Eight students win labor history Essay honors

Eight Wisconsin high school students were named cash prize winners in the Wisconsin Labor History Society’s annual Essay Contest for 2008-2009.

The winners are to honored announced at the Society’s annual conference May 9, 2009 at the Neenah-Menasha Labor  Temple, Neenah.  They will receive awards ranging from $100 to $500.   Students competed with a 750 word essay on “Unions Are Important to my Family and Community . . .”

Benjamin T. Plass, of Combined Locks, a senior at Kimberly High School, won the first prize award of $500 for his essay on how important his father’s union membership in Steelworkers Local 16 was to his life and the community.  His father was employed by Kimberly Paper Mill which recently closed,  The union has been working to overcome the effects of that closing, he wrote.  Benjamin turned 18 on November 2, and states his pride in being able to vote for President two days later.   He played four years on the Kimberly Papermakers High School football team, mainly as an offensive lineman.  The team won two state titles in Division 2.  In addition, he’s a member of the school’s trapshooting and  bowling teams.  He also helped to form the school car club.  He works as a salesman for a nutrition store, and plans to enter Concordia College, Mequon, to study pharmacy.

Rebecca Schleicher, of Oostburg, a senior at Oostburg High School, won a second prize award of $300 for her essay that compared the difference between working for union and nonunion employers, as well as the community services works performed by union members.  Rebecca participates in the shotput in track and field at her school and is active in the 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America.  She also performs much community service and works part-time for a sporting goods company.  She plans on attending the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh to study business administration.

Ariel Johnson, of Solon Springs, a sophomore at Solon Springs High School, won a third place award of $200 for her essay about how her father’s membership in the Plumbers Union has benefited her family.  The essay also tells of the contributions of that union to the community.  Ariel is a member of the cross country team and plays clarinet in the school band.  She likes fishing, including ice fishing, and is planning on attending college.

Five students were awarded $100 each for Honorable Mention awards in the contest.  They were:

Melissa Ertl, a 10th grader at Park Falls High School;

Joshua Sigmond Elder, a 12th grader at La Crosse Logan

High School;

Erin Scharenbroch, a 12th grader at Portage High School;

Adam Cooper, a 12th grader at Portage High School; and

Aliyya Terry, a 12th grader at Rufus King High School, Milwaukee.

Entries are accepted from high school students throughout the state, and judging is done by a committee of Wisconsin Labor History Society members.  Harvey J. Kaye and Andrew Kersten, both professors of history and social change at University of Wisconsin – Green Bay,, judged the essays.

Donations were received from many local unions and labor councils to fund the costs of running the contest and the awards.  The WLHS has been running the contest for 28 years.   In addition, the funds are used to sponsor awards for the National History Day statewide program for those entries featuring labor.

(Transcripts of the three top award essays are to be found in the April 2009 issue of the WLHS Newsletter.  Click here.)