Community Development Regional Manager Michelle Brega served as a judge for the contest and presented the awards on May 5, 2018, on behalf of U.S. Bank. “It meant a lot that we made the commitment,” she says. “I’m thrilled the bank sponsored the event.
“I was misty-eyed the entire ceremony as I juggled both the themes of the day and the emotions that it evoked,” she continues. “The youth voices were moving, powerful and optimistic. They spoke on complex themes and shared deeply personal stories.
One of the contest winners, Emma Li, was moved by the gender inequities she sees in the world, from kids’ movies to Congress. Her artwork, titled “Women of the Future,” symbolized her hope for what’s to come.
“We still have a long way to go for women to reach parity with men, even in the US,” Emma said in her acceptance speech. “It is reflected even in popular kids’ movies! In The Smurfs, male smurfs outnumber the girl 100 to 1. At school, I discovered that women have a much lower average salary than men. There has been no woman president, and less than one-fourth of the US congress are women! In addition, in US universities, only 24 percent of full professors are women.
“I have a dream that someday there will be a female president, a woman astronaut on Mars, more women winning Nobel prizes and all people of all genders having equal opportunities,” she continued. “Finally, the glass ceiling will be shattered!”
The winners inspired Michelle and reminded her of her own childhood, growing up Asian in Maryland. “I did not feel as confident or supported as these children do today. I am overjoyed that they’ll carry their communities into the future with such passion and optimism, and hope all of us will support all of our youth in their commitment to make community possible.”
See more of the winning entries here.