MILWAUKEE (February 4, 2022) — Today, on civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks’ birthday — which is also National Transit Equity Day — the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS) announced the winners of its second annual Rosa Parks Tribute Scholarship essay contest.

High school seniors in Milwaukee County who will attend a trade school, college, or university were invited to submit a short essay inspired by Parks’ famous quote, “Each person must live their life as a model for others.”

More than 102 essays were submitted — representing 26 high schools — and reviewed by a diverse panel of staff from MCTS, the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation, and the Milwaukee County Office of Equity.

The following three students were chosen to each receive a $1,000 scholarship towards their higher education:

  1. Elizabeth Nieves (Audubon Tech High School, Milwaukee): Nieves finds strength in Parks to fulfill her own dreams of helping the Hispanic community. Her goal is to major in business management with a focus in human resources, and then develop higher education opportunities for women and minority youth through peer mentoring programs.
  2. Emily Odenkirk (Oak Creek High School, Milwaukee): Odenkirk found inspiration in Parks’ ability to make the world a more just place. She plans to major in political science and support legislative change for social justice. She volunteers for political candidates who share her commitment to stop the injustices which came to light during the pandemic.
  3. Paris Wooden (Greendale High School, Milwaukee): Inspired by not only Rosa Parks but also by her late father’s leadership as a Milwaukee Police Department lieutenant, Wooden’s goal is to be a first-generation college graduate who will then lead and advance African American and Ethnic studies, no matter what she chooses as a major.

“I was struck by the very moving essays and the heartfelt stories each student shared. It made the decision-making process very challenging,” said Donna Brown-Martin, director of the Milwaukee County Department of Transportation. “Students continue to show the power and inspiration that Rosa Parks’ courageous act of defiance so many decades ago has on their daily lives today. I am so pleased MCTS invests in the future leadership of this generation who plan to address racial equity in their own unique way.”

Parks was arrested on December 1, 1955, after refusing to give up her seat to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama. Her small act of civil disobedience led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling that outlawed segregation on public transportation.

Every year, on December 1 — recognized nationally as Rosa Parks Day — MCTS honors Parks by reserving a seat on board all buses in its fleet. Each reserved seat includes a red rose and a placard that features Parks’ photo and a message about her courageous act.

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