Two 11th-graders at John I. Leonard High School in Greenacres, won first and second place in the latest edition of the Haitian Heritage Month Essay Contest sponsored by the School District of Palm Beach County.

Jacquelyn Kent took first place and Victor Herrera Ramirez came in second.

Irvenie Latortue, a 10th-grader at Olympic Heights High School in Boca Raton, placed third.

The essay topic was:  “You have been selected to give a speech at the Port-au Prince stadium in Haiti to all high school students. Your goal is to stress the importance of individual/collective creative initiatives and engagement for the reconstruction of Haiti.  Include how to solve the current problems and then how to lay the foundations of sustainable development. Write your speech to mobilize the youth to be part of the nation building.”

As first-place winner, Jacquelyn will receive an award certificate and $250. Victor will get a certificate and $150 and Irvenie, a certificate and $100.

They were slated to be recognized during the School Board meeting on May 18. They will also be featured at an author talk event organized by the district, in collaboration with the Palm Beach County Library System, at the Greenacres Branch Library, 3750 Jog Road, Greenacres, at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 24, when they will discuss their essays.

The contest, for high school students, began in 2004 in commemoration of May as Haitian Heritage Month. According to a statement from the school district, the goal is to motivate students to practice their thinking and writing skills in order to increase their achievement level in high-stakes assessments such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) and to increase their self-esteem by promoting their history and culture while asking them to conduct historical research about their country, their people and their contributions to the history of the world.

Gaskov Clergé Foundation, a nonprofit and philanthropic organization established to promote health and education in Haiti and the United States, sponsored the contest.

Meanwhile, in commemoration of Haitian Heritage Month and to remember the estimated 250,000 who were killed in an earthquake that struck Haiti on Jan. 12, 2010, an exhibition of art works created by children from Jacmel, Haïti, will be on display through Friday, May 27, at the B-Wing of the Fulton-Holland Educational Services Center, 3300 Forest Hill Blvd., West Palm Beach.

The exhibition, Haiti Cheri, features paintings, writings, and debris from buildings collected and created by the children.

“I select that piece of ceramic and that piece of wood because I saw many houses destroyed, many people died, school collapse. Those pieces remind me of that sad event,” wrote Donald Alcindor, one of the artists whose work is included in the showing.

The collection is an initiative of the Art Creation Foundation for Children whose mission is to help children become the next generation of traditional Haitian artists by providing them with love, nurturing food, healthcare, and education.

Prior to enrolling in the program, these children had never attended school.

For more information about the Haitian Heritage Month Celebration in the School District of Palm Beach County, call Bito David, public affairs specialist, at 561-963-3820, e-mail david@palmbeach. or visit