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A Better Partnership


Jan 2020
January 20, 2020

Warner’s 2020 MLK Essay Contest Winners, Honorable Mentions Announced

To honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, Warner Norcross + Judd LLP once again invited Grand Rapids sixth graders to enter an essay contest to discuss the lasting impacts of his critical work.

The contest, now in its 15th year, was open to all sixth graders in the Grand Rapids Public School district and asked students to read an excerpt from MLK’s speech “The Other America.” Aligning with the district’s new standardized testing, the sixth graders were given three prompts to develop an essay in response to the speech. Options included describing how we’ve made progress since this speech was made in 1968 and what improvements are still needed, exploring how they propose we can “live together as brothers” or explaining how they can respond to injustice in a constructive matter in reflection of Dr. King’s statement “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In response, the firm received 334 essay submissions from 17 different schools. Essays were judged by more than 60 Warner attorneys and staff. To reduce unconscious bias in scoring, names of schools, students and teachers were removed from the essays before they were read by the judges.
This year’s winners are:
  • Lydia Taylor, Center for Economicology — grand prize
  • Luke Swanson, Grand Rapids Montessori — first runner-up
  • Reese Wilcox, John Ball Zoo School — second runner-up
An additional 24 students from 11 different schools received honorable mentions. They attend Blandford School, C.A. Frost Middle High School, Center for Economicology, Grand Rapids Montessori, John Ball Zoo School, Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Academy, North Park Montessori, Riverside Middle School, Shawmut Hills, University Prep Academy and Westwood Middle School.
All winning and honorable mention students and their parents are invited to attend the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration Program, where Dr. Yusef A. Salaam will be a keynote speaker, held Monday, Jan. 20 at 6 p.m. at Fountain Street Church. Taylor will read her essay and all others will be invited to stand for recognition.
Additionally, the grand prize winner and, if time permits, the two runners-up, will be given an opportunity to read their essays at the Monday, March 2 GRPS Board of Education meeting, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Administration Building. A member of the firm’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Action Committee will introduce the winners at both programs.
Each winning and honorable mention student will receive a gift card to Schuler Books & Music and all others will receive a personalized certificate of completion.
The winning essays  are available to read on
About Warner
By providing discerning and proactive legal advice, Warner Norcross + Judd builds a better partnership with its clients. Warner is a corporate law firm with 230 attorneys practicing in eight offices throughout Michigan: Grand Rapids, Southfield, Midland, Macomb County, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, Lansing and Holland. To learn more, visit, follow us on Twitter @WNJLLP or connect on LinkedIn.
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