Southgate fourth grader among honorees at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Contest capstone event

Published 2:55 pm Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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It was a big day for Southgate Elementary fourth grader Yvanna Lopez as she was able to share her voice and her experience as part of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Essay Capstone Event at The Hormel Institute Wednesday.

While reading her essay, Lopez used her own life experiences to reflect the values she has learned from Martin Luther King, Jr. She spoke of the courage she had to face in a difficult situation when she was in first grade, she recalled asking a girl of a different skin color to be friends in second grade, and she also used an in-home quarrel as an example of peacemaking.

“When my brother was angry and said bad things about me, I gave him a hug, even though he didn’t like it,” Lopez said in her reading. 

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Lopez was one of three children who were recognized for their essay, with Madison Blair of Minneapolis and Aisha Mohamed of Barron, Wisconsin also reading their essays about Dr. King.

As part of the program, Hormel Chairman of the Board, President and CEO Jim Snee took the stage with the three young speakers and he encouraged them to not let anyone silence their voices.

This is our future,” Snee said of Lopez, Blair and Mohamed. “I know (when I was their age) I could not have stood up and read an essay on Martin Luther King, Jr. in such a well written and confident way. To have that courage is unbelievable and that courage is going to carry them so well throughout the course of their educational career, professional career and their personal life.”

After her reading, Lopez echoed her sentiments on the importance of what Dr. King taught her. She certainly used the courage she learned from him when she was on the podium.

“I was nervous up there, but I was also proud. I actually got to be one of the top three and I was proud of myself for that. I was kind of excited,” Lopez said. “There is freedom now and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made more freedom and that inspired me.“

The Hormel Foods Black Leaders & Allies Advancing Cultural Knowledge (BLAACK) business group sponsors the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. essay competition, which is open to elementary and middle school students across the United States. This year’s contest drew 500 total entrees.

“We’re here today to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by having the top three students from across the country share what Dr. King means to them,” said Cedric Moore, BLAACK president and senior customer executive for Retail Sales at Hormel Foods. “One thing I admire about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was his persistence and that he never gave up. He fought for the equal rights for all individuals and that is evident as we look around this room at the diversity that sits amongst us all. Today, these students are displaying the excellence of Dr. King’s legacy by sharing their essays with us.”