The 2008-2009 Essay Contest:
Honorable Mention

High School Division Honorable Mention

Piscataway High School
Piscataway, New Jersey

In this ever changing modern society, it is fast becoming commonplace to expose the ills of society. The many inequalities that span the realm of social justice are gradually being attended to. However, even with all of this media availability, the youth of this generation are not given a voice on the issues of prejudice and discrimination that face them. If there ever is a media-based appeal to young people by other young people it is encouraging them to say no to drugs and alcohol, get vaccinated for meningococcal meningitis, or it tells young girls to get vaccinated against cervical cancer. The latter has already tacitly accepted female sexual exploration as the norm without actually mentioning intimacy.

Of these issues facing young people, race is perhaps the most deeply rooted and immovable force that greatly impacts the adolescent population. In order to tackle this impediment, it would be necessary to reach out to teens with anecdotal messages from other teens. Goals for such a movement are to educate our peers about the harsh realities of racism and its history, and to stir up sentiments for students to join a support system such as an "organization of students for social justice" or "lead for diversity" in order to promote the longevity of the movement.

It is my firm belief that the medium that would provide the best platform for the challenges young people face on matters of race would be a combination of television and the internet. Those two modes of communication would have the strongest impact because this generation spends the bulk of its free time on internet sites such as Facebook and Myspace, or they are watching their favorite shows on MTV, VH1, E!, or BET. Why not send a powerful message when there will be a captive audience ready to listen? The focus of such a program would be to identify the prevailing racial prejudices and stereotypes since many people think it a dead issue. Next, we must educate the masses by drawing out the underlying factors that contribute to racism and prejudice, such as conditioning and fear of the unknown, to allow for introspection. This is because the change starts from within. It is also important to create a support system for those who want to speak out against racism and those who have been victims of racial acts. This development of allies will lead to empowerment and education by learning to embrace others' differences.

Furthermore, the campaign would have a few key slogans centered on the theme R.A.C.E: Raising Awareness Concerning Ethnicity. Examples are: There's more to me than what you see, be the voice of change, I am more than a statistic, and prejudice is the child of ignorance. I propose a series of PSA type broadcasts to span the length of a typical commercial that would be broadcast on television stations like MTV and VH1. The first set of commercials would pose the question, "Is racism still alive?" Then it would give statistics such as: according to the FBI in 2006 there were 2,640 incidents of anti-black crimes. A picture would accompany the statistic followed by the question, "Do we give in?" Each commercial would follow the same format for Hispanic, Caucasian, and Asian biased crimes with a black backdrop and white lettering. The next set of commercials would include personal anecdotes given by young people. An example could be as follows: the question, "Is racism still alive?" would illuminate the screen against a black background, then the story would start. It was a cool, breezy fall afternoon when I was walking home from school. Then I remember being pushed to the ground from behind as some random kid screamed, "Go back to your country!" I identify my ethnicity as _____. There's more to me than what you see. The same format could be repeated for three additional ethnic groups. The last commercial would show several teens of several different racial backgrounds first saying, "I am more than a statistic." The commercial would end with the final two people saying, "Be the voice of change." This final commercial would display the Myspace URL and Facebook URL for the Diversity support group at the bottom of the screen. The heading for each of the two web pages would be "Prejudice is the child of Ignorance." Each website would have an active blog to allow teens to voice their opinions about the racial issues that they have faced and how that experience has affected them.

It is imperative that the televised portion of the action plan be administered by youth because young people do not want to hear adults talking down at them and reprimanding them. I hope to spread a message of empowerment to all races, because racism is not simply a black and white thing. It is all encompassing. Moreover, this outreach should be ongoing. From the active blogs, a community outreach could be put in place at select schools that are willing to participate with the diversity group. At each school, a diversity club could be established where each school would devise its own action plan as to how they wished to tackle the racial issues plaguing their school environment. In essence, racial prejudice and stereotypes are injurious to this generation's youth, and it is necessary to be the voice of change.

Julia Barashkov


Prejudice was inescapable when my best friend, Maayan, a shy girl I have known for years, told me that she liked me. In all the years I've known her, I've always linked her isolating behavior around guys with her extreme shyness. I have never even imagined that the reason for her behavior could be a complete lack of interest in them. By the end of the day, the whole school knew and everyone was talking about her, even the teachers. And as if that wasn't enough even her old-fashioned parents were informed. Her relationships with her closest friends were ruined and her parents were disappointed. People talked behind her back, mocked her and insulted her in all different ways. She became isolated, a loner and I felt like I was losing my best friend due to people's lack of understanding, lack of tolerance and backstabbing behavior. I wasn't ready for that. I promised her that I would do anything possible to repair her ruined relationships with her parents and friends and to increase the matters of equality and respect.
Therefore, by writing this essay, I believe that I'm taking one step closer to fulfilling my promise.

