BEACHWOOD, Ohio — A very special essay contest is under way, and the winner will receive a $50,000 scholarship.
It’s the 5th annual Stop the Hate Youth Speak Out competition at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood.
Jill Rembrandt is director of education.
She said that unlike some scholarship contests, their event could change lives and make the world a better place to live.
“People aren’t born hating, they learn how to hate,” said Rembrandt.
Rembrandt speaks at various school districts and said hate speech and actions are on the rise.
She said that cyber bullying, teen suicides and mass shootings are all signs of a growing problem.
“It spreads like germs,” she said. “It goes from one person to another to another to another without people even realizing how widespread it is.”
She said young people are often desensitized to teasing and racial epithets or slang terms.
But she said that’s how many horrific events in history began.
At the museum, there are artifacts and evidence of the grisly acts humans are capable of all caused by hatred from genocide to lynchings.
“It’s really important that we teach history or we are doomed to repeat it,” said Rembrandt.
The contest also encourages young people to come with solutions to the problems.
Stop the Hate asks students to describe an act of discrimination, reflect on their response and write a 500 word essay with a plan of action to affect change.
The contest is open to 6th through 12th graders from NE Ohio’s seven counties.
Essays for 6th through 10th graders are due January 15, 2013. The deadline for 11th and 12th graders is February 23.
Rembrandt said in the past they received 2,000 essays. She hopes even more young people participate this year because she believes they are the future.
“The most amazing thing is we’re empowering thousands of kids to be able to take a stand,” she said. “We’re having them think inside themselves because I know it’s the kids that will change the world.”