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City Desk

When members of the United Black Fund (UBF) launched their 8th annual “I Love Life and I Want to Live” contest this past winter, with cash awards of $100 to $400, they figured that they’d have no trouble getting D.C. public-school students to submit essays, posters, speeches, and rap songs by the contest’s March 15 deadline. Yet UBF spokesperson Joe Elam says that low participation has compelled his group to extend the contest deadline to April 10. He says that his organization distributed posters in February for the contest to D.C. schools and encouraged teachers to display them, but that many educators have been too distracted by the arrival of Superintendent Paul Vance (who replaced Arlene Ackerman last summer) to rally students to articulate their love of life via art. The change in leadership, says Elam, is a familiar obstacle. “That is what happens every time we start the campaign,” complains Elam. “There was [Gen. Julius] Becton, and then that lady….[Teachers are] all caught up in the system’s changes.” —Laura Lang