Roxboro 8th-grader wins prize in Maltz Museum essay contest

Soli Collins

Soli Collins, a Roxboro Middle School student, is the first-prize winner among the 8th-grade finalists in the Maltz Museum’s fifth annual "Stop the Hate: Youth Speak Out!" essay contest. The awards ceremony was held May 2 at Severance Hall.

The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage created the annual competition in 2008 to encourage middle- and high-school students to focus attention on the corrosive effects of hatred, discrimination and intolerance, while developing critical thinking and communication skills.

This year, more than 1,600 students from seven Northeast Ohio counties submitted essays. The students’ essays address a variety of issues, including cyber-bullying, racism, anti-Semitism and Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues, and offer heartfelt and innovative solutions.

Zakiyyah Bergen, English teacher at Roxboro Middle School, required all of her students to write an essay for the contest.

“I was extremely honored to be chosen as one of the 25 finalists,” said Collins. “Listening to the multiple stories of kids going through the same type of hate was not only inspiring, but made a mark on my perspective on the hate in this world. I've met some of the strongest kids I know through this whole experience. It shows how one person can have an impact on the whole world.”

In her essay, Soli shares her feelings about being a victim of cyber-bullying. She tells how it destroyed an important friendship and how it affected her self-esteem. While the bullying has stopped and the friendship has been somewhat repaired, the effects of the experience still linger.

“I was really happy that she represented the Heights,” said Temma Collins, Soli’s mother. “There were so many moving stories—from a boy struggling with his mother's schizophrenia to a girl who was in the cafeteria at Chardon High School when T.J. Lane started shooting. This experience made a lasting impression on all of us.”

Collins was awarded $300 at the ceremony for her first-prize essay. Annie Robinson, an 11th-grader at Aurora High School, was the grand scholarship winner and was awarded a four-year $50,000 scholarship. Kelly Knaser of Wickliffe High School and Robert Edwards of Max Hayes High School received first and second runner-up four-year scholarships, $25,000 and $15,000, respectively. Twenty other students in grades 6–12 received awards.

Tyler Gamble, a senior at Cleveland Heights High School, was among the 25 semi-finalists for the scholarship.

The event was presented by Dealer Tire, KeyBank and the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and featured an invocation by Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr, and remarks from Museum co-founder Milton Maltz and Executive Director Lynda A. Bender. Kim Wheeler, WKYC Channel 3 weekend news anchor and education reporter—and a Heights resident—served as Master of Ceremonies.

For more information and a complete list of winners, visit

Deanna Bremer Fisher

Deanna Bremer Fisher is executive director of FutureHeights and publisher of the Heights Observer.

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Volume 6, Issue 6, Posted 9:52 AM, 05.07.2013