The media does not focus enough on the voice and opinions of teenagers. Many issues, such as race, gender, religion and sexual orientation are presented from the adults' point of view, which is reflected in the movies and TV series they produce and in the books they write. The teenagers, who face those issues, and a lot more, in their everyday life have a minimal influence on the general opinions of the society. Therefore, I have formed a program that would mostly face the sexual orientation topic, but can also be converted to suit all sorts of issues. The program is expected to be fulfilled fully by teenagers, those who wish to make a difference. The main goal of the program is achieving equality and respect, and, more important, evaporating prejudice.
The program would focus mainly on the Internet. Even though TV still has a powerful impact on people's minds and opinions, more and more people attend to the Internet as a sort of information and entertainment. An abundance of people from all ages spend hours watching videos online and visiting forums and online communities.

For those reasons, I have decided that the first step to reaching acceptance and equality for all should be conducted by the Internet. The first step would be uploading videos to YouTube that shows what difficulties teenagers with different sexual orientations face in their everyday lives. Those videos would be "starred" by teenagers, filmed by teenagers and uploaded by same. The main purpose of the videos is to let teenagers express their minds freely and fully without being censored, acknowledge people to the situation, make them understand what impact their behavior has on people, and last and probably most important, gain supporters that understand the importance of the situation and truly believe that something can be done.
The second step, also internet based, is founding an online association that would use all means and instruments offered by the Internet. The importance of the supporters that were gained during the first step is crucial because they would form the association. The group would be able to use e-mail, forums and blogs to spread the message of equality and respect. Advertising isn't less important and could be achieved by different online communities, for example, Myspace and Facebook. After the message is spread and the group gained popularity by its hard work and performances, other media platforms can be used. Newspapers and magazines can be notified and articles can be sent to local newspapers. The press, which is still quite popular, also has an influence on people and that makes it an amazing tool of achieving the main goal of the program. After the popularity and advertising grow, TV news reporters, radio stations and other news sources would develop interest in the group, its goals and achievements. That would be an amazing step for the cause and the goal would be achieved.

The biggest virtue of the program is that is gives teenagers a chance to express their minds and achieve a highly important goal truly by themselves. The program would give teenagers confidence in themselves, their powers and the impact they can have on the humanity. All of those are crucially important in the everyday life and would probably change more than just the general opinion. "Different" people could feel more confident and safer in their social circles and wouldn't feel so much different any longer.

A world with no prejudice is a much better place to live in than a narrow-minded world. And at the end of the day, isn't the world becoming a better place to live in all we really want? I know I do...

Lauren Beltramo
Grade 12
Nyack High School
Nyack, New York


In the spring of my freshman year in high school, I noticed a group of upper classmen trying to get students to sign up for a "Day of Silence". Intrigued, I wandered over to the table to see what a Day of Silence was and what students needed to do to participate. It was explained to me that, for one day, students would wear all black and remain silent in order to send a message about the right of individuals to choose their own sexual orientation. By participating, students were not declaring their sexual orientation but merely making a statement that something was wrong with the way people are judged based on factors that have little to do with,their personality or intelligence. I immediately signed up for the cause and am proud to say that I have participated in the Day of Silence every year and plan to continue to participate in the future.

My high school, however, is an exceptional case where the Day of Silence is actually encouraged by the administration and accepted by the students. Many high schools in New York and across the country do not tolerate such open displays of acceptance like the Day of Silence. As a result, many teens feel uncomfortable about their sexual orientation and may become self-destructive. The biggest obstacle to universal acceptance is the media and traditional religious values that choose to ignore and shun those individuals who deviate from the sexual "norm". Images of flamboyant gay men, sexy lesbians, and weird transgendered people are now accepted stereotypes that circulate throughout the minds of the American populace. Like all stereotypes, those images are vastly misconstrued and inaccurate representations of people who have different sexual orientations. Many teens are uncomfortable talking or learning about different sexual orientations for fear of being ostracized by their peers, parents, or community.

Young people do not have any voice about the issues of prejudice and discrimination that they face that is recognized by the media. There are certainly teen organizations such as the Gay-Straight Alliance that have local chapters in some high schools (like mine) and promote understanding in their communities. Many other places, however, do not permit the organization of those groups and encourage teens to "be normal" and ignore different types of sexual orientation.

But the media can become a powerful tool used to destroy traditional stereotypes that portray unrealistic images of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people. Since education about sexual orientation must be wide-spread and permeate a variety of ages and ethnicities, movies are the most effective means of educating the public and promoting acceptance. Films such as Brokeback Mountain (2005), Transamerica (2005), and Milk (2008), help to promote acceptance about sexual orientation. A federal program could also be established to educate students, teachers, parents, and community members about the issues surrounding sexual orientation. A documentary could be filmed following the lives of students and their parents through the program and show how the knowledge they gained affected their view of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people. The program would focus on the facts concerning sexual orientation, and not dismiss any viewpoints of certain religious groups who denounce different sexual orientations. The program's goals would only focus on promoting knowledge and destroying unjust stereotypes. It would be up to the people who partake in the program to use that knowledge to promote understanding and acceptance. People would be encouraged to draw their own conclusions from the facts presented in the program, and not simply accept images from the media as universal truths regarding sexual orientation.

