Thursday, March 5, 2009

Livingston Dems Launch Essay Contest for Scholarships

High school seniors who live in Livingston County have a chance to earn $500 toward the cost of higher education by entering the first annual essay contest sponsored by Livingston County Democrats.

Democrats believe that post-secondary education is the key to our future – both as individuals and as a nation. We also know that a strong middle class, created by America’s labor movement, has been largely responsible for the explosion in access to higher education that occurred in our country since World War II. That’s why we have chosen to start a scholarship program and why the first essay contest will revolve around the impact of organized labor on our families and our communities.

The essay contest offers a $500 first prize and a $100 second prize to be used toward the costs of post-secondary education. To compete for the scholarships, students must submit an essay of between 500 and 750 words on the topic, "Unions have been important to my family and my community because … "

Entries must be postmarked by April 15. A judge from outside Livingston County not associated with the Livingston County Democratic Party will evaluate the essays and determine the winners. Results will be announced in May.

Contributions to the fund for the essay contest prizes have come from organized labor, a few private individuals, and the Livingston County Democratic Party. Major union sponsors so far are the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 252 of Ann Arbor and United Auto Workers Local 1284 Region 1A, but more donations are possible. If donations exceed the value of the announced prizes, the party will either raise the value of the prizes, add prizes, or both.

The fact that in these tough economic times, working men and women are willing to dig deep and help out young people who want to pursue their educations tells us a lot about how important organized labor is to the fabric of our lives and to the values that organized labor instills.

Packets containing letters announcing the essay contest, a copy of the rules, and a flyer publicizing the contest are being mailed this week to social studies coordinators and guidance counseling offices at Livingston County high schools. Any teacher who would like a packet for his or her classroom may contact the Livingston County Democratic Party. Students who live in Livingston County but attend school outside the county may also request a packet, but will need to ask a teacher at his or her high school to validate the entry.

The Livingston Democrats’ Youth Outreach Coordinator, Jordan Genso, will be available to speak to area church youth groups and school clubs about the contest as well. He may be contacted at Information on the essay contest also will can be obtained by contacting the party at or (810) 229-4212.

To be eligible, students must be residents of Livingston County and must be admitted to a post-secondary education program for the coming academic year. Such institutions include a college, university, community college, nursing school, or union apprentice program. In the event the program to which the student is applying has not yet begun accepting applicants, the student should submit a copy of information from the program showing when admission decisions will be made.

The party suggests that students contact their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors or friends to learn what labor union membership and participation may have meant to them. Or they might also contact local business owners to ask how having union members as customers has affected their business.

Essays will be judged on understanding of the material, writing style, and significance of the topic. Each should be a minimum of 500 and a maximum of 750 words in length, typed, double-spaced, on white paper. Students must submit two copies. The cover sheet must list the title of the essay, the student's name, address, and home telephone number, and the name, address, and telephone number of the student's school. If applicable, the cover sheet also should list family member’s union affiliation. The name of a teacher who advised the student on the essay should also appear on the cover sheet. A copy of the student’s acceptance to an institution of higher learning should also accompany the entry, unless the program has yet to begin making admission decisions.

Students should send their completed essays to the Livingston County Democratic Party, 10321 E. Grand River, Suite 600, Brighton, MI 48116. Entries must be postmarked by April 15. Winners will be announced in May.

The local party’s goal is to create a foundation broader than the party to solicit funds and select topics for future essay contests that could focus on environmental issues, civil rights, economic opportunity and so on.

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