[Editor’s note: the 2019 contest has just been announced! Visit our website for more info!]
The CIF contest is, for AFOP/CIFC staff, as good or better than our birthdays. Once the annual contest is launched every spring and entries start coming in, each package feels like a present. As we carefully open each one, we wonder, what did the farmworker children draw or write for us this year?
Sometimes it’s a FedEx box full of multiple entries, like the one we have come to count on every year from the Migrant Education Program in Bakersfield, CA. (You rock, Bakersfield!) Sometimes they come singly, like Norman’s, who knows us well after applying and winning in years past. Always, they come with the imprint of one or more unique farmworker kids who we fall in love with at first sight – of their artwork or essay, that is. It’s a heart-warming, sometimes heart-breaking, moment that makes us wish everybody could win.
The good news is that, while the prize money may be limited, every single farmworker child does win the moment they submit artwork or essay to CIFC. Their prize? Effective advocacy for themselves and their communities that will end up bettering their lives. AFOP uses every single story and piece of art to raise awareness about the issues farmworker families and kids face. These stories go out to the general public, fellow stakeholders, lawmakers, and other key groups. This is the most important thing we do, because the more people know, the better decisions they are able to make – decisions that have a direct effect on farmworker kids. Everyone who’s ever sent us anything has a right to feel good about themselves. The scholarship money is just a bonus!
The scoring is based on a weighted system, which, in the event of an even number of judges, can result in a draw. In 2018 the number of judges was indeed even, making a tie all but inevitable – and in fact, we had several. Most of the stalemates were resolved with a clear 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winner, but our judges got stuck on the 10-13 year-old art category. After much debate, a tie between Griselda and Nevaeh’s art remained:
Was the solution to split the prize? No way! David Strauss, AFOP’s former Executive Director, and Cesar Moreno from American Federation of Teachers reached into their own pockets and donated their own money to create an additional 3rd place prize, so that the artists received the same exact, well-deserved reward. It was an unprecedented move but one that we AFOP staff greatly appreciated, because we knew how excited both kids would be.
Also new in 2018: Top-10 Honorable Mention awards! East Coast Migrant Head Start Project donated the necessary funds last year (thanks, ECMHSP!); AFOP will continue funding this prize in the future. As Melanie Forti, director of programs, says, “We hope this will generate an even greater interest in the contest and extend its benefits to even more farmworker kids and their communities.”
As always, CIFC’s ultimate goal is to raise the profile of farmworker kids, as well as to combat some of the misinformation that’s out there. Even from some of the strongest farmworker advocates we continue to get the question, ‘Are there really still kids in the fields?’ All we have to do is show them a picture of our youngest essay winner, Emily C., working in the fields since she was 8, or quote artist William S., who drew this picture of himself harvesting tobacco at age 10. Then we continue our work with grim, impassioned dedication.
The best part of running the CIFC art & essay contest? Making those phone calls to the winners! Boy, does it feel good to make somebody’s day!
A big THANK YOU to all who support the CIFC contest morally, financially, and/or by spreading the word and helping kids send entries in. It makes such a difference – for the cause and for the kids!