Three top winners of the ninth annual Hormel Foods Martin Luther King Jr. Essay Contest visited the Hormel Foods corporate office today to read their winning essays to employees of the global branded food company. The students – Sinan Sarihan Zafer Elvin from Oak Grove Elementary in Atlanta; Nailah Beachem from Chapel Hill Middle School in Atlanta; and Ashlyn Rose Bryant from Lonoke Middle School in Little Rock, Ark., – claimed top honors in a contest between more than 1,000 entries from 19 schools. Their visit marks the third time in as many years that Hormel Foods has invited essay winners to its Austin, Minn., headquarters for a reading.

The Hormel African American Resource Group (HAARG) sponsors the annual essay contest to honor the vision and work of the slain civil rights leader. The assignment is the same each year; students must write a brief narrative about what King’s teachings mean for them today. HAARG members read every essay that gets submitted, choosing five finalists from each school, from which one first-place finisher for each school is selected.

The competition is intended to bring to light the value and importance of cultural differences and provides a platform for celebrating diversity. The goals of the program are to promote Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy, encourage children to aim high, give them exposure to minority professionals in corporate America and to create a lasting partnership between Hormel Foods and local schools. Elementary and middle schools across the country are invited to join the competition.