Oshkosh North sophomores win the Martin Luther King Essay Contest


Konrad Bowlus-Jasinski reading his essay at the March 8th OASD board meeting

Matthew Centner, Chief Editor

On March 8, 2023, winners of the Oshkosh Area School District’s Dr. Martin Luther King Essay Contest gathered at the school board. For the first time in at least three years, all winners in the high school level were from Oshkosh North. Each high school winner was a sophomore, with Konrad Bowlus-Jasinski winning 1st place, Grace Penzenstadler finishing in 2nd place, and Dominic Centner earning 3rd place.

English 2 Honors and Journalism 2 teacher, Jason Cummings, is proud of his students.

“It’s pretty cool that we took first, second, and third place,” he says. “I started offering the opportunity to my English 2 Honors students two years ago, and we’ve won first place each year. Before that, former English teacher Gene Pollock always had his English 3 Honors students enter the contest–and win–so I guess we’re just continuing the legacy.”

Students had to respond to a prompt asking them to consider a Dr. King quotation in light of contemporary events. Each student picked their own topic.

I wrote about gun violence and safety,” says Centner. “I think it’s important that the OASD provide [the essay contest] because it’s important that people’s voices are heard, especially about the topics the MLK Jr. Essays bring to light.”

Penzenstadler says, “I wrote my essay just on how I think society can change for the better, and how people can help by having a mindset of giving and service. I think the contest is important to motivate people to put some effort into their work.”

The essay contest is an annual competition traditionally directed by Dr. Karen Bowen, a retired administrator from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Even though Bowen has stepped down from the contest this year, the Oshkosh Area School District decided it was important to continue the annual tradition.

“The OASD wanted to continue the contest’s legacy as well as formally celebrate Dr. King by showcasing student work. Our students are amazing and this is an opportunity for their voice to be heard,” says Julie Conrad, the Director of Curriculum and Assessment for the OASD. “The OASD Educational Foundation stepped up as a partner this year to keep the contest going. A big thank you goes to Theresa Duren, Director of the Oshkosh Educational Foundation, and Tanya Schmidt, Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator.” 

This year was the 21st annual essay contest. The contest is open every year to students in 4th to 12th grade, and the winners are separated by category: 4th to 5th graders, 6th to 8th graders, and 9th to 12th graders. Last year, winners of the essay contest were acknowledged at Black History Month and MLK Day events on the UW-Oshkosh campus. This year, winners received their awards at a school board meeting. 

Though the OASD Educational Foundation sponsored the contest this year, a sponsor or partnering organization is needed for next year’s contest. Interested philanthropists can reach out to Conrad regarding supporting future contests.