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MLK Essay Contest Winners Share Their Work

First place winner in the MLK Essay Contest, Helen Oswalt, reads her essay to an audience gathered at the MLK Luncheon on campus.
First place winner in the MLK Essay Contest, Helen Oswalt, reads her essay to an audience gathered at the MLK Luncheon on campus.
2/23/2012 —

Winners of an essay contest in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. were announced during a luncheon at Penn State DuBois on Wednesday.  The first place winner is Helen Oswalt, who received a $100 cash prize.  Jaci Gordon took second place and received $75, and Ashley Meyer came in third, taking home a $50 prize. 


The contest was held as part of a month-long celebration of King and his legacy.  Entrants where asked: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his last speech, "We shall overcome."  What do you think he meant by that? What adversity or challenges have you had to overcome?

The winning authors each read their essays to the group gathered at the luncheon.

All told deeply personal stories noting their own struggles and how they have overcome them. 


"My mother spoke to me about how change occurs.  She explained that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stopped people in their tracks and silenced them with his words. She said everyone listened and heard what he said," Oswalt read from her paper.  She then related her own battles. 


"I was born with many health problems in life to overcome. I was born with club feet and needed an operation.  I was born smaller than most babies and I suffered numerous ear infections, which caused me a hearing impairment.  I don’t remember having leg operation or wearing braces, fortunately.  I do recall not being able to hear.  While I attended grade school I was held back several years," Oswalt said.  Then, she recounted how she overcame her personal hurdles and fostered her own determination to succeed and to help others overcome their own struggles. She said, "I underwent several ear and sinus operations. After these procedures I was able to hear and acquired the love of learning. 

I have received an undergraduate degree in Human Development and Family Studies, and I’m working on an undergraduate degree in Letters, Arts, and Sciences.  I am also determined to earn a minor in Psychology and look forward to the day when I can help shape someone else’s life."


Chancellor Anita McDonald noted King's legacy during the program, and how his work set the stage for change and acceptance of people from all races and backgrounds.  She said, "I used to cry when I heard the song We Shall Overcome, because we did have so much to overcome.  Now, I don't cry when I hear it, because we have come so far.  While there still are many challenges, we have already overcome so much."  

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