Movies detailing the challenges that gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people face would generate a wide audience and encourage acceptance of all forms of sexual orientation. Many people rely on television to help them relax, and even the frequency of commercials about sexual orientation would help to send a message that perspectives need to be changed. The merit associated with successful films as well as the endorsement provided by respected actors would also help encourage understanding and a need for change throughout the United States.

The vast majority of public sentiment, when it is not ignoring the issue altogether, is against the acceptance of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people. Opponents of gay marriage and different forms of attraction argue that the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. Those people need to be reminded that the definition of a citizen was once a property-owning white man; that the definition of an eligible voter did not include women; and that minorities were not included in the definition of a human. In the past, those "definitions" were used to justify massive offenses against basic human rights. History has also shown, however, that eventually acceptance does prevail and that those incorrect definitions are portrayed as foolish, immature misgivings inspired by fear that could never be allowed to exist in a modern world.

Bao Lee
Grade 11
Oshkosh North High School
Oshkosh, Wisconsin


Ending Gender Discrimination in Hmong Culture

Growing up as a Hmong girl, I did not fail to notice that my brothers were allowed certain freedoms which my sisters and I are now restricted to, such as going out with our friends; my brothers were also exempt from chores, something I particularly resent. These examples show how the Hmong culture enforces rules like men should be the strong provider while women are the obedient caretakers of the house. Although the Hmong people living in the United States today have become more Americanized and the young generation is slowly distancing from the Hmong culture, many of the elders still persistently have a prejudice against women. Young people do not get much say in this old part of our culture, which is disappointing because this prejudice will affect their futures most, especially of the Hmong women. Today people use a variety of ways to communicate important messages to everyone else. The best medium to approaching the subject of gender discrimination in Hmong culture is television because it is easily accessible since so many people enjoy watching TV and rely on it for news.

The media, which has power enough to influence and spread news about different issues, has not developed very much in giving young people a voice in topics of prejudice that undeniably have a great effect on their lives. If the media can give more attention to letting young people express their opinions on prejudices that they are facing then they will also be encouraged to change the lives of others who are struggling against discrimination. Because many young people are experiencing prejudices towards their gender, race or religion, their voices and ideas can help take a step towards stopping discrimination. Using the media would bring very high chances for young people's struggles with prejudice and their ways of stopping it to spread to a very large audience • throughout the nation or even the world.

Hmong Americans have come a long way in using the media to communicate with other Hmong people throughout the nation, mainly with newspapers, radio, and television. The best way to get the issue of gender prejudice out in the open is television. A show, much like the current reality shows, will have the parents or elders following the teenagers and young adults to school or part-time jobs; this allows for the older people to interact more in the everyday lives of their teenagers, particularly the women, so that they will see what has specifically changed their children's way of living or why they have made the decision not to follow the roles laid out in the Hmong culture. Hmong parents in the United States may encourage their children to study or go for higher careers, but they will never truly push aside the rule that women should work in their homes; even if the son of a pair of Hmong parents is the one who likes staying home while their daughter shows better success outside of housework. For the older generation of Hmong people to move towards equality for men and women, getting to see how their daughters work successfully with others as equals will show that the gender discrimination is limiting the potential of Hmong women.

The most important goal is to work towards having Hmong parents accept not only their children's decisions, but the person they truly are, because the Hmong culture basically rules women as inferior to men and elders. The show will focus on the voices of Hmong women who are growing up in an environment that is very different from their ancestors and how that has affected their lifestyle and values in life. Parents will also get to know their children more, so that they can understand better that everyone has his or her own talents, interests, or goals, and discriminating between women and men is holding back women from doing the things that show who they are or will help them with great accomplishments. Adults will also discuss the experiences of seeing closely what their daughters lives are like outside of home; this will give the young ones, who are taught strictly to listen to adults, a chance to open up and tell how the cultural prejudice conflicts with living as a modern American.

Since most of the older Hmong people do not like or have much knowledge of the Internet, this method would not reach an audience whose attention is required in order to make changes happen. Movies will not be taken seriously because movies are seen more fictionally, so to make such a serious issue of Hmong culture a storyline would not be favored by viewers. Having those who actually deal with the pressure as a young Hmong woman can have a big impact on others since these women's experiences are true and will show how much being prejudiced against affects their lives. The radio and the newspaper are also not very popular to many Hmong people, however, the majority of them do watch TV and since few people do not have TVs, the chances of spreading the discussion on gender discrimination are high. Also, the only other program shown on television for Hmong people does not broadcast news that would interest younger people, who must take the initiative towards stopping discrimination. The program that is set up to address gender discrimination would be relatable to teenagers and young adults, while making an impact on the Hmong culture would also be important to the older adults.

Young people are experiencing various types of discrimination as they grow up; therefore, allowing them to make decisions and hearing their opinions can stop discrimination. The most important thing is that Hmong people actually care about the prejudices Hmong women are facing. Even if everyone tunes in to the program but do not find it significant enough to take action for, the show's purpose will not be achieved. The older Hmong generation must accept women as people who are equal to men, and who have just as much right to be the best they can be, as the majority of the modem world has done. Every Hmong girl wants her role models to have faith in her and trust her. To stop the prejudice against women in the Hmong culture, the Hmong women must have the opportunity and the courage to stand up for who they are, because equality does not mean going against their culture, it is simply the right of humans.

