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In Black History Month contest, students lay out White House agenda

February 27, 2006
Contact: Ken Hitchner 973-491-7078

SECAUCUS, NJ — “If you were the first African-American President of the United States, what would be your top five issues?” That’s the question NJ TRANSIT asked students from three New Jersey schools during its Black History Month essay contest.

Today, in the presence of their parents, school representatives, NJ TRANSIT officials and guests, participating students took to the presidential podium to read their winning entries, and then posed for media photographs at an awards ceremony at the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station at Secaucus Junction.

“As I read your essays, I was inspired by the thought you have given to some of our most urgent problems,” wrote former U.S. President Bill Clinton in a letter to the winners of NJ TRANSIT’s essay contest. “It will take determination, courage and vision to make the needed changes; but the hope and innovative thinking I saw in your essays are a great start.”

Former N.Y. Knicks star guard John Starks and N.Y. Liberty standout forward Kym Hampton signed autographs and took pictures with the winning students after the awards ceremony. Madame Tussauds’ wax figure of civil-rights pioneer Rosa Parks was also on display.

Black History Month is a time for us to remember our history and how far we have come,” Starks said.

Our children represent tomorrow so it is important that they are part of the dialogue as we work toward solutions,” said Ronald W. McKoy, NJ TRANSIT Assistant General Manger of Rail Finance, who served as Master of Ceremonies for the event. “From reading their essays, it is evident that difficult obstacles remain – from gangs, to poverty to health care.”

About 300 students submitted essays that outlined their top five issues and reasons. The schools that participated in the competition were Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Trenton, Park Avenue Elementary School in Orange, and Rosa Parks High School in Paterson.

The winners include:


1st Place Winner – Brittany Hayes – 11th Grade

Top issue: Decrease Poverty

“No American should go without food and the basic necessities.”

2nd Place Winner – Brittany Sumter – 9th Grade

Top issue: Products that affect the ozone layer and how we can destroy them

“The air we breathe should be fresh and clean.”

3rd Place Winner – Sha’Quana Mack – 11th Grade

Top issue: Help the Homeless

“Every homeless person is not homeless because they are lazy; some people had troublesome lives.”


1st Place Winner - Marquita Palms – 8th Grade

Top issue: Gang Violence

“We should stick together or else it’s going to be the end of us.”

2nd Place Winner - Sharell Lane – 8th Grade

Top issue: Drugs

“No one should take drugs because they can kill you.”

3rd Place Winner – Eric Bell – 8th Grade

Top issue: World Hunger

“Almost 10 million children have died because of starvation.”


1st Place Winner - Chadiea Turner – 6th Grade

Top issue: End Poverty

“I would build affordable housing and give people proper food and clothing.”

2nd Place Winner – Elan Adams – 6th Grade

Top issue: Help the Homeless

“I would help the homeless get jobs, an education, homes, cars and other things that are in the United States.”

3rd Place Winner – Brandis Carey – 5th Grade

Top issue: Help the United States

“I would focus most of my time taking care of the problems in the United States.”

The award-winning work will be turned into a poster and displayed aboard NJ TRANSIT buses throughout the state.

Each winning student received a gold, silver, or bronze medal and a presidential ballpoint pen for participating in today’s award ceremony. Every student will receive a certificate for participating in the contest.


NJ TRANSIT is the nation's largest statewide public transportation system providing more than 800,000 daily trips on 240 bus routes, three light rail lines and 11 commuter rail lines. It is the third largest transit system in the country with 162 rail stations, 53 light rail stations and more than 17,000 bus stops linking major points in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia.