Side by side school headshots of a young woman in a black and white top and a young man in a red plaid shirt with a black vest both smiling and looking into the camera. Against a gray background.
Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Mast, Ryan Hostetter

Mackenzie Mast and Ryan Hostetter have won grand prize for top essay and video, respectively, in the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office essay and video contest.

Mackenzie Mast and Ryan Hostetter have won grand prize for the top essay and video, respectively, in the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office essay and video contest. 

Mast is a junior at Bethany Christian High School in Goshen, Indiana, and Hostetter is in grade nine at Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Both students will receive $150 for their prize-winning entries. 

In her essay, “Police reform and racial justice,” Mast says that “making changes to the way our police departments function will allow our country to break away from systemic racism and create a future based on a true vision of equality.” Citing an American Civil Liberties Union resource, she notes that “today, there are more black people in prison and correctional departments than there were ever enslaved by our country.” She further argues for diverting some funding from police to social service agencies, citing the example of Eugene, Oregon, where local authorities have created a community program that focuses on mental health, substance abuse and homelessness with the goal to “reduce violent and unnecessary police encounters with disturbances that are not crime related.”

Mast calls on Christians to be “the leaders in the push to reform the police since we believe that unnecessary violence against anyone is fundamentally wrong.” Excerpts from Mast’s essay are online here.

Hostetter’s video, “How police impact racial injustice,” examines the calls in the U.S. for police reform and defunding the police from a historical perspective, stating that “we need to look into the past to see how racism has shaped our country” and that “racial brutality to African Americans…can be traced all the way back to slavery.” After citing statistics that show Black people are disproportionately targeted by police, Hostetter says that “the killing of George Floyd was the spark that started hundreds of protests calling for change in the police force.” 

Hostetter unpacks proposed solutions for defunding and/or reforming the police, such as shifting funds to health services and schools and increasing legal accountability of police. He urges viewers to “strive for peace and equality,” “stay educated” and “inform others of the truth.” 

Essay contestants Naomi Klassen of Goshen, Indiana, and Titus Roesler of Freeman, South Dakota, earned honorable mentions for their submissions on the topics of police reform and racial justice, and gun violence, respectively.

The MCC U.S. Washington Office’s annual contest encourages youth to explore and understand prominent policy issues while reflecting on how their faith engages with advocacy. Public policy topics in this year’s contest included immigration, gun violence, and police reform and racial justice.

The contest is open to Mennonite, Brethren in Christ and other Anabaptist youth of high school age and to all youth who attend Mennonite-related high schools within the United States and Puerto Rico.

Opinions of the winners do not necessarily reflect the view of MCC.