Essay Contest

PBJHS leads essay contest about civil rights
Posted on 04/27/2021
Jessica Shimbo, Kate Scott, Harley Werkmeister and Claire Funke.

Poplar Bluff Junior High yielded three out of four of the top students who placed in a recent county-wide essay contest, sponsored by the Butler County Community Resource Council in partnership with the Daily American Republic.

The writing prompt, presented to area seventh graders, was about how the civil rights movement changed education opportunities for all students.

Harley Werkmeister received a $100 Visa gift card for placing first; Claire Funke received $50 for placing second; and Kate Scott received a certificate for being named an honorable mention.

“I was uplifted” when reviewing the work of all of the student participants, stated CRC Children & Youth Succeeding in School Committee chair Kathern Harris during a meeting on Tuesday, April 20. “We have a better community because we have better schools.”

Harris noted that retired educator Linda Surber, one of three voluntary judges, stated that she would have been proud to receive any of the dozens of finalist entries back when she was teaching eighth grade English at PBJHS.

The authors of the winning research papers made connections between Plessy v. Ferguson, Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In her paper entitled, “The Act That Changed It All,” Harley concluded: “There will always be a few who hate the new but we mustn’t focus on those, but rather look ahead at what’s to come. A future where everyone is free, like they should be.”

Claire pointed out how the civil rights movement “helped more people overcome discrimination besides people of color,” noting that it also gave rise to the women’s liberation movement.  

“Everyone benefited from desegregated schools, even if the benefits were not known at the time,” wrote Kate, previously stating: “Today schools are melting pots of different races, religions and genders.”

Communication arts teacher Jessica Shimbo, who estimated upward of 70 of the department’s students participated, noted that the assignment complemented a book study on “The Watsons Go to Birmingham” by Christopher Paul Curtis for Black History Month.


Cutline: (Left to right) Communication arts teacher Jessica Shimbo, who facilitated an essay contest with her honors English class, is pictured with winners Kate Scott, Harley Werkmeister and Claire Funke.

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