‘Rebuilding is in our DNA’: 4th grade essay contest winner envisions Houston’s equitable future

Read her moving words as city looks toward its 200th anniversary

Areeba Hassan reading her winning essay, "Okay, Houston…We Have Solutions Here." (Khambrel Marshall/Blueprint for Houston’s Future Writing Contest, Khambrel Marshall/Blueprint for Houston’s Future Writing Contest)

HOUSTON – Areeba Hassan, a 4th grader from Roberts Elementary, is the citywide winner of the Blueprint for Houston’s Future Writing Contest.

The contest “fosters the imaginative creativity in young Houstonians and empowers them with the authority to architect their future,” according to a news release from the contest organizers. Houston2036 Taskforce on Equity hosted the event. The taskforce said it “has incited a transformative citywide movement to build justice through equity with action.”

In her essay, “Okay, Houston. We Have Solutions,” Areeba boldly called for equity and prosperity to reside in Houston symbiotically. She wrote that she would personally lead transformative education, health, criminal justice, and environment initiatives to address the historical injustice that specifically African Americans and Hispanic immigrants have endured. She closed by encouraging Houston. She wanted Houstonians to understand their strength, as a city, to transform disastrous conditions by recounting the innumerable times after horrific storms Houstonians come together to start over saying, “Rebuilding is in our DNA.”

This is her full essay:

“Okay, Houston…We Have Solutions Here”

“For nearly two centuries, Houston has grown as a city of prosperity. However, Houston has also struggled historically with the equity and integration of its people. After the Civil War, Houston’s white population did not support the newly freed black people coming to the city. Implicit segregation still impacts its minorities. As we near Houston’s 200th birthday, it is time to rebuild Houston as a city that cherishes equity as much as prosperity.”

“To its privileged community, Houston is the “Bayou City” and “Space City” with world-class museums, parks, schools, and hospitals. However, not every Houstonian gets the benefits of this grandeur. It is the 18th most racially segregated city in the nation. About 38% of children and one in every four adults live here in poverty. Many schools struggle for teachers, staff, and supplies. The city’s literacy rate is only 61% and one in every three adults in Houston does not have the skills needed for their job. In 2019, Houston had the highest number of residents without health insurance. The black and Hispanic people here suffer the most from lack of access to health care. In the COVID-19 pandemic, they have lost more lives than the other communities. They also get the least legal support during criminal charges. This situation is heartbreaking but with proper vision, plans, and actions, we can rebuild Houston as a city that champions equity in education, health care and justice.”

“In 2036, I want every school in Houston to have the necessary resources. People will have access to the best health care regardless of their insurance. Nobody will be conceived (sic) as a criminal because of their race. Lastly, Houston will be a clean and green city that cares as much for its nature as its people.”

“I am ready to lead in rebuilding Houston. I will initiate inter-school exchange programs and city-wide literacy clubs to make the best quality education accessible to everyone. I will also educate the youth to start small businesses. I will open community health clinics and legal assistance clinics and make volunteering for these institutions part of a graduation requirement in our school system. I will utilize online platforms and virtual meetings to connect the deprived people with my initiatives. Perhaps my plans are ambitious, but I can collaborate with organizations like ‘One Houston Together’ to leverage their infrastructure.”

“Houston has revived after many natural calamities. Rebuilding is in our DNA! I believe my enthusiasm, action plans, and effort will rebuild Houston by 2036 as a city of equity and prosperity.”

Areeba Hassan, center. (Houston’s Future Writing Contest via Khambrel Marshall)

For her winning essay, Areeba won a laptop, donated from Comcast Houston. She along with five other school winners received special recognition, prizes, and a class party. Those school winners who joined in the Blueprint for Houston’s Future celebration were Alexandria Garcia, fifth grade, Arabic Immersion Magnet School, Maxine Cotton, fourth grade, Baker Montessori School, Emaani Williams, fifth grade, Blackshear Elementary School, Gabriella Alonzo, fifth grade, Gross Elementary School, Mark Blanco, fourth grade, Herrera Elementary School.

KPRC 2 is an underwriter for the Houston’s Future Writing Contest.

Read all of the contest’s winning essays at houston2036.com. You can also learn more about Houston2036 Taskforce on Equity.