Students honored for essay writing

Published 10:08 am Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Austin Human Rights Commission has honored three middle-schoolers for their essays written about what they believe are human rights violations.

Caitlin Haugland, Jacob Kempen and Kristen Carlson, all students in Lise Mittag’s Ellis Middle School seventh grade class, were awarded with certificates and savings bonds for $50, $75 and $100 during the Austin City Council meeting Monday night.

Commission member Kathy Martin said 755 essays were received this year from Ellis and Pacelli Junior High students. The theme was: “Choose a current news event in which you believe there has been a human rights violation. Use the Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and/or the Minnesota Human Rights Act to prove your point. Is anything being done to bring justice to the situation? What can you do about it?”

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First place winners advance to a state human rights essay contest. Last year’s winner from Austin received an honorable mention at the state competition.

“There were so many good writings this time,” commission member Bob Vilt said.

“I am always impressed by middle-schoolers’ take on human rights,” Martin said.

Each winner read their essay aloud during the meeting.

Third place winner, Carlson, wrote her essay about abortion. “This is a subject I am very passionate about,” Carlson said.

“Every year nearly 1 million infants are aborted,” she said. “Every time this happens, an infant’s human rights are violated.”

Kempen, who took second place, won for his essay about torture at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.

“I believe that nobody should ever torture you,” Kempen said. “Nobody deserves to have their human rights violated.”

First place went to Haugland, who wrote about abuse of the elderly in nursing homes.

“What is being done to bring justice to the people whose rights are being violated?” Haugland asked. “The nursing home in Albert Lea had to fire the workers involved. No one can really understand how people can do such rotten things to other people.”

The savings bonds were donated by US Bank, Community Bank and the National Association of Letter Carriers.