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Corner Canyon Juniors Win Utah MLK Essay, Video Contests

  • Post category:General News
  • Post last modified:January 16, 2015

Through their academic actions, two Corner Canyon High students are proving true the famous utterance by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that “intelligence plus character” is the mark of a true education. 

Juniors Deanna Nguyen and Jared Sagae were honored recently for winning the 11th-Grade Division of the Utah Martin Luther King Essay and Video Contest sponsored by the Utah State Office of Education. Nguyen and Sagae, accompanied by Corner Canyon teachers and administrators, received their awards at a banquet on Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. The awards were handed out just days before the state’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. On Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 Canyons District schools and District Offices will be closed to mark the holiday. 

“Not only are these two good thinkers,” says Corner Canyon Principal Mary Bailey, “but it comes from the heart.”

Nguyen won for her essay, which was inspired by her mother, a Cambodian refugee to the United States; and Sagae earned honors for his video titled “Power of Greatness.”  Nguyen’s work was judged among the 475 essays submitted; Sagae competed against 15 others. 

Nguyen, who was informed of her win by her teacher, says her mother fled her homeland to escape the rule of the Khmer Rouge, the Communist party that orchestrated the now-infamous “killing fields” genocide. “People looked at her like she was from a different galaxy. She got made fun of and teased, but she didn’t let that bring her down,” Nguyen wrote in her essay. “From her experience, she has learned to work hard and be grateful for everything. I believe her perspective and attitude has the same effect on me that Dr. King had on millions across the planet.”

Nguyen said it’s not always easy to be an ethnic minority at a mostly Caucasian school. There are days, she said, when she hears jokes or “mocking imitations” of Asian languages. “I don’t usually do anything about it.  I just shrug it off,” she wrote,” but (MLK) has me convinced that I should speak up if I hear anything rude or offensive. This is where I think Dr. King’s quote comes into play. ‘Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.’ To me, this quote means that everyone has the opportunity to be great because everyone has the power to serve.”

Sagae’s 1-minute, 53-second video is titled “Power of Greatness,” and features clips of Dr. King speaking to his supporters.  Initially, as part of a class assignment, he wrote an essay for the contest – but then he decided to also make a video.  His digital work, he said, carries the message “that it’s up to use to make a difference.” 

“One of the things is that there’s always a peaceful solution,” he said, “if you just take a moment to look for it and find the problem.” 

“Making a change doesn’t start with a gun or a fist,” says a part of Sagae’s video.  “It starts with every day, being more selfless for others.” Another part reads:  “Martin Luther King changes lives.  He empowers us through past words so that we can make a difference today and tomorrow.”