University of Texas at AustinDivision of Diversity and Community Engagement

Texas High School Students Help Preserve Legacies through UIL Essay Competition

June 4, 2014

UIL Recognizes Top State Finalists in African American and Latino History Essay Competitions

As a unit of the  Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE), the  University Interscholastic League (UIL) has been hosting   the Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition and the Latino Historical Essay Competition for several years now. The essay contests not only serve to encourage and develop high school student writing skills, but provide opportunity to explore, appreciate and connect to largely untold historical narratives of underrepresented cultural groups in the state of Texas.

Both competitions are open to all students in grades 9-12 attending UIL member high schools. Founded in 1995 as an event sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin, the competition provides students an opportunity to explore the contributions of African Americans to Texas history, as well as honoring the legacy of its namesake, Barbara Jordan. The theme of the competition is “African Americans in Texas: Past and Present.” Likewise, the Latino Historical Essay Competition, founded in 2011 by DDCE focuses on the “historical and cultural legacies of Latinos in Texas history.”

This year’s competitions offered an array of entries ranging from stories of hometown heroes of South Texas working to transform the medical care of the Latino community to the retelling of legendary firsts for African Americans in the fields of medicine and aerodynamics. Each State Finalist demonstrated the power of history and lasting legacy.

On May 21, 2014 students, parents and teachers from across the state gathered to recognize the essay competition State Finalists at the annual UIL State Championship hosted at The University of Texas at Austin campus. Compounding the sentiment of legacy, the finalists were honored in the Lyndon B. Johnson Museum auditorium. Students read excerpts from their essay demonstrating that the competition served as much more than an exercise of academic prowess, but instead offered opportunity for transformative perspective of cultural pride and understanding.

Barbara Jordan Historical Essay Competition Top Finalists

  • Gabrielle Gafford, Berkner High School in Richardson- 1st
  • Jezzabelle Bull-Briones, Chisholm Trail High School in Fort Worth- 2nd
  • Joshua Anderson, Harlingen South High School in Harlingen- 3rd
  • Kelly Jennings, Flower Mound High School in Flower Mound- 4th
  • Samiksha Deme, Lee High School in Midland- 5th
  • Desarae Carter, Aldine High School in Houston- 6th
  • Samuel Wing, Ralls High School in Ralls- Finalist

Latino History Essay Competition Top Finalists

  • Marissa Trevino, Harlingen South High School- 1st
  • Krista Cortez, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School in San Juan- 2nd
  • Emily Susen, Harlingen South High School in Harlingen- 3rd
  • Christopher Hinojosa, Harlingen South High School in Harlingen- 4th
  • Maya Medrano, McCallum High School in Austin- 5th
  • Sameer Khoja, Uplift North Hills Prep High School in Irving- 6th

 - Virginia A. Cumberbatch

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