According to Brooklyn Sheppard, a fifth-grader at Port St. Joe Elementary School, the secret to making the world a better place is simple: end racism.
That’s the poignant thought that steered Sheppard’s winning entry in the 2014 Black History Month essay contest. Sheppard was the winner of the fourth- and fifth-grade division in the statewide contest.
For her win, Sheppard was awarded a trip to the Governor’s mansion Tallahassee where she, her mother Heather, her father and grandmother had hors d'oeuvres with Gov. Rick Scott and the First Lady at a reception to celebrate the contributions African-American community leaders, educators and students make to Florida’s communities, culture, and history.
She also earned a four-year scholarship to a Florida college or university.
“We took photos with the governor and his wife and he congratulated me,” said Sheppard. “It was pretty exciting.”
Sheppard was originally told about the contest by teacher Anne Johnson. She had several days to write the essay before Gov. Rick Scott announced the winners on Feb. 25.
“When I heard that I won, I jumped up and down and screamed,” said Sheppard.
Entering the contest was optional, but Sheppard knew there was a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship on the line. The scholarship was provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation.
Sheppard said that she didn’t know if her parents could pay for college and saw the contest as an opportunity to make her dreams of becoming a lawyer come true.
“Miss Johnson tells us to try and follow our dreams,” said Sheppard.
Sheppard read the essay for her peers and said she received a lot of positive feedback from her teacher and classmates, which helped her feel confident in her essay.
She encouraged her classmates to participate in future opportunities that may better their futures.
I Have a Dream for 2014
By Brooklyn Sheppard
I dream of a world filled with love. To love one another is the key for world peace. Even though this sounds easy, we have never been able to achieve it. Hate is taught by the shallow mindset of others. We are all born into this world as innocent babies, but our upbringing can change our future in many ways. I want to live in a world where children are taught to respect others, regardless of gender or race and in a world that is blind to color. This world that I dream of will not judge me by my brown skin but by my talents, kindness, and compassion.
Each human is destined to do great things. Everyone has the right to become anything they want. We all hold greatness inside of us. If we all put forth an effort, we can break the racial barriers that have kept so many in bondage. No one should be judged by the color of their skin, for we are all created equal and equal we should be.
Peace, love, and equality are three words that hold so much power. There is enough power in these words to move mountains for us all and to change the world. One act of kindness can change a person’s life. Every act of love goes far. If people would volunteer to help the homeless, or maybe spend time helping a child to read, we could greatly improve our nation, and our world as a whole. When we see a child, we should give a smile. When we see someone down on their luck, we should offer a kind word. Anything that we can do that is positive has a lasting effect. We should always treat others the way that you want to be treated, and choose our words wisely. We need to remember to do our part each day to make the world a better place. If we carry on the work of so many amazing men and women before us, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we can continue to honor them.
I was able to grow up and live in a land where I can be anything that I desire to be. I have the drive to succeed and to do great things. We have come a long way, but there was a time when a woman had no voice, and if you were black, you could only ride in the back of the bus. Progress has definitely been made, but we still have much more to do.
To each and every man, woman, and child, I encourage and challenge everyone to go on this journey with me. We together can change the world not only for us but for the generations after we are gone. Life is short, and it is time that we come together and make these changes. Give a hug, and lend a hand. Do not discriminate, but appreciate life. Change your heart for the better.