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M.D. Roberts Middle School essay winner lauded

Photo by Jeylin White
Erin Schilling, an 8th-grader at M.D. Roberts Middle School, won an essay competition sponsored by the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, based in Atlanta. She received a $1,000 saving bond, from The Ford Motor Co., who partnered with NCCHR for this year’s competition.

Photo by Jeylin White Erin Schilling, an 8th-grader at M.D. Roberts Middle School, won an essay competition sponsored by the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, based in Atlanta. She received a $1,000 saving bond, from The Ford Motor Co., who partnered with NCCHR for this year’s competition.

By Jeylin White

jwhite@news-daily.com

Sharon Schilling, of Jonesboro, said her daughter, Erin, has always had an ability to write.

Her assessment has been confirmed by the “Read It. Embrace It. Express It” essay competition, sponsored by the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

The non-for-profit organization is based in Atlanta. Its mission is “to continue the universal search for a secure human existence in a way that inspires vigilance and leadership among future generations.

“...[And its vision is to] present the evolving global human rights story and commemorate the historical struggle for African-American equality –– the lessons and strategies of which are embraced everyday by groups striving for freedom,” according to the group’s web site.

Erin, a 13-year-old 8th-grader at M.D. Roberts Middle School,

was one of five winners from Clayton County in the essay competition that included 150 submissions from middle school and high school students in the metro-Atlanta area.

Only eight essays were selected as winners –– three from high school pupils, and five from middle school pupils. Erin Schilling said she learned about the competition through one of her brother’s teachers. Matthew Schilling’s ninth-grade Latin teacher [Anna Cox] at Jonesboro High School, sent an e-mail to the children’s mother, urging Matthew to enter.

“My mom knew my brother didn’t like to write, but I do,” said Erin, “So, my mom was like, well, you could try –– so I did,” the teenager said.

“Since she was in Kindergarten [Erin], was a good little writer,” said her mother. “She could [even] draw a picture and tell a story with it.”

Erin’s gift was validated, in late November, through an e-mail from Doug Shipman, CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, advising her that her essay was a winner. “We are proud to congratulate you and recognize you for your amazing accomplishment,” said Shipman.

Rebecca Williams, Erin’s language arts teacher, was not surprised by the accomplishment. “Erin is a very high-achieving student,” said Williams. “She has a lot of interests, and her parents are very active, and encourage her [to do well in school].”

Williams said she always encourages her students to look for opportunities to excel academically. “We [want students] to find things they are interested in,” she said. “We try to do one authentic assignment once a month, outside of school.”

As for Erin, she said she was shocked by the news that she had won. “I just entered, not really thinking it was a big a deal,” said the 8th-grader. She said she didn’t spend hours laboring over the essay. “I just wrote it, so, I was pretty surprised.”

Erin’s essay addressed what she thought youngsters could do to learn more about civil and human rights, and how they could get involved to help change things for the better.

“I talked about how we have all this technology and resources, and there’s still discrimination and racism going on in the world,” she said. As a solution, Erin challenged young people to stay active in the community, and attend human rights meetings.

She was treated to a luncheon earlier this month, accompanied by her parents, Martin and Sharon Schilling. The event was hosted by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, in the council chambers at Atlanta City Hall.

Winners also were presented with electronic saving bonds worth $1,000, by The Ford Motor Co., who partnered with the National Center for Civil and Human Rights for this year’s competition.