Rebecca Marucci
Grade 12
Brownsville Area High School
Brownsville, Pennsylvania

As many adolescents grow and develop every day, they are faced with many choices. Some of these involve more than a simple yes or no answer and involve much time and consideration to make those decisions. The media in our society does not promote enough attention to giving young people a voice on the issues of prejudice and discrimination. Instead it focuses on other elements like "smoking cigarettes and drinking makes a person cool." Young adults in our society are not able to receive any form of help in order to deal with these issues. Adolescents are confused about how many of these decisions will affect them for the rest of their lives. Teenagers need to be able to voice their opinions and have their voices be heard by the people around them. Because of this, teenagers need some sort of guidance from other young adults to help each other face these hard issues in the world today.

In their day-to-day lives, young adults face many types of discrimination and prejudice. Whether it is based on religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation, there is always some person being bullied for who he or she is. The media does not give young people a chance to speak out against the prejudice that many of them are facing. There needs to be a nationally-televised show or internet chat room with moderators to allow teenagers to discuss their feelings and ideas about certain issues of the world and their lives, such as prejudice and discrimination. This age group gives the most attention to these two mediums and it would be the best way for these people to learn about how other people feel about this discrimination. Most people this age are always on the internet researching information for school or talking to their friends through chat rooms.

Why not take these chat rooms and use them to our advantage? Allow one to be open to all young people, with moderators, and let them discuss their feelings about ways to handle discrimination or to stop it altogether.

And if young people are not on the Internet, they are most likely relaxing and watching television. When I was younger, there was a show on Sunday nights that allowed teenagers from all over the country to come in front of the camera and talk about their points of view on certain topics ranging from politics to every day problems. I remember watching the show and being able to open my mind to others' view points, allowing myself to really think about the situation at hand. Young people need this type of support system in our modern crazy society.

My program would be panel discussions for teenagers aired on national television about the prejudices they face and how we as a society need to stop them and help them overcome these prejudices. The main issue discussed would be sexual orientation. Our growing world needs to open its eyes and realize that we are not all interested in the same things. People are accepting of each other when they prefer different teams in a league: why can we not allow people to like the same gender as they are?
The goals of the program include helping young people who are discriminated for their sexual orientation and to make other young people aware of the prejudice that they face. The panelists would discuss the emotions of the hurt people and how they need help while facing such a critical time of their lives. And because celebrities play such a huge role in the media, gay celebrities could come and discuss their trials and tribulations that they faced when going through this difficult time. Many young people admire celebrities for their careers and lifestyle. Through this program, young people can also admire them for the strength that they have exhibited throughout their lives.

A nationally-televised discussion panel is the best way to have these issues presented and discussed. Most young adults will spend their time outside of their activities watching television. These young people who are interested in helping others or who are discriminated for their sexual orientation will hear about it through announcements in the media and watch the show to see how the discussion can change their lives. Television is the most accessible and most recognized source of media in the world. Anyone with access to a television will be able to see this discussion panel help the young people of our society when they need it the most.

Most young people who face discrimination because of who they are have no where to go and no one to turn to when they face discrimination and prejudice. Society needs to reach out a helping hand and give aid to those who need it. A nationally-televised discussion panel would benefit these young people immensely. By discussing issues faced by these people, they may be able to express who they are and not be discriminated for it. Sexual orientation is one of the biggest issues facing many young people. If this panel could discuss ways to handle the discrimination faced by many young gay people, they may be able to develop their lives without constantly facing the prejudice that they are exposed to now.

Katie Neumann
Grade 11
Oshkosh North High School
Oshkosh, Wisconsin


Racism and Teens in the Media

As Americans, we are exposed to many different types of media daily, although we may not realize just how much exposure we have to these persuasion machines. Every day, we see commercials on television, but would never guess how many we see; the average person sees two hundred and forty commercials daily (Ries). If added together, this would total a full-length movie, and, keep in mind, this is just commercials; it does not include printed media, which some studies estimate we see more than five thousand of per day (Ries), With all of this influence being thrown at us, it is hard to set apart and pick apart what each campaign is trying to persuade its reader or viewer to do; more times than not, it is nothing that would be directly beneficial, and many times is harmful. Little to none of this is focused on the young generation; what sense does this make? With the young adults having no voice, how do people expect the future to be any better than the present? The media should focus more on real problems like discrimination, and less on insignificant problems, like how much air resistance our running shoes have, while letting young adults have a voice.

Although it may not seem like it in high school, there are much bigger and more serious problems than passing a road test or being at every single football and basketball game; discrimination is a very real problem that is not going to go away, at any age level. Of the three high schools in my city, two have sickening stereotypes that follow their students and alumni; the schools are also cross-town rivals, and many derogatory terms are thrown back and forth between the two schools and around the city. The North Side school is generally viewed by the community as "ghetto," "trashy," and sort of the criminal school, if you will. The Western high school is seen as the school for the rich kids, the "snobby" 'school, and more of a preppy academy. What is most horrible about the stereotype toward the north school is that it is a very diverse school containing many students of many different nationalities and cultures, while the west side school contains slightly less diversity. What it comes down to is that, although the fight for equal rights among minorities was over many years ago, many are still facing the same discrimination they fought to end.

