WASHINGTON – Olivia Dalke, a junior at Dallas High School in Dallas, Oregon, and a member of Salem Mennonite Church, has earned the grand prize of $1,000 for her essay on climate change in the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. Washington Office annual essay contest.
In her essay, Dalke analyzed the global implications for climate change, as well as an Anabaptist response to the ongoing crisis. Dalke noted that the “significant rise in global temperature has caused more frequent and serious natural disasters that have affected a huge number of vulnerable communities around the world.”
In addition to her cash prize, Dalke will have the opportunity to share her perspective on climate change with elected officials, accompanied by MCC staff.
National honorable mention prizes of $500 each were awarded to Nick Schrock, a senior at Bethany Christian High School (Goshen, Ind.), Andre Eanes, a senior at Eastern Mennonite High School (Harrisonburg, Va.), and Ryan Haggerty, a senior at Freeman Academy (Freeman, S.D.). Haggerty focused on the militarization of police forces in the U.S., while Schrock detailed the many challenges that people returning to society from prison face. Eanes focused on climate change.
Schrock observed that “homeless, hungry, and socially ostracized, it’s no wonder that so many former inmates return to lives of crime.” Recidivism, he said, is “a serious problem in the United States, a problem exacerbated by governmental and societal responses to people returning from prison.”
Eanes noted that while climate change is acknowledged as a problem in many areas, meaningful action by the U.S. government is yet to be taken. “There are a few efforts that our government is making to fight climate change, but many people aren’t satisfied. In short, in terms of goals for real progress, our government isn’t doing enough. We participate in international climate change summits and toss around ideas, but it seems as though little ever gets resolved.”
Haggerty stressed the growing danger that having a police force armed with military-grade weapons has, particularly in his own state. “Even small, under-populated Hutchinson County has participated in this program; it purchased two 7.62mm rifles. Even more surprising was the amount of purchases the county containing South Dakota’s capitol city, Hughes County, had bought. Hughes has purchased just over 300 rifles. With a population of only 17,022 as of 2010, this made the saturation of guns in Hughes County 1 gun per 55 persons…the second highest in the nation.”
The essay contest highlights the perspectives of youth on significant public policy issues and promotes the involvement of young people in faithful witness to government authorities.
The annual contest is open to Anabaptist youth of high school age and to all youth who attend Mennonite high schools. Entries are judged on the participants’ understanding of the issues, clarity of argument and degree of creativity in crafting thoughtful policy positions.