Black History Month has come and gone, but for the winners of the Black Parents and Students Support Group’s first annual essay contest, the celebration continues. The votes were tallied and the winners were honored and everyone involved seems pleased with the results.
There were 21 entries. First-place winner Ariel Garrett took home the $500 grand prize for her essay on the accomplishments of Dr. Patricia E. Bath, whose life and work have inspired Ariel to not only make the most of who she is, but make the most of who she can become with the proper education and attitude.
Coming soon: WeLoveAnnArbor.com will run both winning essays
Ariel is an aspiring surgeon who, at just 15 years of age, has had her eye on the operating room since before she even set foot in a kindergarten classroom.
Ariel chose to write about Patricia Bath, who was the first African-American woman to receive a medical patent, so she could educate herself about influential women working in the field she wants to make her life’s work.
“As a young black women who is interested in a career in medicine, I thought it was important,” she said. “I don’t really hear much about women – let alone African American women – in science or medicine.”
Ariel’s Mother, Harmony Mitchell, says that her daughter was ecstatic over the news.
“She called me and said, ‘Mom, I won, I won!’ And I shed a tear or two of joy because I knew she could do it. In the past she has struggled with self esteem; now she realizes what everyone else sees in her.”
Patricia Bath, 75, now holds four holds four patents and is the founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in Washington, D.C.
Coming in at a close second place was Allexxis Young, of Washtenaw International High School, who took home $50 in prize money for her essay about author Zora Neale Hurston.
“I’ve been a writer for the majority of my life,” Allexxis says. “Since I like telling stories, I felt like I could connect with this topic the most on a more personal level. Since I am a black woman in society, this [competition] felt like something I talk about all the time. Woman who inspire me to be myself or to be unapologetically black.”
The contest will become an annual event, and the BPSSG facilitator, Victoria Shields, hopes to double the amount of entries in 2019.
“The DWBPSSG is so excited about this essay competition,” Shields says.
“Students and adults both expressed how much they learned and how much they appreciate the prizes. We wanted to accomplish more than one goal with this – obviously learning about history and culture, about writing and having an academic focus, but also to show young people that with effort and initiative, there is a pay off at the end.”