Racism is much more of a problem than many think although it may not be obvious. In the current generation, racism is prevalent in extremes--quiet slurs and silent gestures versus terror groups and loud protests. For this reason, the ways to combat this discrimination would be to "hit home." Teens spend an average of one-third of all their free time by watching television, so it would only be natural to use commercials, as well as the Internet and paper media, like posters, to put in schools (Teen Health and the Media).

If I were to make a program that would battle racism, I would use all of the media mentioned above, in clever little ways that may appeal more to young people than older. The title of my program would be The Color Palette or something along those lines. In my print media, the central idea would be a rainbow, or field of flowers, or painting In only one color, whether it be blue, red, yellow, or any other. A rainbow is obviously not a rainbow using only one color, and a field of flowers is much prettier if the flowers vary in color. The main point of the campaign would be that if there was only one color in the world, our lives would be very dull and boring, whereas many colors give it life. The thought would then transfer over to races, and colors of people. I would print my Color Palette idea as posters and distribute them to schools across America, hoping to reach schools like those in our town, which seem to be somewhat closed-minded concerning the beauty of different races.

In addition to having the advertisement in print, I would use it on the Internet on sites like,, and other websites commonly used by young adults. By just having the ad posted, vast numbers of people view it worldwide, in a seemingly miniscule amount of time. I would also use technology once again, to run commercials in an attempt to reach teens. In the commercials, I would have the same central thought, with the different colors, but film some sort of scene using shades
of only one color, no matter the color. This would try to portray the same message, but this time using more and more appealing elements such as sound and moving picture.

Through this program, I would ultimately try to decrease racism through realistic media services, using messages relevant to everyday life. The current generation faces many social stereotypes such as being lazy, worthless, and ungrateful. It is so important that the generation create a higher standard for itself, and that can never happen while being racist and ignorant. With a program like The Color Palette, that can happen by targeting how to get the message to teens, in a fashion they would enjoy. You cannot make someone listen, and you cannot make people change their thoughts or behaviors, but one should try his or her hardest to fight for what is right and just, and racism is definitely neither.

Works Cited:
Teen Health and the Media. 19 May. 2008. .
Ries, Laura, and Al Ries. The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. HarperCollins, 2002.

Justin Pergolini
Grade 11
Haverford Senior High School
Haverford, Pennsylvania

On the Afro-Woman in America

In a 1962 speech, Malcolm X said that, "No one is more disrespected in America than the black woman." At the time of his reading, Afro-American women had just come into a new age after being barred on two counts for two centuries from participating as full members of society. Though America has done much to remedy her past misgivings, the prejudices of our society have proven difficult to squash. In the space of four decades, stereotypes and prejudice have declared sanctuary within our new media and popular culture. These unfortunate devils of our nature now seek to unravel the delicate moral fibers of our youth and promote a crude attitude towards females of all colors. The media has created an Afro-American feminine image that is overwhelmingly negative, and an effective platform must be provided to youth so that they may examine and discuss this image in-depth.

In order to understand the need for such a measure, one must examine the promoted images of Afro-American women in popular culture. It is an unfortunate consequence of the "gangsta" medium that women artists have been pushed out of the limelight in favor of more masculine protégés. Indeed, the popularization of testosterone-fueled artistry has contributed to a decline in the status of women's roles in the media. For the most part, women in music videos and advertisements are limited to roles that depict them as sexually loose, aesthetically beautiful, and subservient to the whims of males. I knock no "hustle" on the part of T.I. and Nelly, but the women in their videos seem adept at only wild gyrations and looking good on the hoods of automobiles. Popular lyrics, despite their excited delivery, consist of little more than commands to shake body parts in a manner that would make any respectable girl blush. It seems unfortunate to me that the only contribution of a woman to the art is to look pretty and take orders from a man. The heart, mind, and soul of the woman are indeed there, but they appear to be the only part of the anatomy that a G-string bikini is suffice to cover. Aesthetics trump ethics in most of these cases, and a body with enough curves can trump any semblance of personality.

Confined to adult populations, these images cannot do much harm. The problem, however, is that the media has taken the liberty of circulating these images in every medium possible because they sell. The massive scale of this distribution extends to television, radio, and magazines. If one thought Cosmopolitan covers were crude and inconsiderate, they should tune in to the late night musings of BET. When combined with the accessibility of the internet and social networking sites, it becomes easy for youth to access these images, all too often without a guiding hand. The problem is not the images themselves but the fact that they are the only subjects exposed to youth. The attitudes that develop from this constant exposure affect both genders. Young men are on track to develop socially acceptable attitudes of misogyny, where the b-word and c-word are safe in normal dialect and interactions with female peers come to revolve around the gluteus, emphasis on maximus. Young Afro-American girls without strong paternal figures develop the idea that sexual libertines are apt to gain friends and attention. Sexual irresponsibility becomes the norm for them, along with young women of all colors who view such images. For black girls especially, there is a severe lack of positive role models on television to balance the equation. Short of Oprah, a quick turn of the dial will leave a young black girl wanting for strong, independent women.

