(WXYZ) - Hundreds of kids from across the state gathered at the Max M. Fisher Center to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Ford Freedom Award program.
They were part of the program's educational outreach. Civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis spoke to the elementary and middle school students.
He said his message to them is very simple. "If you see something wrong. Speak up and never be bitter or hostile."
The students participated in an essay contest. They were asked, "If you could present one Quiet Hero Award to one African-American, past or present, who would it be and why?"
Navid Hasan, a 4th grader from Grand Rapids chose Ruby Dunson, a Detroit woman who raised 10 neglected children. He won first place.
"I'm at a loss for words," Hasan said about his win.
This year's theme, Quiet Heroes, salutes honorees Congressman John Lewis and civil rights activists Johnnie R. Carr and Viola Liuzzo. It honors their humility, commitment and contribution to the African-American community.