URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — Today students from Champaign, Urbana, and Mahomet schools were honored at the Krannert performing arts center.

“You have the choice, and you have a voice. Say my voice,” said University of Illinois’ August Jenkins and the crowd sounded off.

Using your voice, was a powerful message that over 300 students in Champaign County got to hear and put into practice. They submitted poems, essays, artwork, and songs to the 21st annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr creative expression contest.

“They got the task, and they understood the assignment,” said franklin steam academy choir director, Jasmine Henderson.

38 students were given awards for their work. They sang songs to honor the work and legacy of Dr. King. Henderson said it was more than an art contest, but an opportunity to show her students what they are capable of.

“When my students stepped foot into the art center for the performing arts, they were so fascinated,” said Henderson.

“That can only happen if parents are there supporting those students,” said Glo Guerra Perez.

That support was felt when students walked onto the stage to accept their awards.

“I was so surprised when she called me at school and told me that she and her friends’ artwork had been chosen for this. I was so excited for her. I was hollering and yelling,” said Ashley Portis.

Students said it was more than just an awards show. Their takeaways were confidence, support, and pride.