? Some people don’t think so. Some of them disrupt class on purpose and then hold back the whole class from learning.

However, I feel that ALL children should get a quality education. One benefit is it could change the future. Think about it: one kid is going to invent something amazing, but without the knowledge to do it, he won’t succeed. We will no longer have that great thing he made. Also, we would have more people in the country who are intelligent and that can make America better as a whole. There is a reason that America is one of the best nations in the world. It’s because we give all of our children a quality education. If we change that, we might not be the great country that we are. Another benefit is it could keep schools in business. We need all the schools we can get.

One thing is true, we all have our own opinions. That’s okay, but after reading this essay, maybe you could stop to think of all that education has done for us. That’s why I think all kids should get a quality education.

2nd Place

By Nethaneal Kent

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can change the world with.”- Nelson Mandela

This essay is about if children should have a quality education. I will tell you the pros and theories from the perspective of my own life. After this essay, you will realize that a quality education is the only option for children.

I was mean in second grade, a bully, and a huge disruption to everyone around me. It prevented not only others from learning, but my behaviors prevented ME from learning. Students complained they couldn’t hear the teacher and were scared around me. I freaked out easily. Some said I shouldn’t even be there.

However, the school persevered and kept me there. The teachers changed my point of view on everything. Over time, from second grade to fifth grade, I changed from a bully to a nice cuddly bear. Things wouldn’t be the same without my quality education. I love school and can’t wait to see where my education takes me.

3rd Place

By Austin Betzold

I think kids should have a good education so they can have a good life. It does not matter if you are black or white, you can still get a good education.

Education is the most important thing in a kid’s life, even in an adult’s life. A kid’s life is like a seed, but when they get educated that seed grows. When that seed sprouts it is all grown-up. Then the seed stays there!

And, when you can’t learn anymore, that seed falls and dies.