Columbia Public Schools will celebrate the diversity of Boone County and MU alumni on Monday at an awards ceremony and reception held for the participants of the Celebrating Diversity poster and essay contest.
The MU Association of Black Graduate and Professional Students, with the help of a number of other organizations, sponsored the contest, which was open to all students in the district.
“Children are important to us and we want them to learn about MU and people that make Boone County a better place,” said Robin Mabry Hubbard, the organizer of the contest, a doctoral student and an executive board member for the Association of Black Graduate and Professional Students.
The awards ceremony and reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday in the Reynolds Alumni Center. Student posters and essays will be on display for the public. All participating students will receive an award, and certificates, ribbons and prizes will be given for first-, second- and third-place winners. The MU Alumni Association offered a grant of $3,270 for the contest, which is the single largest diversity grant given by the MU Alumni Association.
“The grant was so well-written and focused. It was clear to see how it makes a personal difference,” Valerie Goodin, director of Alumni Activities and MU Alumni Association Diversity Committee member, said. “Kids who did these projects will not be the same.”
Teachers received the packets describing the contest on Dec. 17. All essays and posters were required to include a minority or woman who was either a resident of Boone County or an MU alumnus or alumna. The poster competition was open to all students in kindergarten through fifth grade that participated either individually or as a class.
Only students in fifth through 12th grades participated in the essay contest, which had two categories. Students could either write a biographical essay on a minority or woman of interest or a reflective essay discussing the influence of a minority or female person on the student. All entries were due Jan. 18 and were judged by volunteers from the community and MU faculty, staff, and graduate students.
In a seventh-grade language arts class at Smithton Middle School, each student participated by interviewing someone from another country and then writing the interview in a question/answer format or in a narrative form.
“I feel writing contests are beneficial and often very motivating for students of all ages, so I would definitely like to see contests like this continued,” said teacher Leslye McCarty. “I thought the overall experience for my students was great.”
Hubbard also said that Black History Month was taken into consideration for the contest.
“The event is part of Black History Month celebrations, but ours is much wider; we want it to include all historically under-represented people that the students consider their hometown heroes,” she said.
Hubbard and her team worked hard to see that the contest met state curriculum standards. The district is now interested in making the Celebrating Diversity Contest an annual event by integrating it into the curriculum.
Several organizations contributed to the event, not only financially, but also through providing advice, expertise and staff to help with the event, Hubbard said.
“The (MU alumni) committee said this is a project that makes a difference,” Valerie Goodin said.