The 2015-2016 Middle School Essay Contest Winners:
1st and 2nd Place and Honorable Mention

First Place

Sophia Anacin
Grade 8
Lakewood Middle School
Lakewood, New Jersey

"Like so many things, it is not what is on the outside, but what is on the inside that counts." --Quote from the film, Aladdin.

There are a multitude of movies and TV shows that demonstrate the idea that it is important to value people for who they are, and to not judge them solely on one thing, like their religion or gender. But there are other films and TV programs that reinforce prejudice and stereotypes. Students need to become aware of the prejudice and discrimination around them, and be taught to be respectful towards one another. A movie that teaches that is Aladdin, a Disney classic. Aladdin is a film that can be used to raise awareness of prejudice because it illustrates a valuable lesson of life and it can cause a great impact on students.

Aladdin is a film that can be used at a school to raise awareness and teach respect because it demonstrates a lesson that can be applied to daily life. In Aladdin, the movie's protagonist is a poor "street rat" that steals for a living. He is at the bottom of the city's social class and everyone thinks lowly of him because he is also a thief. But it is shown that he is the only one worthy enough to go into a place of treasures, deeming him someone of value even though he is nobody. This shows that someone's social class does not reveal who they really are on the inside, which can be applied to another issue. For example, your sexual orientation or disability does not determine your worth or who you are on the inside, which is clearly shown in the Disney film. What is on the inside is what counts after all. Other than the moral lesson Aladdin gives, it also can create a great impact for the students that watch it.

The Disney film can also impact the students greatly when they watch it, which is why it can be a recommended film for raising awareness and teaching respect. As a Disney film, Aladdin mostly targets children and not necessarily adults, who do not have the same thinking as a child. But students would be greatly impacted by this because it is a trip to the past and their childhood, so they would pay attention to it. The moral of Aladdin shows that you should not judge a person based on their social; you should not treat others less because of how poor class, or how rich they are. Students will become more aware of how bad people can treat others, and might be more appreciative and respectful to the people they meet. Movies can make you think about life, and the many people that are alive. So watching Aladdin can make people think about the conflict that the movie portrays and apply it to real life, thus making them change their behavior for the better if they really take the film to heart. They will become respectful and appreciative of others, so that they won't become alike to the villains in Aladdin. Aladdin can truly make anyone watch it think and learn about a lot of things, and this can very much help the world become better, even if by a little.

Aladdin is a film that can be used to raise mindfulness of prejudice because it demonstrates a valuable lesson of life and it can cause a great influence on students. Judging people for their religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and gender is not something that should be followed. We should see people for who they are on the inside, because their worth is based on that alone, and not anything else. It is important for young and old alike to remember that we should respect and appreciate each other for who they are, and Aladdin is one of the movies that can teach that. Raising awareness of prejudice and discrimination matters because this can help make the world a better place, even if just a little. Those little things will soon turn bigger, and maybe then, more people will respect each other for their character, and not for their gender or anything else specific.

Second Place

Carlos Miron
Grade 8
Lakewood Middle School
Lakewood, New Jersey

Discrimination among people is like discriminating among gala and red delicious apples. Sure, the apples look and taste different, but in the end they all come from trees. Similarly to apples, people are also different skin colors, but we are all the same inside and come from the same place. The movie Ruby Bridges written by Toni Ann Johnson and Directed by Euzhan Palcy, clearly demonstrates prejudice and discrimination. This movie is about a girl named Ruby Bridges in the 1960s; she is very smart and is sent to the white schools. Unfortunately, in the beginning she wasn't accepted very well by the white people except by her teacher, that was until the kids and one other teacher started to realize that Ruby was the same as them and deserved the same rights. I would recommend this movie due to the fact that it's very emotional how students get discriminated just because they are a different skin color, yet they have the same need, which is to learn. This movie could potentially impact students because they would feel sympathy for Ruby, and they would be more respectful because they would realize that we are all equal in this world.

