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1-22-24 — Saragusa Wins Best in Show at Unifying MLK Jr. Contest

Jan. 22, 2024 ~ This year, there were 868 entries in the 23rd annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Contest, a longtime arts competition for students in partnership with the City of Olathe’s Human Relations Commission, Garmin and Olathe Public Schools. This year's theme was “Know Your Neighbor,” pulled from Dr. King’s quote: “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other."

After the Mission Trail Middle School jazz band performed, Mayor John Bacon and Superintendent Dr. Brent Yeager kicked off the awards ceremony on Jan. 13 where finalists braved the cold to await their prizes. During the ceremony, Olathe Northwest High School Trebles choir performed two beautiful songs, “I Dream a World” and “Lead with Love,” under the direction of choir director Pam Williamson.

"Our 23rd Annual Dr. MLK Jr. contest celebration was an example of our Olathe community coming together to amplify the importance of Dr. King's words of knowing our neighbors,” Director of Culture and Belonging Kathleen Smith said.

Olathe West High School and California Trail Middle School were given plaques for the most submissions from a high school or middle school. Each of the six categories awarded three finalists with a trophy and a monetary prize. The first-place winner from each category presented their entry and spoke about their work. At the end, the “Best of Show” winner was awarded $500.

All winners spoke of their hopes for connection in their community by choosing to know their neighbors. The first-place winner of the Middle School Written category, Prairie Trail Middle School student Mikayla Druzhinin, said, “I wrote this poem to inspire people around the world to communicate with one another, being vulnerable with their feelings, instead of pushing their pain on others by not communicating.”

The following students won first place:

  • Middle School Visual Arts: “Tree of Unity” by Frontier Trail Middle School student Marleigh Call
  • High School Visual Arts: “Walk A Mile” by Olathe North High School student George Newham
  • Middle School Written: “Boy in the Blinds” by Druzhinin
  • High School Written: “The Waiting Room,” by Olathe South High School senior Skylar Saragusa
  • Middle School Multimedia: Santa Fe Trail Middle School students Delaney Bellamy and Lorelei Modrell
  • High School Multimedia: “I Wish I Knew You Better” by Olathe South students Olivia Kulzer, Braydon Whitlock and Addison Ham

Saragusa took home the “Best of Show” award with her submission “The Waiting Room.” This is her fourth year taking part in the contest and she looks forward to this creative project every year.

“The inspiration for my piece was that the world is so beautiful, but it will never be perfect,” Saragusa said. “I believe people have good intentions but may wait to take action to make our society better because they’re afraid they’ll do it wrong, or it won’t be ‘perfect.’ But if all of us beautifully imperfect people chose to know our neighbor, choose to do good, and be vulnerable with who we are together — we can make our world better.”

Everyone, including Smith, was impressed by these students and their creativity.

“The students created excellent work and it was a true celebration of Dr. MLK Jr.'s legacy,” Smith said. “Let us carry Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s teachings in our hearts and minds every day. We truly all belong together.”