Against the strong hand of the media, precautions must be taken to ensure that the youth of America are given a voice to respond and the knowledge to view media images with a critical eye. I propose that a national network be created in the form of Afro-vision, a program dedicated to the promotion of positive Afro-female depictions. The program's goals would include educating youth, specifically students, on media depictions of Afro-American females, giving youth a chance to discuss the role of media and popular culture in promoting such images, and establishing connections between youth who share similar views on the topic. By drawing attention to the nature of media illustrations, young men and women can learn how the media markets such materials and how such materials can impact youth in different environments. Students can then discuss the role of media with peers and teachers from across the country. This discussion will help to establish ties among youth who share strong views regarding the tumultuous relationship between media and the public. The forming of a general community that promotes such dialogue will serve as a healthy counteraction to the influence of the media.

Of all mediums to promote Afro-vision, the internet will prove most effective. It allows for the establishment of forums and blogs, which make discussion between peers easy and organized. Even those who would shy away from a face-to-face discussion would find themselves delighted to express themselves online. A webpage would also allow for the posting of more wholesome media materials, which would serve to further educate our youth and promote positive images to counteract those in the media. Above all, the internet provides the easiest method of forming a national community and ties between members via email and personal profiles.

The media of the twenty-first century has come up short when it comes to providing wholesome role models, and teachers and students nationwide should work to correct these shortcomings. By forming a national platform for the youth of America, they will give voice to the thousands of young people who wish to serve as voices of opposition. A comprehensive program such as Afro-vision can accomplish this. By working as a community, youth can make sure that Malcolm X's grim observation ceases to be a reality, and that popular culture never makes us well-adjusted to injustice.

Read the High School 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Essays

Middle School Division Honorable Mention

Bryan Bliek
Vernon Center Middle School
Vernon, Connecticut

Stereotypes on Television

Many reality TV shows are airing these days on practically every channel such as MTV, TRUTV, and VH1. Today, many people of all ages watch them. Generally, I enjoy watching reality shows; they present real people in everyday situations and it's (supposed to be) unscripted. I think that reality shows are mixed though; some are very good and are not stereotypical and really show what it's like in the real world. Some shows, though, are very stereotypical and are more like dramas or soap operas. For example, a few shows that I've seen always portray "geeks and nerds" as high school age males dressed in high pants and checkered shirts along with glasses, acne, and a calculator in hand while the "cool" kids are the pretty girl on the cheer squad or the boy that's the captain of the sports teams .

Other shows, however, show wide varieties of people of all different backgrounds, religion, race, skin color, among other things. One popular show, American Idol, is great; it is highly entertaining and doesn't promote stereotypes. It is a show that allows everyday people to have a chance at fame and superstardom. All different kinds of people have competed and not once do they single out anybody.

However, there are shows that are the complete opposite. An example is the show Cops. In Cops, the producers put cameras in their patrol vehicles to give you a taste of what it's like to be one of the men in blue. The concept and theories are good; however they show it in a bad way. Consistently, they show the same types of people in the same types of areas getting busted. Mainly, they show minority people such as African- Americans and Hispanics/Latinos being arrested in very poor and shady areas with run down homes and such. Also, they also make street arrests based on how the people dress. One example is that they have been suspicious and point out people that wear certain clothing and accessories such as short skirts or baggy jeans. If I go out in public dressed in a certain way, does that mean the cops should be suspicious of me? Because of these types of attitudes, it has influenced many others to think the same way. Some of the people I know are afraid of others that dress differently, even if they're totally legitimate beings. I recommend that you do not see Cops; it will infuse your brain with completely wrong, prejudiced, and biased ideas.

The TV shows of today can have a very powerful impact on our minds. Some can change our perception of others in a good way and rewrite how we think, Others, on the other hand, can cause widespread paranoia and fear about things that are not as huge an issue as they appear to be. I hope that people will eventually realize that you can't always trust your eyes and what you see on some of today's TV networks.

Stephen Drake
Grade 8
West Hills Middle School
West Bloomfield, Michigan

Prejudice is a daunting injustice in our world. The word prejudice means an unfounded hatred, fear, or mistrust of a person or group, especially one of a particular religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual preference, or social status. Whether it's white and black, short and tall, strong and weak, or big and small it's a shame people think that way. Have you ever looked down upon someone because of their race, size, or height? We've all seen someone be prejudiced against someone. Sadly, TV can greatly influence one's opinions and views of people who are different than you. This can be good or bad for the world. One example of a positive influence is the show Little People, Big World because it illustrates the lives of the Roloff's, a typical family with several people who have dwarfism. I love it because with knowledge, comes understanding. I feel this show educates people around the world so when they see someone with dwarfism, they know what it's like to live that way.

