Essays Debunk Violence; Students Offer Solutions on Hate

Article excerpt

Byline: David Johnson, Times-Union staff writer

Thirteen-year-old Lisa Steiner's submission in the Eliminating Hate Crimes and Racism essay contest was a message for people to see the similarities in each other rather than the differences.

The Northeast Florida Hate Crimes Coalition recently recognized Steiner and eight other finalists in the essay contest at the Police Athletic League building on Monument Road.

Steiner, an eighth-grader at James Weldon Johnson College Preparatory Middle School, said the contest was great because it "let people express what they thought about 9/11 and how people are different."

More than 600 students submitted essays by Sept. 11 about how they react to people who are different from them after the terrorist attacks.

"I was thinking we would get 50 responses," said Laura D'Alisera, chairwoman of the event. "We received 600 essays, and for a first-time effort that's unbelievable."

It was the sixth year of the event, but the first time the coalition focused on middle school students. D'Alisera said 315 students attended the event, which was part of Community Connections' Week Without Violence.

"The younger you reach these folks, the better chance you have of removing prejudice and offering alternatives to violence," D'Alisera said.

Claud Myers led students in workshop activities before the finalists read their essays and the winners were announced.

During one activity, students tried to complete a Diversity Bingo board. The board had squares with items such as "speaks a foreign language" and "is a gourmet cook," and students had to find a different person to fulfill each requirement. …