The following article originally appeared in the March 15, 2009 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and shows the depth of experience with diversity and prejudice of Northeast Ohio students.
Stop the Hate
By Sharon Broussard
The high-spirited Shaw High School Band and the Cleveland Heights High School choir dazzled the crowd at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood with their music and poise.
But make no mistake, when the topic of the essay contest is “Stop the Hate: Youth Speak Out,” it’s going to get a little ugly. Yet there are going to be some rays of hope.
I should know. I served as one of the judges.
The brightest light last Sunday afternoon? The radiant but stunned look on the face of winner Matt Soble of Solon High School. He was speechless when Milton Maltz, the museum’s co-founder, gave him the $100,000 college scholarship prize.
Anyone would be.
It’s a lot of money for one student, and it would be better if the sponsors spread the wealth more evenly next year among runners-up.
The darkest passages came from those teenagers’ roughly written but brave essays. They wrote about a homeless guy beaten in an alley, a Jewish kid mocked by her clueless teacher and, to the surprise of several judges, rampant bigotry toward gay students.
Gay students weren’t seen or heard if you went to school back when Afros rose high and boys wore jeans that actually fit, as I did. They flew far under the radar then, and we didn’t have a name for them. Now too many kids do — and it’s not very flattering.