Winning Essays – 2018

Pictured are the 2018 Essay Contest Winners with the Honorable Judge Vance Raye and Honorable Judge George Nicholson.


Congratulations to the 2018 MLK Essay Contest Winners.

We are very pleased to announce the winners of the 5th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest in conjunction with the MLK Celebration event. The essay contest was created to further engage our youth with Dr. King’s legacy, his vision, and leadership that inspired a nation.  The 2018 MLK Essay Contest Theme: Fifty years ago, Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream Speech. In your own words, ” What would it take to make Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream a reality today?

High School

Annie Amadasun, Consumnes Oak High School – 1st Place
Shreya Balaji, – Folsom High School
Mai-Thanh Nguyen, Vista Del Lago High School – 3rd Place

Middle School
Charles Young, Harriet Eddy Middle School – 1st Place
Mai-Anh Nguyen, Winston Chruchill Middle School – 2nd Place
Yakari Jackson, Natomas Middle School – 3rd Place


High School Division
Annie Amadasun
, 1st Place High School Division

Be the Change You Wish to See in the World
Martin Luther King Jr once envisioned a Dream. He dreamed of a nation that was bound together by social integrity and equality for all. But when I close my eyes and open, I am surrounded by social angst and a society filled with unreaped promises. I am surrounded by a nation, filled with people who claim that all men were created equal in the eyes of god. A nation that allows political figures to publicly express racial discrimination on a national scale. We have allowed prejudice to become our deadliest self inflicted weapon. In order for America to look more like the dream that Martin Luther King envisioned, we must understand that change begins as an internal effort. In order to see change we must be the change. We must become more open about discussing the painstaking reality of how slavery, segregation and oppressed discrimination have shaped our nation. We must revisit the pains of our past in order to heal the wounds of our present, and promote a healthier future.

Revisiting our nation’s past is a critical part of changing our nation. This means that we need to be open about breaking down the social barriers that limit us from talking about racial injustice. Implementing racial conflict prevention programs in our local school districts would be a great start. By having open discussions about racial inequality in a safe environment, students would not only be able to provide a clear viewpoint of their stances on social/ political issues, they would also be able understand other people’s perspectives. Creating a judgment free zone also enables students to form closer connections with their diverse student body.

Martin Luther King Jr once had a dream. Let’s stop dreaming. Let’s Start living. Be the change.

Shreya Balaji, 2nd Place, High School Division

Martin Luther King Jr. Essay

Martin Luther King Jr. is often solely recognized for his speech that calls for an end to inequality for African Americans, but his dream is more than just what it seems. He stands for the rights of every individual in America, and represents how the common man has the ability to make a difference within his community and the nation.

From the time he delivered his famed speech to present day, racial relations have significantly improved. Our country’s social stance has been modified to place consequences for discriminatory behavior. But unfortunately, many injustices still exist in our country today,especially pertaining to the treatment of minority groups.

To make his dream a reality today, I believe the first step would be acknowledgement of racial injustices occurring in the present. Instances of recorded police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, and even the mockery of black culture need to be recognized as an issue. Many people in our country seem to be comfortable with passivity and ignorance. Becoming conscious of problems can be a painful process, but coming to terms with the reality that people of color are faced with different obstacles in their daily lives is important for change.

To be able to create this changed social mindset, I believe that this issue must be formally recognized and implemented into our education systems. For example, certain colleges, like Brown University, have classes that are completely geared towards the promotion of racial inclusivity. The discussion of these issues in a formal environment promote dialogue from both sides, encouraging discourse about controversial issues. In addition, individuals should be encouraged to fight for the rights they are passionate for. Protests, campaigns, and other acts of standing up for rights is a great way for the American people to unite under a certain cause.


Mai-Thanh Nguyen, 3rd Place High School Division


It’s a mid-afternoon at a local preschool. The bell rings, indicating the designated time for recess. At the playground, a young girl excludes her classmate from a game of hide-and-seek. When the teacher calls her over, she’s confused until her teacher says, “Put yourself in her shoes, how would you feel?” As children, we hear this statement constantly. And it’s remarkably simple. Yet, we tend to forget it as adults. It is necessary that this idiom steps outside of the kindergarten classroom and extend to our society. Throughout today’s political climate, these statements have become all too common: mexicans are illegal, black men are criminals, and muslims are terrorists. Hate and identity politics have plagued our nation. Instead of uniting, we have limited ourselves to these subgroups. MLK did not covet a country bound to hatred but rather one bound to love and equality. It almost seems as if our nation has backtracked, as if the division between race, gender, and religion has worsened. MLK would say our world demands empathy.

Empathy is a fundamental feature of humanity. Yet, we tend to lack it during times of fear and frustration. With it, we can understand the crusades of others. Maybe the Muslim that you called a terrorist was a human, just like you, simply practicing a different religion, a religion that has made her the scapegoat of a nation’s issues. Maybe the black man that you called a criminal was walking fast with his head down because his mother warned him of how to act outside of the home out of fear that he, like many other black men before him, could be endangered due to systematic racism. Maybe that Mexican you called illegal is part of the second generation of a Mexican-American family, who, just like you, yearns for their own American Dream. There’s two sides to every story. We just need to understand both.

