Looking Back, Thinking Forward

19th Annual Student Essay Contest

The Memorial’s 19th Annual Student Essay Contest asked students to think about the state of their community, especially in comparison to their perception of how things have changed in the past 25 years. Students also reflected on their beliefs about the future of their community, nation, and world.

And what can we learn from history? That the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. That compromise is the oxygen of democracy. And that remembrance should be a means to the end of our journey toward a more perfect union.
— Jon Meacham

Winners Announced

Over 550 essays from 34 states were submitted in this year’s essay contest. Winning essays came from students in Oklahoma, South Dakota and Illinois.

Each winner will receive a cash prize and have the opportunity to be recognized at a ceremony in April.

Grades 5/6

“Spend some time talking with an adult you know who remembers life in 1995. Ask them about their view of how our community is different now than it was in 1995. In the adult’s opinion, is the community better and/or worse? In your essay, describe the adult’s view, and share your belief about what you and others can do to improve our community.”

1st Place – Stella Gerber, 5th grade, Cleveland Elementary, Norman, OK
2nd Place – James Gibson, 5th grade, Cleveland Elementary, Norman, OK
3rd Place – Jack Holbrook, 5th grade, Cleveland Elementary, Norman, OK

Grades 7/8

“Spend some time talking with an adult you know who remembers 1995. Ask them about their view of how our community is different now than it was in 1995, whether for better and/or for worse. In your essay, describe the adult’s view, respond to their view with your own thoughts, and share your belief about what you and others can do to improve our community.”

1st Place – Gracelyn Tramba, 8th grade, Belle Isle Enterprise Middle School, Oklahoma City, OK
2nd Place – Audrey Mao, 8th grade, Sulphur Middle School, Sulphur, OK
3rd Place – Kasen Tankersley, 7th grade, Terra Verde Discovery School, Norman, OK

Grades 9/10

“As a society, are we better today than we were in 1995? In what ways are we better—or worse? In what way(s) can we improve, both as individuals and as communities? What ideas do you have for changes that should be made? In your response, you may offer examples from your personal experience, perception, and learning.”

1st Place – Brooklyn Young, 10th grade, Valliant High School, Valliant, OK
2nd Place – Amy Ha, 9th grade, Mustang High School, Mustang, OK
3rd Place – Liliana Amore, 9th grade, Amore Academy Homeschool, Elgin, OK

Grades 11/12

“As a society, are we better today than we were in 1995? In what ways are we better—or worse? In what way(s) can we improve, both as individuals and as communities? What ideas do you have for changes that should be made? In your response, you may offer examples from your personal experience, perception, and learning.”

1st Place – Jennifer Sanders, 12th grade, Three Arrow Academy, Flandreau, SD
2nd Place – Simone Hoekstra, 11th grade, Whitney M Young, Chicago, IL
3rd Place – Braden Payne, 12th grade, Valliant High School, Valliant, OK



Allegiance Credit Union is proud to sponsor the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum Essay Contest for the 12th consecutive year. On April 19, 1995, the then Federal Employees Credit Union, was located on the third floor of the Murrah Building and lost 18 of 33 employees and over 100 members in the bombing. The credit union survived with the support of other credit unions and continues to thrive 25 years later thanks to the Oklahoma City community. “This essay contest is just one of the many ways Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is sharing lessons of hope with our young people,” said Amy Downs, Survivor and Allegiance Credit Union President/CEO.

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