To start off, this film could impact students because they would feel sympathy for Ruby. They would imagine how they would feel if they had to go through what Bridges went through. Ruby was a brave little girl, she seemed sad at some points but never gave up and continued going to school. So by realizing that, students would be shocked and might even think if they would be able to go through that whole experience. In my opinion I don't think anyone has the guts Ruby Bridges had throughout her childhood.

In addition, this film could make students more respectful because they would see how important it is to not discriminate people. Students would imagine themselves in Bridges situation, so they would realize how they would feel if they got discriminated. Which in return they would be respectful because they would treat others like they want to be treated. Not to mention, they would appreciate the education and friends they have at their school. Those were things Bridges had to work a lot to obtain. So if the students have feelings they will think twice before disrespecting someone after see this movie.

All in all, the movie Ruby Bridges would be ideal to show discrimination and prejudice. This movie would impact students because they would feel sympathy towards Ruby, and they would be respectful because they would understand that discrimination is wrong. No matter what race/skin color someone is, they deserve every single right another race has.

Honorable Mention

Ana Flores
Grade 7
Lakewood Middle School
Lakewood, New Jersey

"I'm not a savior, or Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, or the Easter Bunny. I'm a football coach, that's all, just a football coach," quotes coach Boone. "You're our coach," respond all his neighbors. In the movie Remember the Titans, a white football team has their white coach replaced by a colored one. In addition to having a new coach, they will also be having new teammates, half the team will be colored and the other half will be white. Coach Boone is the new coach that was given a lot of recognition from all colored people for becoming a coach of a white football team, He does not see it as anything that huge to make a difference, but everyone else does. On the other hand, all the white players and their parents are not so pleased; every single player had trouble with the new arrangement, but at the end they learn a valuable lesson from it.

In the beginning, they all don't know each other and all make judgments based off their skin colors. "Our boys aren't playing for no coach Coon," says one parent of the white players when they hear the news about the new coach for the Titans. All the white players did not want their coach for the past years to leave his position as head coach; some even said they would not play for the season. None of them wanted to play for some colored man or with colored teammates, which today is called racism against one for their skin color. "With him calling the shots, ain't none of us going to see nothing but the bench this year," says Ray, a white player. All of them thought the worst of each other, but that was because none of them knew each other yet. They didn't see each other as humans and let others' history of misjudgment get the best of them all.

Camp did make quite a massive change on all of them. "I don't have any people, I'm with everybody," says Louie, a white player on the Titans team. He was always from the start one of those "blessed childs" one of his fellow colored team members describes his as. Although his own skin colored friends consider him as a "traitor," it was like being stuck in the middle. You have these two sides and must pick one of them; that was what they at least thought of it until they were pushed to come together as the team they are supposed to be. Coach Boone gave them the little push, but after that it was all upon every individual if they made peace or kept with the judgment.

They were all blinded by the cruel world they had been living in for so long that it was extremely difficult to get them to open their eyes, but they did manage. "Alice, are you blind, don't you see the family resemblance, that's my brother," says Gary, a white player, to his nurse when she tells Julius, his colored team member, that only family was allowed to visit him in the hospital. Gary was one of those many teammates that took that push to clear their vision up, that color didn't matter; it was all on the type of person one was. "You've taught this city how to trust the soul of a man rather than the look of him," says the white football coach that had to give up his position for coach Boone. That is what he says at one of the Titans' last games when they were so close to losing all hope to win the game. It is right; the soul is what makes a person, not his appearance.

"People say that it can't work, black and white. Here, we make it work everyday," quotes Sheryl at the end of the movie. The world is black and white, but it all depends on everyone if they make it work or not. She says that they make it work in their city everyday, but that's because everyone that lives there puts the effort to make it work. If they are able to make it work, everyone is able to; I think this can help everyone open their eyes up and stop being blinded by the racism that has been passed down through history.