Florida Celebrates Black History Month

The Florida Department of Education and Volunteer Florida encourages students to take part in the 2024 Black History Month student art and essay contests and educator awards with the theme of “Celebrating Florida’s African American Heroes and Their Contributions to Freedom.” This contest coincides with the celebration of Black History Month, which is recognized each year in February.

“Black History Month serves as a perfect chance for students to learn about the accomplishments that African-American heroes have contributed to Florida in the name of freedom,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “I hope students and educators use this contest to delve into Florida’s rich history and to learn about how African Americans have shaped our great state.”

“Florida goes the extra mile to recognize the immense and historical contributions of African Americans in our great state,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Josie Tamayo. “We are proud to offer this opportunity each year to recognize outstanding students and educators in Florida for their unique efforts and talents.”

About the Student Art Contest: The Black History Month Student Art Contest is open to all Kindergarten through third-grade students in Florida. Each student will submit original, two-dimensional artwork based on this year’s theme. Four statewide winners will be selected for the month, and each winner will receive a $100 school supplies gift card and a one-year pass to Florida State Parks.

About the Student Essay Contest: The Black History Month Student Essay Contest is open to all fourth through twelfth-grade students in Florida. Each student will submit one essay no longer than 500 words based on this year’s theme. Six winners will be selected: two elementary school students (grades 4–5), two middle school students (grades 6–8), and two high school students (grades 9–12). Each winner will receive a 2–year Florida College Plan scholarship provided by the Florida Prepaid College Foundation and a $100 school supplies gift card.

Students are encouraged to write about the African American heroes who fought for freedom across our state. The subject of the essay should be a Floridian. Examples include:

  • Secretary John Davis – Secretary John Davis is from the small town of Pahokee, Florida. His humble beginnings did not deter him from chasing his dream of playing collegiate football; he earned a spot on the Florida State University football team under Coach Bobby Bowden. Secretary Davis then spent the next 25 years of his career in the private and public sectors working tirelessly to champion freedom and support the pursuit of the American Dream. Now as Florida’s Secretary of the Lottery, he has been passionate about providing opportunities for students to achieve their goals through the Bright Futures Scholarships and is an advocate for freedom throughout our state.
  • Mary McLeod Bethune – Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was the founder of a school that became Bethune-Cookman University which provided educational freedom for African Americans in Florida during the 1900s. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune played a crucial role in the early civil rights movement and was a key advocate for African American women’s rights and education. Her legacy continues to be celebrated today as a trailblazer for African American rights and opportunities in the nation.
  • Ray Charles – Ray Charles grew up in Greenville Florida, attended the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine, and began his music career in Florida. Despite being blinded at a young age and facing adversities throughout his life, Ray Charles overcame these challenges with strong will and refused to allow any circumstance to take away his freedom. His determination to pursue his dreams made him one of the most iconic and respected musicians of the 20th century.
  • Representative Kiyan Michael – Representative Kiyan Michael was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2022 to serve District 16, which is a part of Duval County. One of her passions is to provide a voice to Angel Families, including her own, who have experienced the damaging impacts of the open border policies. Her tireless efforts and contributions to preserving freedom and protecting constitutional rights make her an essential figure in her community.

About the Excellence in Education Award:  The Black History Month Excellence in Education Award Contest is open to all full-time educators in an elementary, middle, or high school in Florida. Four winners will be selected, and a principal, teacher, parent/guardian, or student may submit nominations. Excellence in Education award winners will receive a $2,500 monetary prize from Volunteer Florida.

Contest Entries and Nominating Forms and Guidelines:  Student contest forms and educator nomination forms must be mailed to Volunteer Florida or submitted online at floridablackhistory.com.

Volunteer Florida:  Black History Month Committee  1545 Raymond Diehl Road, Suite 250  Tallahassee, Florida 32308

All entries must be received by 5 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, February 7, 2024. If mailing, please consider the time necessary to ensure the submission is received by Volunteer Florida’s office no later than the aforementioned deadline.