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Student Literature and Arts Contest

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2016 Visions of Unity contest. Congratulations to the winners and honorees.

Here is some important information about our awards reception:

Monday, March 28, 2016 at 6:30 pm

Torrance Memorial Medical Center, Health Conference Center

3300 Lomita Blvd., turn south at Medical Center Drive stop light, at the third stop sign turn right for parking at the Health Conference Center


Share your vision of unity, to inspire your peers, see your work published, earn a cash award, and receive public honor among leaders, elected officials, and community. Open only to high school students in Torrance, California.

Contest Categories

Literature: Poetry, Essay, and Short Story
Visual Arts: Drawing, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, and Computer Graphics

The deadline for entries is Friday, January 15, 2016. Artwork will also be picked up from TUSD schools on January 15, 2016.

Contest Purpose

Since 2000, the purpose of the Visions of Unity Contest has been to encourage Torrance youth to reflect on their role in resolving critical community issues, to artistically express their unique ideas and ideals in a way which broadens minds and touches hearts, and to take initiative in enhancing unity among diverse groups within their community.

The Visions of Unity contest was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday comes on or near the contest’s deadline every year. Now in its 16th year, the contest continues to engage youth, their families, community leaders, education providers, sponsors and donors in the power of artistic expression to cross cultural boundaries and forge new bonds as members of one human family, to explore ways individuals can work together to cultivate greater healing, harmony, and understanding within their communities.


Contest Guidelines

Entries should depict the need for and benefits of intercultural or interracial harmony and reflect on resolving critical community issues.  Your contribution should convey your ideas, feelings, or personal stories about unity, compassion, understanding, cooperation, etc. among people in our society today, and, if appropriate, reflect on your role as change agents in these arenas. Creativity is important, so please avoid standard portraits or mere biographies of civil rights leaders. If you need a little inspiration, here are some specific themes you can focus on if you wish:

1. MULTI-CULTURAL – Describe unique multi-cultural experiences you have had and what others can learn from your experiences. Has living in a foreign country and experiencing other cultures changed you for the better? What about having parents from different races, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, parts of the world, or other distinguishing backgrounds?

2. TORRANCE – Diversity in Torrance. How do our many differences contribute value to the experience of living in Torrance? How do people in a city as diverse as Torrance find unique ways to build unity? What has your study of history and of current world events taught you about the impact of one group’s rejection of another? How do inter-group conflicts affect the stability, safety and quality of life within a whole community? Compare and contrast this with human relations in your own community.

3. THEN VS. NOW – 1950’s and 60’s civil rights efforts and where we are today. Is there anything left to do? What? Why? How?

4. DISCRIMINATION – Tell us about the discrimination you may have personally experienced that shaped your convictions and the steps you’ve taken to create visions of unity.  Did you see someone else act courageously to create deeper understanding and healing in the face of discrimination? What do you think society could do to prevent future discrimination against you and or the people you described? How did your experience help you realize the role we each personally play in creating a vision of unity?

5. INTER-GENERATIONAL – How has your own family changed in terms of tolerance? Have they become less or more open to people who are different than them? What can your family’s experiences teach others about how to achieve more unity?

6. ORIGINS – How can people learn to become open minded, respectful and loving? Can those traits be developed by parents, schools, friends, or life experiences? How did you learn those traits and why do you think it worked?

7. SOCIAL MEDIA / TECHNOLOGY – Have social media and new technologies made it easier or more difficult to achieve a vision of unity in our area? Can we manage social media and technology to cultivate greater harmony and understanding among our diverse communities?

8. POLICE – With so many recent and major controversies involving police and minorities, how do you think policing can work to achieve your vision of unity? For example, how would you advise leaders of Black Lives Matter and leaders of law enforcement organizations to improve the relationship between police and minorities?

We want to see your honesty and thoughtfulness as well as your artistic and literary talents to communicate and express ideals in a way that broadens minds and touches hearts. Short Story and Poetry entries, especially, should reflect a metaphorical, fictional, or personal incident.

Entries will be judged by professionals according to the following criteria: 1) effective treatment of the theme; 2) originality and creative use of the medium; and 3) mastery of the art form, including grammar and technical details.

Enter the Contest

The deadline for all entries is Friday, January 15, 2016. The contest entry form is available at (or click the “Enter the Contest” link at the top of the page). Literature entries must be submitted online. Each art contestant must attach a completed contest entry form to his/her art work, which will be picked up from your school on January 15, 2016 by a Visions of Unity representative. Students may submit no more than one entry per category.


Awards Celebration

All contestants who place 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or Honorable Mention will orally present committee-selected excerpts from their work at the Monday, March 28, 2016 Visions of Unity Awards Celebration. Their published work will appear in the annual Visions of Unity literary anthology. Winners will also receive cash awards, thanks to the generosity of the sponsors below.  In the last 15 years, more than 400 students have received awards and over $25,000 in cash prizes.

Winning art entries may also be displayed in the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library showcase (if they fit on the 2′ high shelves).


Partners and Donors

The Human Relations Forum of Torrance, along with community partners, seeks to celebrate diversity, promote education and understanding while cultivating a sense of belonging for the diverse population of Torrance.

Community partners include Torrance Memorial Medical Center, Volunteer Center-South Bay-Harbor-Long Beach, Torrance Unified School District, League of Women Voters Torrance Area, and Palos Verdes Chapter LINKS, Inc.

Donors include:

Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, Toyota Motor Sales USA, Jean Adelsman, Welch and Company Accountancy Corporation, Ruth Vogel, Torrance Memorial Medical Center, Shirley and Chih-Ming Ho, Palos Verdes Chapter of the Links, Patricia Kromka, Bahá’ís of Manhattan Beach, Shirley Earlise Starke, Janet Dean Baszile, Shirley Borks, Kamy Akhavan
Contest Coordinator: Lea Ann King
Student Reading-in-the-Round Editor: Teresa Langness
Prose Judges: Jean Adelsman, Kamy Akhavan, Julia Matthews
Poetry Judges: Ruth Vogel, Dolores Caffey-Fleming
Art Judges: Heidi Ashcraft and Ashcraft Design
Torrance Unified School District Liaisons: Tammy Khan, Terry Ragins
Contest Technology Supervisor: Kamy Akhavan
Anthology Editors: Kamy Akhavan and Teresa Langness
Facilities/Torrance Memorial Medical Center Liaison: Shirley Ho
Refreshments: Shirley Earlise Starke and Palos Verdes Chapter LINKS, Inc.
Geissert Library Art Display: Ruth Vogel
Fiscal Agent: Volunteer Center South Bay-Harbor- Volunteer Center South Bay-Harbor-Long Beach

Questions? Contact us at


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