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2015 Selma Essay Contest Winners

On Tuesday, April 21, 2015, the National Liberty Museum was thrilled to host an award ceremony that marked the culmination of the national Selma Speech & Essay Contest, made possible thanks to grant funding from the John Templeton Foundation and in-kind charitable gifts from Paramount Pictures.

 

Out of almost 800 submissions from 43 states, twelve finalists were chosen, and the top three – Ifeoma White-Thorpe, Evan Lehmann, and Edan Armas – were welcomed to the National Liberty Museum for the Selma Award Ceremony.

The ceremony kicked off with a spectacular red carpet welcome for the students, who were accompanied by their family members and their adult sponsors who guided them throughout the contest.

As the students entered the Museum, former Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford rang the NLM Liberty Bell to start the ceremony. Senator Wofford was an original Selma marcher and adviser to Martin Luther King, Jr.

NLM CEO Gwen Borowsky then welcomed the Girard College Cavalier Band & Choir (directed by former Teacher as Hero winner, Paul Eaton). The students set an inspirational tone for the day with their moving rendition of “Glory.” Next, guests watched special remarks from SELMA actor David Oyelowo and director Ava DuVernay.

The ceremony was hosted by KYW news reporter Cherri Gregg, who welcomed Senator Wofford to speak about his experience in Selma, as well as his work with Dr. King. Senator Wofford went on to tell the students what an inspiration they are: “Mr. Armas, Mr. Lehmann, and Miss White-Thorpe, you have used your voices to speak about individual freedom and self-determination in a way that would have made Dr. King proud.”

Cherri Gregg explained to the audience that while the students knew they were in the top three, none of them knew what place they had actually won. Ms. Gregg then invited each student to the stage, where they shared their inspiration and gave their speeches. Before making the big announcement, the students were surprised with recorded messages of support and congratulations from their schools. Then, it was finally time to learn who would be taking home the grand prize of $5,000. Edan Armas was named the third place winner, and then came the biggest surprise of the day – Gwen Borowsky announced that Evan and Ifeoma tied for first place! Each student scored identically to one hundredth of a point!

After each student received their prize, Deputy City Representative Elka Battle read a proclamation from Mayor Nutter proclaiming April 21, 2015 “Voices of Liberty Day.”


Register now for NLM's Fall Professional Development Workshops

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