Shara Miller, a student at Arbutus Middle School, has been named the winner in the 27th annual "Champions of Courage" Black History Month Essay Competition presented by M&T Bank, according to a release from Baltimore County Public Schools.
Miller, one of three middle school students among the 20 finalists in the competition, received a $500 award, and her school will receive a $1,000 cash prize.
Her essay was:
"My parents are the strongest people I know. They have taught and instilled in me acceptance and equality. Being gay, they have gone through not being accepted by their peers. Through everything they stuck by their beliefs and stayed strong. They never planned on having kids, but when they saw my brother and I needed help, they did not hesitate. I have taken from this courage and responsibility. Through them I have learned the importance of acceptance. For that they will always be my champions of courage."
The second place award winner, Patrick Krack of Perry Hall Middle School, will receive an award of $300 and his school will be awarded $500.
His essay was:
"Coach Terry Bryant is my Champion of Courage. When I first became involved with AAU basketball, it was obvious I would have to prove myself to my new teammates. There I was, an apprehensive white kid joining a predominantly African American squad. To Coach Terry, however, I was welcomed as a part of the family, it didn't matter that my skin color was different. Coach Terry took the time to develop my skills and showed me how easy it is to see beyond color."
Briana Beach, a student at Lansdowne Middle School, and Divya Koindala, a student at the Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, were also among the finalists.
The other finalists from Baltimore County public schools were:
• Breann Falby and Khalid Hill, Milford Mill Academy;
• Matthew Kirshner, Pikesville High School;
• Haris Malik, Woodlawn High School;
• Yasmine Mzayek and Eunji Park, Loch Raven High School.
The 20 finalists were chosen from more than 3,000 students in grades six through 12 who wrote brief essays saluting their personal heroes whose actions reflected the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The finalists' essays will be aired on WBFF-TV, WNUV-TV and WUTB MyTV Baltimore until Feb. 28.