2017 – 2018 Essay Contest Topic

RTIEL Youth Leadership Essay Contest Topic

2017 – 2018

Highlighting Fresh Voices in the “New” Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s is considered by many to be an excellent example of social activism. Centered around the systemic denial of the basic civil rights of a segment of the American population, the leaders of this movement strategically effected change in this country securing for all Americans, among other things, the right to vote.

Although there has been significant progress in the realm of civil rights in this country, there remains work to be done to ensure that our constitutional and human rights are honored and intact. Given the recent events related to the Black Lives Matter, All Lives, Matter, and Blue Lives Matter movements; along with other civil rights violations such as the repeal of sections of the Voting Rights Act, one must wonder whether the clock has turned back and we are again in the throes of injustice and inhumanity. Although most people have the right to vote, the notion that it has to be stated aloud – and is not a given – that a human life “matters” in this country is a major concern. It appears that over 50 years later, certain segments of the American population are still fighting for basic civil rights; however, there is a new breed of leaders who have taken up the mantle and have begun to raise awareness to various injustices and have begun to fight to end discrimination and human/civil rights violations. The purpose of this year’s essay is for you to highlight one of these inspiring “New Civil Rights Leaders” as noted in the LA Times, and to take cues from your chosen activist to develop YOUR platform for activism that will impact your community, city, state, and nation.

In writing your essay, please organize your essay by:

  • Reading the LA Times article, “The New Civil Rights Leaders: Emerging Voices in the 21st Century” (http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-civil-rights-leaders-br-20150304-htmlstory.html) and profiling one of the activists highlighted in the article. In profiling the activist, describe why you chose the person, and then briefly describe their activism platform (e.g., Describe whose rights they fighting for? Explain what inspires them and why they fight? Outline how they have chosen to accomplish their activism goals?). The chosen activist should inspire you to also be an emerging voice of civil rights activism in the 21st century.
  • Then, conclude your essay by taking cues from the chosen activist and describing what YOUR platform will be as a 21st century leader and activist. What social ill(s) do you want to address and how do you want to address them? What realistic changes would you propose that would positively impact our communities, cities, states, nation, and/or the world? When discussing your plan, be practical and specific about the goals you want to achieve and how you want to achieve them.


Be sure to take note of the following specific points:

  • Entries will only be accepted electronically. Essays should be submitted by sending an email with the essay as an attachment to essaycontest@rtiel.org by the contest deadline. You will receive a confirmation email that your essay was received. If you do not receive a confirmation email, please send an email message to info@rtiel.org to inquire about your entry.
  • There is no entry fee.
  • Please use Times New Roman/12 point font to write your paper. The document should be written in a software program such as Microsoft Word.
  • Type your essay entry in English, free from spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors.
  • Double-space your entire essay, and maintain one inch margins—top, bottom, right, and left.
  • Create a header on each page, top right, that includes your essay identification number (which you will receive once you have completed the online registration) and the page number.
  • Place your essay title on the first page, top center.
  • Address the essay topic in 750 to 1,500 words.
  • Report the number of words used in your essay at the end of your essay text, prior to the bibliography or works cited page.
  • The word count does not include the bibliography or works cited page, nor works cited in footnotes, if footnotes are used.
  • To obtain your essay’s word count without the number of words used in the bibliography or works cited, highlight your essay text only, go to the computer word-count tool (under “Tools” on the computer tool bar), and the word-count tool will read only the highlighted words.
  • All entries must follow acceptable standards regarding attribution of direct quotations, paraphrases, and ideas of others, using endnotes or in-text citations.  Standardized citations and a bibliography or works cited page are required to identify all research sources.
  • Once an entry is submitted it cannot be changed, altered or modified.
  • All registration and entry information submitted becomes the property of the Sponsor and will not be returned.
  • By entering, student entrants agree to the Official Terms and Conditions of the Contest and to the decisions from the Sponsor, which will be final and binding on all matters relating to this Contest.


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