TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Yesterday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the winners of the Black History Month student essay and art contests as well as the Excellence in Education Awards. Students from grades K-3 were invited to participate in the art contest and students in grades 4-12 were invited to participate in the essay contest. Educators were nominated by a principal, teacher, parent/guardian, or student. The theme of this year’s contests was Celebrating African-American Contributions to Florida’s History
“This Black History Month, students were able to learn about African-Americans that helped shape Florida’s history and that of our entire country,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Congratulations to all of the contest winners, many of whom looked to our state leaders, like Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris, to celebrate their contributions to Florida. Learning about the history of our country and the contributions of people who make our world better is the best way to help shape the future.”
“We take pride in celebrating the diverse contributions of African-Americans to Florida’s story through Black History Month,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “This is not only an opportunity for Florida’s students to learn, but also an opportunity for the state to come together to honor those, past and present, deserving of recognition for their service to our communities.”
The Black History Month Art Contest asked students in grades K-3 to submit original artwork based on this year’s theme. Two winners were chosen in the art contest. The Essay Contest had three winners in grades 4-12 who will receive a 4-year Florida College Plan scholarship, provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation. Three educators were chosen as winners of the Excellence in Education Award. 
“Florida is unquestionably blessed to have benefitted from the numerous contributions of African-Americans throughout Florida’s history,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “We are honored to have the opportunity to observe, celebrate, and learn of the amazing impact that individuals can have on millions of others. I am quite certain that many of our students here today will be written about in the future by students who will hold them in the highest regard due to their own amazing accomplishments.” 
“We must encourage our young people to investigate Florida’s history and discover the ways in which African-Americans have influenced our trajectory as a state,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Corey Simon. “Florida’s Black History Month contests and awards are a time for us to celebrate and emphasize the endless opportunities that exist through education. Congratulations to this year’s student and teacher award winners, and heartfelt gratitude to all those who participated.” 
“Florida’s rich and diverse history is part of what makes me proud to call the Sunshine State home,” said Florida Lottery Secretary John F. Davis. “We applaud the students who participated in the art and essay contests centered on Celebrating African-American Contributions to Florida’s History, as well as the teachers who have been nominated for the Excellence in Education Award. The leaders of tomorrow are in the classroom today and I have no doubt that we can look forward to many accomplishments as this year’s winners go on to shape the world of tomorrow.”
Award recipients are as follows:
Student Art Contest Winners
Amara Kantaria, MacFarlane Park Elementary Magnet School, Hillsborough County
Amara is a first grade student who submitted her artwork titled Mary in the Mirror. 
Zuri Jackson, Allen Park Elementary School, Lee County
Zuri is a third grade student who submitted her work titled Future Donald’s Legacy. 
Student Essay Contest Winners
Aryanah Sahai, A.D. Henderson University School, Palm Beach County
Aryanah is a fifth grade student who submitted an essay titled An Amazing Woman that Uplifts Her Community about Secretary of the Florida Department of Children and Families, Shevaun Harris. Aryanah believes that education is a gift that she values and that it is important to help your community. 
Kurukulasuriya Nishini, Fernando, Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle School, Lee County
Kurukulasuriya is an eighth grade student who submitted an essay titled Shevaun Harris: A Voice for Many. Kurukulasuriya aspires to be a pediatric oncologist and has had a poem published in the American Library of Poetry. 
Sidjourney Knight, Praise Temple Christian Academy, Lake County
Sidjoureny is an eleventh grade student who submitted an essay titled Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune and Her Contributions to the Black Community. Sidjourney aspires to attend law school and volunteers at a food pantry. 
Excellence in Education Award Winners
Christine Ducille Taylor, OCPS Academic Center for Excellence, Orange County
Mrs. Taylor was nominated by a fellow teacher at OCPS Academic Center for Excellence and she teaches first grade students. She has over 30 years of teaching experience and serves as a mentor for aspiring educators and single mothers in her area. 
Renee Rice, Belleview Middle School, Marion County
Ms. Rice was nominated by a fellow teacher at Belleview Middle School and teaches grades seven and eight. She is described by her fellow teachers as one of the most outstanding educators they have ever met and she serves as a basketball coach. 
Audrey Childress, Econ River High School, Orange County 
Ms. Childress, known to her students as Ms. C, was nominated by the principal of Econ River High School and she teaches grades 9-12. Ms. Childress provides support and encouragement for her students, even visiting each student to encourage them to join Zoom classes during the pandemic. Ms. Childress formerly served her country in the U.S. Coast Guard.

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