Maria Cortes won the grand prize for her essay on the U.S. immigration experience in the annual Mennonite Central Committee U.S. National Peace & Justice Ministries high school essay contest. Samuela Ndongosieme earned an honorable mention for her essay on the impacts of climate change. Both are in 12the grade at Freeman Academy in South Dakota. They will receive $250 and $100, respectively.
Cortes listed the reasons for immigration in “The United States of America: Land of the ‘Free,’ ” from poverty to violence to global market pressures, as she highlighted her father’s immigration story.
“I have experienced firsthand how hard it is for immigrants to find jobs, friends and security when it feels like the whole country is wishing for them to fail or trying to send us back to the ‘hole we crawled out of,’ ” she wrote. Immigrants have human rights, and “no one should ever be treated as just another ‘problem’ to solve.”
She encouraged Christians to draw from the immigration stories in the Bible and Jesus’ example of welcoming the stranger to shape response to immigrants.
Ndongosieme explored the impact of global warming on wildfires in “Climate Change Is Consuming Our Homes.” As the U.S. is a major greenhouse gas emitter, she emphasized the nation’s responsibility to prevent further warming. Anabaptists also have a responsibility to help.
“Our beliefs teach us that it is our duty to take care of the earth and respect it,” she wrote. “. . . We should take care of God’s work of art.”