Bayside student earns third place in international racial justice contest

Aneesa T., an 11th-grader at Benjamin Cardozo High School, won third place in the 2021 Stronger Than Hate Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Discovery Education)

A student at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in Bayside won third place in an international competition that empowers youth to address racial justice matters and overcome hate.

On Monday, Oct. 18, the USC Shoah Foundation and Discovery Education announced the winners of the 2021 Stronger Than Hate Challenge, including 11th-grader Aneesa T., who won a $1,000 scholarship for her poem and artwork entitled “Face the Truth.”

The Bayside student said she was inspired by the testimony of Kizito Klima, a survivor of genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, so her work was intended to spark conversations for the transformation of society.

“I wanted to point out in my poem that Black lives do matter and the only way we can solve this problem is by loving each other and finding proper solutions,” she said, connecting Klima’s story to the movement for racial equality in the United States.

The first-place winner of the contest was Madhalasa I. from Texas, who won a $6,000 scholarship for her video poem “Where Were You.” The second-place winner, Ramaa P. from Toronto, won a $3,000 scholarship for her poem and artwork called “Stronger Than Hate.”

According to the organizations, the 2021 winners exemplified the power of youth voices to connect communities and the role of social-emotional learning in empowering students to overcome hate.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has fueled rapid increases in racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism all over the world, making the Stronger Than Hate program more important and relevant than ever. Students participating in this unique challenge produced remarkable content, despite many barriers and distance, exemplifying the power of storytelling to promote empathy, understanding and respect,” USC Shoah Foundation Head of Programs for Education Lesly Culp said. “We are proud of every submission and left hopeful that students will enact real change in their communities as a result of this initiative.”

The Stronger Than Hate Challenge is open annually to students ages 13 and older in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada. Students are allowed to either work individually or in groups of two to four to submit multimedia projects demonstrating the power of story and its ability to create a community that is stronger than hate.

For more information about the challenge, visit discoveryeducation.com.

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