veron-frith_web.jpgWhen Veron Frith won a digital camera in an essay contest this week, she was unable to attend the awards ceremony.

That’s because the 14-year-old Pompano Beach High School freshman was recently hospitalized with complications from a deadly illness.

“Veron has leukemia and was running a fever following a recent treatment,” said her mother, Dolvanya Mosby-Frith, who came to represent Veron Tuesday, April 14 at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center near Fort Lauderdale. “She has been out of school since she was diagnosed in November. The contest was a way of her re-connecting with the classroom. She really wanted to be here.”

The library hosted an event to announce the three Broward County students who won the essay contest themed “What the Quest for Black Citizenship in America Means to Me.”

The contest, in its sixth year, was open to Broward students in three categories: grades four through six, seven through nine, and 10 through 12. Best Buy donated all the prizes.

Veron won the camera in the category for grades seven through nine for her essay, “Ending the Quest.’’

Leukemia is a cancer of the blood or bone marrow, and is characterized by an abnormal amount of white blood cells.

Undaunted by her illness, Veron is enrolled in a magnet program, studies online, and has conference calls twice a week with the hospital homebound program, Mosby-Frith said.

“People from the school [Pompano Beach] bring her books; I want to keep her involved in her studies,’’ she said. “She won’t admit it, but her strength is definitely in writing. This contest proves it.”

The winners were chosen from 25 contest entrants, according to Essie DeNoms, the library’s assistant director.

“I don’t believe that black history should only be celebrated in February,” DeNoms said.  “This is a way to give kids an opportunity to learn, win prizes and to expand on what they have learned about black history.  It’s not a part of what they do in school, but is certainly something they can learn and enjoy doing on their own.”

All essays are posted in the library’s lobby, at 2650 Sistrunk Blvd., at the corner of Northwest 27th Avenue.

The NAACP has a contest each February, Eric Gomez, the library’s youth services supervisor, said.

“We follow their yearly theme, which this year was more important because of the election of [President Barack] Obama,’’ Gomez said. “It just coincided.”

The essays were 200 words or less, and were judged on creativity, merit, originality, grammar and spelling, Gomez said.

Crystal Dudley, 17, a senior at Stranahan High School, won a mini laptop computer for her essay titled, “What it Means to me to be a Black Citizen in the United States.”

In her essay, Crystal wrote about the emotional and physical abuses black people endured throughout, and after, slavery.

“I felt it was time to tell the truth,” she said, “because many of us act as if we are oblivious to the suffering and torture experienced in our past. It makes me angry. I don’t know why some of us act as if we can’t do better after all the negative things that were placed on us.”

Crystal described the high number of youth resorting to violence and gang activity as “just another form of slavery.” 
She also said that black citizenship, “to me means becoming an intellectual and encouraging my future children to earn and educate.”

Crystal will study exercise science at Florida State University in the fall, for which she has been awarded scholarships from the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and Mico Alumni Association of South Florida.

Eleven-year-old JaJa Nisbeth won an iPod for his essay, “What the Quest for Black Citizenship means to Me.’’

A sixth-grader at New Hope Seventh Day Adventist School, JaJa admitted that he entered the contest “with no thoughts of winning.”

He continued, “When my phone didn’t ring on the day they told me the winners would be announced, I just thought, ‘Oh, well.’  But I feel empowered now, knowing that I have done this, knowing that I have the potential.”

JaJa said now he has more confidence, and enjoys writing so much that, “I’m working on my first book.”

The book, titled The Darkness, is a cross between Star Wars and Excalibur, he said.

“I’ve completed about five chapters and may consider publishing when I’m finished,” he said.

Photo: Veron Frith

EDITOR’S NOTE: To read all the winning essays, CLICK HERE .