Seeing people's hardships can genuinely help people understand what another person has to deal with. Once you see someone struggle, you think twice about being prejudiced or labeling an individual "different" from you. Little People, Big World shows people who are born with dwarfism have to face social, medical, and physical adversity in everyday life. For example, Matt Roloff, the dad, has a very difficult time getting around. He walks around with tiny crutches because, despite countless surgeries, he is not completely able to walk. The dwarfs in the family also have to deal with social hardships because of their height. Sadly, people talk down to them because they're different. Another example of difficulty they have is the simple task of buying clothes. Imagine having to shop in the children's section when you are a 50-year-old adult. When you watch people go through things like this, you're humbled and realize we're all the same on the inside.

Little People, Big World helps to abolish prejudice by showing that the Roloff's are a normal family apart from their height. The hit reality show series chronicles the Roloff family in everyday life. Unfortunately, I never realized before watching this show that dwarfs have to do everything regular-sized people have to do, just maybe with a little more effort. Despite their differences, they manage to build and maintain astounding structures that are scaled-down things such as castles, old western towns, and a pirate ship. These are amazing feats for a family affected with dwarfism; it's truly an inspiration for all to see.

This show is not only informing the whereabouts of the Roloff family; another motive clearly seen in every episode is to inform the viewers of the feelings and opinions of "little people" in general. Relatively trivial things like how you look at dwarfs matter so much to them, says the family. They clearly care about the little things and how you treat them, for this is part of everyday life to dwarfs. Mr. Roloff, Mrs. Roloff, and Zach, the dwarfs in the family, repeatedly inform the viewers that staring, laughing and whispering can act as a spear to their hearts because it is just another reminder that they are considered "different" than the rest of the world. I don't know about you, but I feel this is a wrecking ball to all prejudice ideals against them because it says to all the viewers that "little people" have feelings and problems just like us. Knowing dwarfs care deeply about what you do and say around them opens a hole in your heart, and causes you to ask yourself: "What would I do around a "little person"? How would I act?" which ultimately leads to the question, "How do I feel about dwarfism and people affected with dwarfism?" This question is a dagger that penetrates any internal prejudice you may have harbored for your entire life.

In conclusion, the reality show Little People, Big World breaks down and destroys any hatred or misunderstanding towards dwarfs. Through the Roloff family, it communicates to the world what dwarfs and dwarfism is all about. I encourage anyone, prejudiced or not, to watch this show to deeply understand what it's like to be a dwarf. This humbling TV series is great for all ages, races, or heights. Bringing people to realization and understanding is the motive of this show. Prejudiced feelings are not permanent; they can be overcome by knowledge, compassion, and a little willingness.

Griffin F.
Saxe Middle School
New Canaan, Connecticut

Stereotypical T.V Shows

MTV's hit reality show Yo' Mama is about as stereotypical as a show can get. This is a show about "dis-wars" where the objective is to have better put downs than your opponent, so that you can advance to the next round. The stereotypes come into place because most (if not all) of the jokes are racial, ethnic, or size (weight) prejudice.

This show (to me) does not portray reality whatsoever. The people on this show make false assumptions such as, "Just because a man is Mexican, he is able to be an adequate lawn mower, no matter what." Likewise, people also assume that all black people are gangsters, into rap music, poor, and are too incapable of raising a family because of the color of their skin. Lastly, the people on the show assume that all Irish people have leprechauns and live at the end of rainbows. They are also accused of being drunks. There is only one word to sum up these accusations: stereotypes.

I would not recommend watching Yo' Mama because of its various displays of ignorance. The two opponents don't know each other at all; therefore, a majority of the jokes are based off stereotypes whether they include the person's race, gender, or ethnic background. Watching this show would fill you with false statements, along with poisoning the minds of children everywhere. How horrible would it be to grow up in a world where children are constantly hearing stereotypes? These accusations would be corrupting those children, resulting in America's youth living by stereotypes that we are trying so hard to rid ourselves of. Clearly, this show would be a bad influence on kids everywhere.

Without a doubt, the show Yo' Mama is completely stereotypical towards races, genders, ethnicities, and physical features of people everywhere. By perpetuating all those stereotypes, it corrupts America's youth by filling them with ignorance.

Nick Graves
West Hills Middle School
West Bloomfield, Michigan

Extreme Home Makeover: Prejudice Edition

Bigot is such an ugly word. It stirs deep memories of injustice and racial intolerance. Officially, we got rid of segregation in the 1960's. However, racism and bigotry are still present in America. It has certainly waned from its height during the dark times of slavery and even segregated schools less than 60 years ago. We have undeniably made progress from that period in time, but there are still driving forces that promote bigotry and prejudice based on religion, physical appearance, race, etc. There is a light at the end of this tunnel. Some reality shows like Extreme Home Makeover help to break the chains of bigotry and prejudice that are restraining us by showing the good in people, showing us how different sorts of people are unfortunate for different reasons, and it shows that big companies aren't as greedy as many Americans think they are.

Often time's people complain about the state of the American mindset; they say that we're lazy and self-centered. Extreme Home Makeover's workforce is based entirely on volunteers. A volunteer is a very honorable person. They sacrifice their own personal time to aid others, an activity on the decline in modern America. In an article I read in the Detroit Free Press, Extreme Home Makeover came to Lansing for a project, and a majority of the volunteers were college students, a demographic that is often looked down upon for being self-centered and allegedly irresponsible. College kids have enough work on their hands, and setting aside enough time for a large scale volunteer project can be daunting. The house is also built in only a week, which is miniscule for building a house. The efficiency of the volunteer workers is evident in the required building time.

