Influence of Peace: Hormel MLK Essay Contest winners shares King’s dreams in Austin

Published 1:00 pm Saturday, March 9, 2019

Early Friday morning, Hormel Foods employees were reminded what it means to be a leader and to inspire change.

Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Day and Black History Month, Hormel Foods Corp. hosted its eighth annual essay competition for students from across the United States.

Three winners claimed the top honors from submissions that came from 19 schools across the country: Ben Kim, of Henderson Mill Elementary in Atlanta, Georgia, Patrick Brown from Landmark Elementary, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Blessyn Champ from BEST Academy in Minneapolis, were all invited to Hormel Foods Corp. office in Austin to share their essays.

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Taking inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his contributions to the Civil Rights Movement, students submitted essays that explained their reasoning on why King mattered to them in adherence to this year’s prompt. More than 400 entries were received for this year’s contest.

“You are all awesome,” said Jim Snee, Hormel’s chief executive officer. “I thank you for responsibility to make your classes and communities a better place by speaking up and helping to solve problems. We are so blessed that you participated in this contest. Thank you so much. Keep making a difference.”

The Hormel Foods African American employee resource group (HAARG) sponsors the essay competition for elementary and middle school students across the country.

“We are proud to continue this contest for the eighth straight year and to help children across the country learn, interpret and personalize the messages of Dr. King and what it means to them,” said Tommy Swearingen, HAARG president. “There are five winning essays chosen from each school, and today, three of our top-prize winning students were able to read their essays in front of our employees in Austin.”

The goals of the program is to promote King’s legacy, encourage children to aim high, as well as give them exposure to minority professionals in corporate America and to create a lasting partnership between Hormel Foods and local schools.

Friday’s event was originally scheduled for an earlier date, but postponed due to severe weather.

Winners from the contest will receive a pizza party for their class, as well as school supplies.

Ben Kim

Ben Kim

The Georgia native said he was shocked upon being named one of the winners for this year’s contest. He traveled with his father to Hormel and read his essay that focused on King’s courage and persistence during the Civil Rights Movement.

“Do what is right and kind,” the fifth grade student said. “He inspired me to do what is right and equal.”

To gain inspiration for writing an essay, Kim reflected on his teacher’s lessons regarding King’s protests and role in working toward racial equality. The words came flooding.

“He was hurt, but he kept going,” he said. “He believed and set his mind on the goal. Every great idea begins somewhere, and everybody works together to solve it. They’re coming together.”

Blessyn Champ

Blessyn Champ

Hailing from Minneapolis, Champ was excited to share her views and perspectives with Hormel Foods employees. She aspires to become a doctor someday and felt that King was a role model who paved the way for her to achieve her dreams. Taking those thoughts, Champ crafted a winning essay that highlighted the efforts that King made and how they encourage her to continue to help communities improve.

“I thought about what I could do now,” the fifth grader said. “I can go to school and get an education. Without Dr. King, I wouldn’t get as good of an education as I do now. Don’t be afraid to make a change.”

Patrick Brown

Patrick Brown

When Brown heard he won the essay contest, the fifth grader “jumped out of his seat with joy.”

“I was thinking, well the other four were chosen, so there’s no way I’m about to get picked,” he said. “They picked me, and I jumped out of my seat.”

Writing the essay didn’t come quickly for Brown. However, thinking specifically about King’s nonviolent approaches to conveying a message, the essay wrote itself.

“Dr. King was a very good person,” he said. “He was a great leader.”