May 22, 2014 at 1:00 am

Ford Freedom Award student contest winners honored

The 2014 Ford Freedom Essay Contest winners and officials include, top row, Jacijane Lybbert, left; Jim Val la, president of Ford Motor Co. Fund; Kweku Mandela; Myrlie Evers-Williams; Juanita Moore, Charles H. Wri ght Museum president; Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson; and Kevin Tolbert. In the bottom row are Gabriel Run yon, left, Mehlam Kadwalwala, Zach McKibbon, Christa Buehler, Ciera Collier and Abigail Bogits, standing. (Lisa Wilmore)

Christa Buehler’s essay “The Power of Perseverance” earned her first place in the 2014 Ford Freedom Award Essay Contest.

The Belmont student was honored at an award ceremony Wednesday at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, along with two second-place winners: sixth-grader Jackijane Lybbert of Bloomfield Hills and fifth-grader Gabriel Runyon of Westland.

Honorable mentions were given to Mehlam Kadwalwala of Rochester Hills, Ciera Collier of Clinton Township, Abigail Bogits of Ypsilanti and Zach McKibbon of Farmington Hills.

The award ceremony also featured appearances by Nickelodeon and Disney Channel actors and brothers Christopher and Kyle Massey.

Buehler, an eighth-grader at Our Lady of Consolation, wins a $5,000 scholarship, a medal and certificate of merit. Second-place winners each get a $2,500 scholarship. Because there were two second-place winners this year, no third place was awarded. Honorable mentions receive a $250 scholarship.

The essay contest runs in conjunction with the Ford Freedom Awards, which were held Wednesday evening at Music Hall and featured tributes to the late Nelson Mandela and civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams. A special award was given to U.S. Air Force retiree and Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com