Some people are born lucky; others aren't. People are unfortunate for different reasons depending on their circumstances. There are people in this world who believe that people of a certain race or religion are poorer than others. In Extreme Home Makeover, people of all different varieties are helped, not just one type. Extreme Home Makeover helps people of different income statuses as well; some of the helped are extremely poor, while others have an extenuating circumstance that they could not overcome on their own. I remember one episode of Extreme Home Makeover where a man had promised his relative to look after her kids if she were to pass away. Unfortunately, she did just that and he was left with a large number of kids who were living in a hotel.
Americans often believe that large companies are greedy and gouge prices; look at what people say about "big oil" as an example. Extreme Home Makeover doesn't make their own tools; they get them from big companies who donate them to the cause. Big companies also supply the house with state-of-the-art appliances like washing machines and ovens. The company makes no money from donating these appliances; they actually lose money because they're not selling it to a retailer who would then sell it to consumers. Although this may be a business ploy to get free publicity, I like to believe in the good in people. Most likely you have heard about companies like Pepsi or Coca- Cola sponsoring after-school sports or the like. This is not a philanthropic action, but a mere ploy to make profit and advertise. The difference between this and the donations of tools by large companies, notably Craftsmen and Sears, is that Pepsi and Coca-Cola often use vending machines to create the money for the activities, and that money comes from the parents and the students. Now, if you contrast this to companies giving purely out of philanthropic ideals, the more virtuous faction is obviously apparent.

Extreme Home Makeover is a great bonfire at the end of the dark tunnel of bigotry and hate. By people continuing to feed the fire with love and compassion, eventually the entire tunnel will be illuminated and brought forth from darkness, showing the inhabitants of that tunnel the right way to walk: towards the grand fire of love and compassion. We can all contribute to this bonfire, albeit in different ways. If you have enough time on your hands, you could volunteer at a local food pantry. If the time is not there for you to seize, you could always donate some money to the charity instead.

Brenna Turner
Grade 8
West Hills Middle School
West Bloomfield, Michigan

Everyone has their favorite reality TV show, but no one really knows why it is his or her favorite. Do they like the people on the show? Do they like the host? Do they know someone producing the show? My favorite show is America's Next Top Model because of the valuable lessons it teaches its audience and myself. Most specifically, it teaches not to stereotype an individual because of their race, religion, sex orientation, etc. America's Next Top Model is a show with girls competing to win the title of America's Next Top Model and the prizes that come along with it. I first started watching this show due to my interest in modeling, but I kept watching it because of an important lesson I learned. Tyra Banks, the host of the show, teaches the show's viewers numerous things. America's Next Top Model shows that is it not okay to stereotype people because it does not give them fair chances.

When the judges of America's Next Top Model cast people for their show, they do not look at the height of the person or what color hair they have. They do not even care if the person is bald as long as they show them something. This something is potential and uniqueness. Potential, to the judges, means having the strength to always work their hardest no matter what the situation is, even if they have the stomach flu. Uniqueness helps the judges know that you're not just like everyone else. You can see throughout the show that the judges do not look at the contestants as if they are in a beauty contest. For instance, in this recent season of America's Next Top Model there is a girl who is a transsexual. However, the judges do not care about that at all, all they care about is what they bring to the table. So the judges judge their contestants on their talent and nothing else.

In addition, America's Next Top Model always provides each contestant with equal chances. Whether they are thin or heavy, the judges believe it is very important that each contestant should always be treated fairly. For instance, if there is a photo shoot for modeling bathing suits, they provide each model with a suit that is comfortable for them. They also make sure that the bathing suit compliments each contestant so that no one has a better advantage. Tyra Banks is African-American and knows what it is like to be discriminated against; I think that is why she is so strong about providing each contestant with equal chances on the show.

Last, America's Next Top Model is not a "fake" show; this is what separates it from many other shows. The staff always makes sure they are producing real material. For example, they show contestants on the show judging other people in a rude and negative way. However, they then also show the contestant learning that it is wrong to criticize someone, like they did. Tyra Banks helps each contestant learn things like that by sitting down with each contestant every so often in the show. She lets them talk about anything on their mind and then tries to helps them in any way she can, not judging the words that come out of their mouth. This reality TV show exemplifies that making mistakes is okay and that that is how you learn valuable lessons like not judging an individual.

As you can see, America's Next Top Model is a very significant show. It not only teaches you about modeling, but teaches you valuable lessons for life as well. The most valuable lesson they emphasize on the show is to never judge a person. I think many people take things they learn throughout this show and apply it to their life. That is why I would recommend this show to anyone whether or not they like modeling because of all the great things you get from it. This show has such a positive impact on me and I am sure it will make an impact on many other people. Overall, America's Next Top Model is my favorite reality TV show because it is different from most shows due to all the lessons you learn.

Read the Middle School 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Essays