Young essay contest winner reads in front of school board



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Violet Butts attends a prestigious school to study science and economics and hone her critical thinking  about ethics and philosophy. She also takes courses at the Van Andel Institute.
And Violet is only in the sixth grade.

The time she spends learning and thinking must be paying off, however, because she came in first of 140 sixth-grade students who submitted entries to Warner, Norcross and Judd’s sixth annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Essay Contest.

Violet read her essay in front of the Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) board on March 7. The school board also recognized first runner-up Grace Cameron, who was present. Rodney Martin, Warner Norcross and Judd Diversity Director, then said a few words about the three winners, the honorable mentions (there were 17), and their essays.

Violet attends the Center for Economicology, part of GRPS but a “theme school,” one of three which serve sixth grade only and admit 60 students each annually. Zoo School, where Grace Cameron attends, is one of the others.

The Center for Economicology is located at City High/Middle School and originated from efforts there to learn from Peter Wege’s 1998 book Economicology, which combines the worldviews of economics and ecology. Violet says her teachers, Kerri Reed in language arts and Michael Boosamra in science, inspire her.

She is thoughtful about her use of language, which makes her seem shy but well beyond her years. When asked whether it was the writing or the content that interested her most about the essay process, she replied, “The content. Because it tells us what to do... in the world.”

Being either a writer or a lawyer, however, are not in Violet’s current plans. Instead, she is exploring science, and just now trying to narrow down in what way. Currently, she has a strong interest in bio-medical research.

Violet read her essay at Grand Rapids Community College’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Celebration on Jan. 18 as well.

First runner-up Grace Cameron’s essay centers on her opinion that “Reverend Doctor King’s dream has come true.” She points out that she is white and her best friend is African-American, and “without [King], my school, friends and neighborhood wouldn’t be colorful.”

The second runner-up was Alena Dickerson of Riverside Middle School, which has often supplied top-three winners in past essay contests.

The winning essay by Violet Butts follows:


Martin Luther King’s courageous approach of using love and non-violence can be used to overcome struggles and bring brotherly love to the world. Martin recognized the healing power of forgiveness. We need to employ his way of life in dealing with the many diverse feelings of others so we can have empathy and forgiveness. He clearly recognized the person using non-violence has a “powerful weapon” that “cuts without wounding” and that this person’s actions are noble. He created a good example of how to take a stand without it resulting in rage and anger. Martin Luther King’s words tell us to use determined non-violence and love in a way to move away from racial injustice, poverty and war in our world even today.

Dr. King’s daring message of freedom from his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture are guidelines of how we should grow up in love and peace. As children, we have to live in a home together with our family. He suggests that we need to realize that ultimately our world is just like that, “a great world house.” We all need to coexist, no matter our backgrounds or cultures. This should be reflected into everything we do, because he showed us that big and little problems can be solved with peace and kindness instead of violence. How amazing is it that Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize at a young age of 35. So at that, young people must start thinking in these terms now just as Martin must have when he was a child.

In conclusion, Dr. King is a great example for people today because he used positive words to tell people that there was a problem in America, and his words can be greatly applied into people’s own words today. I believe it is imperative to apply this blueprint in every kid’s life for the greater future.

Warner Norcross and Judd awarded each of the top three essay writers with a monetary scholarship and a gift certificate to Schuler Books.