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2017 Ford Freedom Award Presents More Than $20,000 in Scholarships, Prizes to Winners of Student Essay Contest

  • More than 1,700 Michigan students attended the Ford Freedom Award Scholar’s Experience
  • Essay contest winners were awarded more than $20,000 in scholarships and prizes
  • 19th annual Ford Freedom Award celebrates “Talents That Unite! How African Americans Bring Diverse Communities Together Across America”

DETROIT, May 25, 2017 – More than $20,000 in scholarships and prizes were awarded to Michigan students May 23 at the annual Ford Freedom Award Scholar’s Experience, which celebrates young people who find new and creative ways to promote diversity.

The event, held this week in conjunction with the 19th annual Ford Freedom Award ceremony, brought together 1,700 students from schools across the state who submitted essays explaining how they could use their passions to help bring people together.

Ford Motor Company, in collaboration with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and Detroit Newspapers in Education, hosted the contest for students in grades 4-8.

Mohammad Muntakim, an 8th grader at Davison Elementary-Middle School in Detroit, received $5,000 for his first-place essay highlighting his passion for building respect and understanding through Academic Games, an interest he shares with Rod Beard, assistant executive director for the Michigan League of Academic Games.    

Other winners include:

  • Avery Roberson, 5th grade, Bates Academy - second place ($2,500)
  • Madisyn Link, 8th grade, Trinity Lutheran School - third place ($1,000)
  • Jillian Lesson, 8th grade, West Hills Middle School; Nafisa Chudhury, 6th grade, Dickinson East Elementary School; and Jackson Huff, 8th grade, Trinity Lutheran School each received honorable mention ($500 each).

As part of its Challenge Grant program, Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford, awarded an additional $10,000 to be shared among the five essay contest winners. Students will receive a year of mentoring as well as funding to bring their ideas for uniting communities to life.

“The Ford Freedom Award Scholars Experience gives students the opportunity to learn from and engage with those making history and impacting change,” said Shawn Wilson, multicultural manager, Ford Motor Company Fund. “We recognize the immense talents of our Michigan students and want to encourage them as they move forward in their educational pursuits. The Ford Freedom Award embodies what we hope students will become and contribute to society.”

Ford Freedom Award honorees are distinguished individuals who dedicated their lives to improving the African American community and the world at large. The Ford Freedom Award scholar serves as a living legacy, carrying forth the ideals of the honoree and advancing those achievements for a new generation.

This year’s theme – “Talents That Unite! How African Americans Bring Diverse Communities Together Across America” – celebrates the accomplishments of legendary talents of the past and present, and heralds the influence of their work on the future.

This year’s Ford Freedom Award recipient is the late August Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author who is best known for his play “Fences,” the 1987 Tony Award winner for best play.

The 2017 Ford Freedom Award scholar is Floyd Norman, a distinguished animator and the first African American to be hired at Disney. Norman’s career spans nearly six decades including work on family favorites such as “The Jungle Book”, “Mulan” and “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” In 2007, Norman received the prestigious Disney Legend award. He also co-founded Vignette Films to produce movies about black history for high schools.

Ford Motor Company’s support of the African American community dates back to the early 20th century, when it was the largest employer of African Americans in the auto industry. Ford and Ford Motor Company Fund, the company’s philanthropic arm, continue to build on that legacy with signature initiatives that include Ford Freedom Unsung, Ford Blue Oval Scholars and the Ford Historically Black Colleges and Universities Community Challenge.

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan, committed to helping build a better world, where every person is free to move and pursue their dreams.  The company’s Ford+ plan for growth and value creation combines existing strengths, new capabilities and always-on relationships with customers to enrich experiences for customers and deepen their loyalty.  Ford develops and delivers innovative, must-have Ford trucks, sport utility vehicles, commercial vans and cars and Lincoln luxury vehicles, along with connected services.  The company does that through three customer-centered business segments:  Ford Blue, engineering iconic gas-powered and hybrid vehicles; Ford Model e, inventing breakthrough EVs along with embedded software that defines exceptional digital experiences for all customers; and Ford Pro, helping commercial customers transform and expand their businesses with vehicles and services tailored to their needs.  Additionally, Ford provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company.  Ford employs about 177,000 people worldwide.  More information about the company and its products and services is available at

About the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Founded in 1965, The Wright Museum opens minds and changes lives through the exploration and celebration of African American history and culture. Our vision is of a world in which the adversity and achievement of African American history INSPIRE EVERYONE toward greater UNDERSTANDING, ACCEPTANCE, and UNITY. For more information, please visit

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