Contest Offers Cash Prizes for Compositions, Art


Los Lomas freshmen Penelope Watson submitted this winning entry for last year’s Art and Writing Challenge.

Sarada Symonds, Editor-in-Chief

Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center (MDPJC) is hosting the 17th annual Dennis Thomas Art and Writing contest for high school and middle school students. Students can submit essays, creative writing, or art pieces to be considered for cash prizes.

The theme of this year’s challenge is based on both Nelson Mandela’s quote, “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote, “Through our scientific genius we have made of the world a neighborhood; now through our moral and spiritual genius we must make of it a brotherhood.”

The center is looking for ideas focused on ways of bringing people together.

There are both middle school and high school divisions. According to the contest’s website, 1st place for the high school contest is awarded $500, 2nd place is awarded $250, 3rd place is awarded $150, and 4th place is award $100. Winners will be honored at a dinner on May 10.

Margli Auclair, who works at the center, said “we’ve brought up issues of compassion, inequality, racism, community and conflict resolution. It is a way to start discussions and also provide an outlet and recognition for creativity.”

According to Auclair, several students from the Acalanes School District have entered the contest in the past. Last year, the winner was a 9th grader from Los Lomas.  “We get submissions from all over the county and we’d love to see more students from Campolindo participate in the contest,” she said.

Funding for the contest comes from a variety of sources, according to Auclair. Last year, the main sources were the Witkin Foundation, Congressman George Miller’s Youth Fund, and the Center’s individual members. “This year, we were given proceeds from a fundraising dinner held by a club in Rossmoor specifically given for this program,” she said.

Auclair believes students would enjoy having the opportunity to participate in a writing contest outside of the normal school curriculum. “It provides an outlet for self-expression which can then be shared with the larger community.  Everyone benefits when we learn to communicate with each other, different races, religions and generations, to name only a few of the ways we categorize ourselves and each other,” she said.

Art student Silvana Moriceau said she would consider entering the contest, especially because of the prize incentive. She also appreciates the theme. “It’s great that they’re supporting diversity in the community,” she said.

According to Auclair, entries could be featured in the MDPJC’s monthly newsletter, The Peace Gazette, which will go out to over 600 people in the Mt. Diablo area, as well as in local libraries and churches and the center’s website. She encourages student’s to also submit work related to the newsletter that address any of the topics the center is concerned with.

Auclair advises student’s who are entering to make sure they stick to the prompt. “We also love seeing evidence of thinking outside the box and unique perspectives,” she said.