‘We Are Different and That’s OK,’ Says CSM Essay Contest Winner, Courtney Flerlage


“Diversity is the spring from which human joy and worth drinks. It separates man from all other creatures.” So begins Courtney Flerlage’s essay “Giving Worth to Man,” the winner of the College of Southern Maryland’s annual Black History Month essay contest.

Flerlage, a junior at Thomas Stone High School in Waldorf, says she was able to write about diversity thanks to the positive climate at Thomas Stone. “It feels very diverse and not just in terms of race. You have people expressing different styles, attitudes, ideas and interests. Thomas Stone never feels the same,” said Flerlage, who added that her upbringing also influenced her essay.

“At home and through church (Calvary Chapel of Waldorf), I’ve learned that everyone is different and equal, and should be accepted for who they are, whatever their style is. Diversity is not just about race. It is about accepting people with different clothes, different ages, different foods, different incomes, people who participate in different activities, who have different interests and tastes in music. Learning to accept differences gives people respect for themselves and others,” she said.

Flerlage, who plays flute and piccolo in the band, enjoys her biology and English classes. “I really want to go to college and major in creative writing, mainly fiction and fantasy, but I haven’t seriously looked into schools yet,” she said. As the CSM essay contest winner, she receives a $500 performance award to attend classes at CSM.

“For true diversity to exist, people need to know not only who they are, but still be open to learning about others. Kids need to be raised to understand that we are all different and it’s OK,” said Flerlage.

For more than a decade, CSM’s Diversity Office has invited Southern Maryland’s high school juniors and seniors to participate in the college’s black history month essay contest. Participants select a topic from a provided list and essays are evaluated on clarity, coherence and content. For information about CSM’s contest, call 301-934-7659 or 301-870-2309, Ext. 7659 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7659 for St. Mary’s County; 443-550-6199, Ext. 7659 for Calvert County.