Art and Essay Contests

The 2020 Tolerance Week Essay Contest and the Ella Holtzen Memorial Tolerance Week Art Contest Theme Announced

Please express in words or art how the practice of Tolerance will make the world a better place. Please limit essays to 400 words and art pieces to 11×14 or less. Email entries to or deliver to 1922 Pierce Street by 6pm on Wednesday March 25th. Middle and high school students are eligible to enter.

The 2019 Tolerance Week Art and Essay Contest

This years theme is “I am the Witness”  Most of the area’s middle and high school students have met a Holocaust Survivor and heard their stories.  Some of you have met Auschwitz Survivor Philip Gans and some of you have met Terezin Survivor Inge Auerbacher.  It is now your job to be the witnesses to the persecution and murder of Jews and others in Europe during World War II.  The holocaust survivors will not be around much longer or able to travel and talk to students.  So in words or art, show how you will be the witness to the horrors of the holocaust and make sure their stories do not die with them.

The contests are open to middle and high school students.  Essays are limited to 400 words or less. Artwork size is limited to 11”x 14” or smaller. In addition to art and essays, other forms of expression will be accepted. The contest winners will be announced at the Wednesday evening event at the Orpheum Theatre. Entries are due at the end of the day on Wednesday, April 3. Email to or drop at 1922 Pierce Street. Entries must include student and teacher’s names, grade, school and email addresses.


2018 Winners

Middle School Art Winner – Megan Beecher, Teacher – Jim Bravo









High School Art Winner – Marinda Wright, North High, Teacher Leah Brockway









Middle School Essay Winner – Isabel Martinez, Holy Cross School, Mentor – Jeanette Hopkins

Understanding Goes Beyond Tolerance

I think that hate is a feeling that can only exist where there is no understanding.  Tennessee Williams

What do you notice about the attitudes around you as you listen and watch others? Some people notice only division, they are the ones we call “pessimists”. Others acknowledge unification and they choose to ignore any problems or division, we call them  “optimists”. Then, there are “realists” who see both the separation and connection in society. In order for us to apply the virtue of acceptance, we must see both sides, good and bad.  We must learn to go beyond tolerance and learn the virtue of acceptance and the joy of understanding.

When looking at the people around me, I often notice ignorance and foolishness in the division.  Words and actions hurt. Why must we bring others down for our own survival? I’ve heard this is for survival of the fittest, but isn’t that logic used by cavemen and animals, when life was solely about survival?  In order to survive and thrive we must go beyond tolerance, and find acceptance and understanding.

Whether you are a Muslim or of Christian belief, any belief  for that matter…whether you are of color or white, straight or gay, girl or boy shouldn’t matter. The fact that you are black shouldn’t mean you are of ghetto, being of a gender difference shouldn’t mean you’re a disappointment, and being a girl shouldn’t mean you’re pathetic; however, this logic seems to be beyond  our leaders and role models of today. As our political society shuns away from those who don’t fit impossible standards; many of us who have those perceived“imperfections” choose acceptance. 

Choosing acceptance, means you look at the imperfections in society, and see a kaleidoscope of beauty. By choosing acceptance over ignorance you acknowledge the division and unification and, whilst you don’t accept the customs of difference, you accept that they’re different, which can mean the world to any one person.

Why should it though? Why is it that being allowed to be yourself is seen as gift…that wearing an emotional mask is a necessity when walking outside. When people hide their sexuality, gender, or even religion, just to walk outside, is when we know our ideals are wrong. Acceptance, then understanding shouldn’t not be special gifts, but in constants in our lives. 

We are changing as a group. When comparing how our society is today to the past, we are more diverse and accepting than ever. So, let’s not take a step back, but continue moving forward in our fight against oppression and discrimination.

When looking at the world today, I see the mistakes of our past and the potential of our future, I see young people who believe and understand the differences in our society and celebrate those differences.  I am glad that I have the opportunity to see the change and be part of a young movement where we are inclusive.

High School Essay Winner – Amiyah Kuntz, Winnebago High School, Teacher – Jenni Malsam


In need of a new world.

In need of healing.

In need of equality.

In need of hope.

In a world full of racism

We as a society need to come together to end it all.

The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones,

But words will never hurt me”–

It’s a lie.

The things racist people say

Stick to us and that’s not okay.

We as a society need to

Come together to end it all.

In need of a new world.

In need of healing.

In need of equality.

In need of hope.

2017 Winners

Middle School Art Winner – Jordyn Schubert, Hinton Middle School



High School Art Winner Brianna Martinez, Heelan High School


Middle School Essay Winner Angelia Sur, South Sioux City Middle School


“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”

This quote from Alexander Hamilton, the first treasurer and a founding father, helped set a precedent for generations after him.

How do we set our own precedent? How do we form the world into a state of utopia? The answer is simple, it starts with us. In every word we scream and song we sing, the future is structuring beneath our feet. Our decisions are the glue to hold or collapse. Fate is the looming shadow behind us, mimicking our every action.

I want a world where people can be comfortable in their own skin. Where no one is scared for what they believe, their ethnicity, who they love, or who they are. To progress and evolve, we must remember one thing, equity is key.

To combine strength with another rather than weaken them holds greater power in our hands. If we stand as one, the world pulses as one. Our country shames an immigrant for having a job when they’ve worked so much harder than us to have it. They tell a man he can’t qualify for a job that he loves. We let society’s stereotypes lock us not break us free. I will unfurl my fists and wrap them around a sign of protest. I will use my voice to chant the voices of our people instead of curse at them. I will crush discrimination into dust at the soles of my shoes. I’d die like a martyr so that the people after me live in a safer environment than in the violence that corrupt our nation. The future is in our hands to smash or hold.

High School Essay Winner Ivan Redhorn, Winnebago Public School

You Are the Future
It’s not the FUTURE that you’re afraid of,
It’s repeating the past.
The past has nothing new for you.
If you want a little hint of your future, look at some of the people you hang out with.
Do something today that your future self would be proud of.
Help family and friends.
Be a better person for your future so you can look back and see that you did good.
So DON’T let the past get you.
Learn from it.
Learn to change–to show people how to change to make this world a little bit better.
People say it’s a cruel world but one good heart is plenty..



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