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The six winning entries to this year’s Character Education contest. (Photos by James Bentley)

For the AFRO’s 19th Annual Black History Month celebration, we asked eighth graders to submit creative artwork that portrayed their community heroes. To help inspire them, the AFRO wrote several articles during Feb. highlighting local community heroes in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas.

These ranged from activists to organization founders and even included community heroes from the AFRO’s extensive archives. The AFRO asked students from local school districts to tell us about their community heroes. Students chose to submit poems, sculptures, drawings, paintings, videos, essays, songs etc. We chose six students from the Banneker Middle School in Montgomery County and here showcase their submissions as well as at ceremony on May 16 at the Reginald F. Lewis African American Museum. There the finalists will receive recognition and prizes. Thank you to everyone who submitted work to this contest. Here are the six finalists and a little bit of what their artwork is all about.

Click here to view slideshow presentationhttp://afro.com/slideshows/#heroes

Lia Tejada

A papier-mâché sculpture represents Tejada’s hero, her art teacher, Ms. Jennifer Epinoza. She describes how Ms. Epinoza has helped her over the years (from a kind word when Tejada is having a bad day to teaching Tejada how to use art to cope with her emotions).

Amie Panneh

Using animated pictures and cut outs from magazines about superheros Panneh showcases her creative ability to tell us what makes her grandmother her community hero.

Anthony Glen

This well put together scrapbook chronicles the life lessons that Glen’s father taught him. For example, Glen’s father encouraged him to try out for soccer, master bike riding and become the ultimate ninja warrior.

Lanice Kear

In this imaginative drawing Kear portrays why her mother is her community hero. Her mother is drawn as someone at a help desk which gives the viewer a glimpse into her mother’s selflessness and caring nature.

Laylah Smith

Smith’s community hero is her mother who she portrays as a strong tree and the accompanying poem describes her mother as someone with a strong foundation.

Julia Vital 

Vital’s community hero is her favorite teacher. She is Vital’s community hero because she teaches Vital things that she enjoys, is always there for Vital and greets Vital with a smile every school day.