Lacks group seeks essay submissions
Wednesday, 08 January 2014 12:01

Essay contest to mark Black History Month

by Nicole Rodman   

    Though she died in 1951, Henrietta Lacks’ legacy continues to live on.
    Formerly a resident of Turner Station, Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951.
    While she was being treated for her cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital, cell samples were taken from her body without  her knowledge or consent.
    Doctors found that the cells (known as  “HeLa” cells) were able to divide continuously, making them invaluable in medical research.
    In the more than six decades since her death, Lacks’ cells have been used to develop countless medical breakthroughs, including the polio vaccine and treatments for various diseases, including cancer and AIDS.
    Today, the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group works to ensure that the woman behind the HeLa cells is never forgotten.
    To that end, the group is sponsoring a Black History Month essay contest.
    The essay contest is open to all Dundalk-area middle school students (grades six through eight)  and high school students, as well as home-schooled students in the Dundalk and Turner Station communities.
    Students can respond to one of two essay prompts.
    The first essay prompt asks students to answer the following question: “How has the use of Henrietta Lacks’ cells affected you or your family?”
    Alternately, students can write an essay responding to the prompt “If Mrs. Lacks were here today, I would tell her ....”
    All entries must be typed and written in English.    
    Middle school students should write a 200-to 350-word essay while high school students should write 250 to 500 words.
    All essays should consist of an introduction, body and conclusion.

In addition, essays should contain a three-point parallel thesis statement. The thesis statement should appear as the last sentence in the essay’s introduction and the first sentence in the conclusion.
    In addition, each essay should include a cover page which lists the student’s full name, mailing address, e-mail adress and telephone number.
    The cover page should also include the name and address of the student’s school, as well as the teacher’s name and the grade level of the student.
     Essays will be judged in both middle and high school categories.
    Judges will include faculty and staff members at Morgan State University.
    The first prize winner in each category will receive $100, while second prize winners will win $50 and third prize winners will get $30.
    The deadline for essay submissions is Monday, Feb. 3, at midnight.
    Entries should be e-mailed to
    Winners will be recognized at a Black History Month event to take place at St. Matthews United Methodist Church in Turner Station on Sunday, Feb. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m.
    Winners will also be honored at the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group’s gala on Saturday, Aug. 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Morgan State University Ballroom.
    For more information, write to the Henrietta Lacks Legacy Group at P.O. Box 21882, Baltimore, MD 21222, email Dr. Adele Newson-Horst at or visit