Shyanne Williams, a sixth-grader at Lansdowne Middle School, poses in the hallway. She is one of five Baltimore County public school students named as finalists in the 28th annual "Champions of Courage" Black History Month Essay competition.
Shyanne Williams, a sixth-grader at Lansdowne Middle School, poses in the hallway. She is one of five Baltimore County public school students named as finalists in the 28th annual "Champions of Courage" Black History Month Essay competition. (Staff photo by Lauren Loricchio)

Lansdowne Middle School sixth-grader Shyanne Williams was recently announced as a finalist in the 28th annual "Champions of Courage" Essay competition, along with four other students from Baltimore County public schools.

Her essay about the importance of not being a bystander when someone else is being bullied won her a $100 prize and a seat at an awards breakfast held at the Grand Historic Venue in Baltimore City on Jan. 31, according to a Baltimore County Public Schools press release.

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"I feel people shouldn't be bullied because of how they look or how they are," Shyanne said, adding that she has been bullied before and didn't like it."It's important not to be a bystander."

She is among 20 finalists recognized from more than 3,000 entries this year, said the BCPS release.

Each year, students in grades 6-12 are asked to write an essay about personal heroes who illustrate the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Shyanne, 11, who moved to Lansdowne with her family two months ago from Florida, is the second finalist from the school. Last year, sixth-grader Brianna Beach was also honored for her essay, said school principal Nicole Norris.

"We're so proud of Shyanne," Norris said. "Having Brianna win last year was really eye opening for me."

The school began participating in the essay contest last year when sixth-grade language arts teacher James Marthe suggested the idea, Norris said.

Norris said the awards breakfast, where motivational speakers talk to students about being involved in their community, allows students to learn leadership skills.

"It's an important event for our students to see how they can impact the community in which they live," Norris said. "It's really nice to see the other students who are recipients of the award as well. It's important for our students to be able to collaborate with students outside of our building."

Shyanne recited her essay on camera, along with other finalists, which will be aired on WBFF-TV FOX 45, WNUV-TV The CW Baltimore and WUTB MyTV Baltimore in January and February.

"It was cool that I did something like that," said Shyanne, who is admittedly shy.

"They put us in a room, they put a microphone on and I had to read the teleprompter," Shyanne said. "It was scary, but I feel like I accomplished being a good writer."

For other kids who want to try something new, but feel afraid, Shyanne said they shouldn't nervous.

"After it's all done, you can feel good about it if you try hard," Shyanne said.

Norris said the experience allows students to build confidence with public speaking.

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"Most of us are nervous about speaking before a group and I think that part of the program is a huge bonus," Norris said. "Another unique part of the breakfast is that the kids get to see themselves on the video before all the parents. It's definitely a great skill for them to practice."

Other award winners from the county were: Min Ji Park of Loch Raven High, Maura Schlee of Perry Hall Middle, Meika Thomas of Milford Mill Academy and Tristan Villangca of Parkville High.

Three winners will be announced at the breakfast who will receive more than $3,000 in cash prizes and awards for their schools, according to the BCPS press release.

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