MLK stated, “I have a dream today.” It is now our obligation to perpetuate the dream. Our dream is a society of people who are empathetic, a society where a person can act unconventionally without fear of reprimand. Our dream is a community where people of all races, genders, religions, or socioeconomic status are equal. It is a community where we choose to celebrate our differences. A community where we are not limited to our associated stereotypes but rather by the nuances of our character. It is a dream that is long overdue. We too, have a dream today to fulfill; we just have to unlace our shoes.


Middle School
Charles Young, 1st Place Middle School Division

Fifty years ago, Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream Speech”. What would it take to make Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream a reality today?

Did you know one brave African American man gave an amazing speech in 1963? His “I Have A Dream “speech became famous and today I have an opportunity to make his dream come true! Even though I’m a young teenager I have to be a good example and a positive role model.

There are many things we can do, such as bring awareness to bullying, help feed the homeless, and even be leaders in our communities. To help make his dream come true we can promote unity throughout the country. I can promote unity by speaking out against racism and standing up for equal rights.

In his speech, Dr. King talks about not looking at the color of skin, but at the content of a person’s character. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”. This means advocating to big businesses and corporations to hire all races, creed, color, and sex based on their skills and abilities instead of their skin tone.

To make his dream come true I would recommend to our lawmakers and enforcers to help make people feel safe in their homes, schools, and communities without violating their rights or making them feel less than human. I would encourage young people to be more respectful, caring, and considerate. I would also urge them to love themselves and to treat each other with kindness and overcome hate. Through this, it is my prayer for us all to be able to come together and join hands to sing “Free at last, Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last”!


Mai-Anh Nguyen, 2nd Place Middle School Division

Stand Up, Take Action

Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a world in which one is not “…judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” A world in which all are equal no matter their race, religion, political views, sexuality, or gender. A world such that a black is not just another criminal, a Muslim is not just another terrorist, a Mexican is not just another illegal immigrant, an Asian is not just another math prodigy. Yet these are the same racial stereotypes that are still seen in the people of today. An unacceptable truth that we live with. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream has yet to be fulfilled.

If our country has any hope to make this dream a reality, we must stand up and make efforts through peaceful action. In a world driven by hate, we cannot fuel this fire with more hate. This is not fist against fist. This is the use of  words, the action of speaking up. These are the actions that are powered by love, compassion, and understanding. We cannot continue to just dream of this life of equality and justice. We must wake up and open our eyes to what is wrong, to what is right, to what needs to be fixed, to what needs to be done, using our greatest weapon, our voices. Yet to also realize that this is not simply a movement for one group or a movement swaying towards one group. It is the movement towards us as a whole, a whole united nation fighting for the tomorrow that we desire. This is a grassroots movement in which the action involves everyone not just those in power. Together each of us has a duty towards the better today and greater tomorrow that we all want.

For the sake of our today, our tomorrow, for the sake of justice, equality, freedom, dignity, and righteousness, we must fulfill Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream through peaceful action driven by love, compassion, and understanding. It’s time we start doing so.

Yakari Jackson, 3rd Place Middle School Division

The smallest action can make the biggest change

For Martin Luther king Jr. dream to become a reality we need more leaders like himself. Leaders that are courageous, honest, fearless and open-minded. Leaders that can see things from others point of view. We need leaders that can be a connection to our world through compassion, trust and trying to understand the view of life through other people’s shoes. Once strong leaders rise many will follow. Just like the smallest action can make the biggest change.

If Martin Luther king Jr. was alive today he would try to stop all of the conflicts peacefully. I think people need to take more time out their day to get to know their neighbors, coworkers, teachers, colleagues and even friends. If everyone took 2 mins out of their day from Facebook, snapchat, Instagram, twitter, video games, Netflix and you tube we as a country would hear about different cultures. By being open minded we could all learn about different ethnicities and later become exposed to all the cultures we live among to bring world peace. Did you know there is 6,909 different languages? I’m proud to say I know 4. English, Mandarin traditional, Mandarin simplified, Spanish and I’m currently studying Romanian on my own. I’m taking a stride to communicate with my community.

Lastly, Martin Luther king Jr was not selfish. He always fought for everyone. Martin Luther king Jr and many others marched for civil rights for all of us. He and many others made it possible for young men like me to go to school and have a good education. He made it possible for blacks, Asians, Russians, Hispanics and all races to have a better life and a chance at achieving the American dream. If we as a world together realized how far we have come we could try and move forward together. I pray one day for unity, love and peace on earth. Can you please stand
and hold hand and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, Free at last, Great God a-mighty, “We are free at last.”


Essay Contest Sponsored By

Alcalay Communications
Governors Inn Hotel
Sacramento County Office of Education