OKC Memorial Museum Announces 21st Annual Student Essay Winners

Release provided by The Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, April 2, 2022

Congratulations to students from across the United States who participated in the 21st Annual Student Essay Contest at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. The Memorial Museum received 771 entries from students in 44 states. Winning essays in grade 5-12 came from Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland and Florida.


“The empathy these students described inspired me. Young people can change the world. They are our future leaders. I know we are in good hands” said John Kennedy, Chairman, Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation. The essay contest gave students the opportunity to share how individuals or communities have shown strength and resilience to overcome challenges or tragedies. A wide variety of topics were researched including the Parkland school shooting, Tulsa Race Massacre, deadly Oklahoma wildfires and Hurricane Katrina. The lessons learned by these students are powerful and memorable.


“Comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity are part of the Memorial’s Mission Statement. Researching the struggles and resilience of people and communities for this essay contest will help students overcome challenges they’ll face in their own lives,” said Kari Watkins, President & CEO, Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. “The Memorial Museum teaches ‘the world holds far more good than bad.’”


“I was inspired by their words and moved by the students’ wide range of topics. I learned new material I had never heard before,” remarked Ann-Clore Duncan, Education Chairman, Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum.


Each winner receives a cash prize and was recognized at a ceremony at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum on April 2. This program is made possible through the generous support of Stella Nova.

5th and 6th Grade Winners:

(R to L) Ms. Amoah, Janelle Amoah & Fisher ELA Teacher Adrianna Cook

Sarah Stiegelmeyer, 5th, Lakeview Intermediate, Yukon, OK, 1st Place
Christopher Solomon, 6th, Waynoka Elementary School, Waynoka, OK, 2nd Place
Janelle Amoah, 6th, Fisher Elementary School, OKC, OK, 3rd Place (Moore Public Schools)  


7th and 8th Grade Winners:

Avery Burton, 7th, Seiling Public Schools, Seiling, OK, 1st Place
Adrianna Rivera, 8th, Chandler Jr. High School, Chandler, OK, 2nd Place
Jada Burns, 8th, Oakdale Public School, Edmond, OK, 3rd Place  


9th and 10th Grade Winners:

Memorial Museum Essay Winners 2022


Michaela Stevens, 10th, Arkansas School for Math, Science and the Arts, Hot Springs, AR, 1st Place

Isadora Wise, 10th, Powell County High School, Stanton, KY, 2nd Place
Baylee Weatherford, 10th, Valliant High School, Valliant, OK, 3rd Place

11th and 12th Grade Winners:

Avery Brown, 12th, Crossings Christian School, Oklahoma City, OK, 1st Place
Aaron Siegle, 12th, Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Olney, MD, 2nd Place
Isabela Deneka, 12th, Armwood High School, Seffner, FL, 3rd Place

Learn more about the OKC Memorial Museum at memorialmuseum.com.


Essay by: Janelle Amoah, 6th grade, Fisher Elementary

Too Ugly!

Have you ever wondered what it feels like for someone to not want you because you are “different?” Well, Robert Hoge has had that happen to him by his very own mother! “Everyone's uglier than they think. Everyone's more beautiful than think, too!” Robert Hoge says. Love yourself, whether you are different or not because that is what makes us beautiful!


Robert Hoge was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia on July 23rd, 1972. Robert’s parents knew he was different, and something was wrong with him from the moment they saw the look on the doctors' face. Back then, there was not very advanced technology so usually a mother’s first question would be, “Is it a boy or a girl?” But for Robert’s mom it was, “Is my baby, ok?” You see, Robert was born with deformed legs and an enormous tumor between his eyes. When his mom saw him for the first time she was absolutely baffled, she knew that he did not look like a regular baby, so she immediately said, “Get that thing away from me.” without hesitation or even saying bye to little Robert. “Perhaps he will die,” Robert's mom said to his dad. His mom wanted nothing to do with him, but Robert's dad knew he could fight this and knew he could make it home. Robert was also left in NICU for 5 days until he got his first surgery, getting his tumor removed only at 5 days old. Robert was the youngest and “weirdest” out of all 4 of his siblings.


The challenges that Robert overcame were very impressive due to him having a prosthetic leg. Robert could swim, ride bikes, and play sports such as lawn bowling, and soccer. Of course, to Robert those were ridiculously hard challenges he had to overcome, and they were not easy. According to Robert those challenges were not as fun at first because he got bullied, got rude comments, and looks. But he did not give up because he knew he could do it no matter what!


Robert knew that he could do what any other child his age could do so he did not give up no matter what. His resilience impacted others by him speaking up about his disability and how other people should not allow bullying for being different.


This essay has made me feel incredibly sad, but also joyful because I was mad how Robert was treated as a kid but now, also glad because he has overcome hate and has a better life. Robert has now even made his own book, gotten married, and has 2 daughters! But, let me ask you this, how would you feel if you were being treated rudely for being different? Treat others how you want to be treated!