2018 Essay Contest Winners


Zoe Albrigo

from Fairview Middle School

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

   — Leo Buscaglia

People are often ignorant to what goes on outside of their own world. We can ride in the car, or walk along the street and see nothing, but the truth is we pass some harrowing things. We could go and help those people in need, but we tend to ignore it. Leo Buscaglia says that, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn life around.” By this he means that people forget to be nice. We lack the empathy towards people who need it the most, and community service can help solve this problem.

A big aspect of community service is being able to talk to people. I personally, have never been than keen on talking to people I don’t know, but I think a lot of the service I did drove me down a different path. Just at the beginning of the year I had signed up for a youth group that focused on bringing the community together with community service. Up until that point I had never really thought what being social might do to help me, but this experience really opened my eyes. Every week or so, we would go down to the pumpkin patch and keep up the land, which required a lot of team work. It wasn’t until the third week that I really started to see the affect it ad on me. I had now started to talk to more people outside of school and answering questions in class seemed less daunting. My world had significantly improved since then.

Another big part of community service is actually working together with the community. It wasn’t until I volunteered at the Kate Sullivan Elementary School art festival that I really started to see what the community should look like and how just such little actions could really benefit someone. I was put at one of the stations where the kids were learning to maraca. I could look up and see all the adults smiling and everyone just having a good time. One person’s energy bound to another until they had all started to smile. Everything just seemed so perfect.

I can say now that community service has played a gigantic role in my life and towards my future. I now feel more comfortable going into high school now that I have adapted to a more social lifestyle. And after seeing what my community should look like I started to volunteer myself for more jobs so that I could be more helpful to the people around me. People often do underestimate the power of a kind gesture, but with community service, I think we help, and possibly, solve that problem.


Runner Up

Grace Dennig

from Holy Comforter Episcopal School

How many things can you say are in abundance in the hearts if each person on Earth? One thing I know remains prolific is compassion. Our hearts were created with fertile soil. It is imperative each person learn the power he or she has been given as a birthright. We all were given the power to show, give,, and receive compassion. Leo Buscaglia once said: “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn life around.” As I challenge myself to apply the learnings of the quote prior to entering high school, I ask myself, why our power to help others is often underestimated.

Understanding why we underestimate our power allows me a deeper understanding of the quote. I believe community service needs to be learned. Fortunately, I have had the chance to learn that you cannot help some else without helping yourself. However, many people never learned they have special gifts to share. Perhaps school could teach community service. Each person could learn safe opportunities available in our community, how to identify the compassion growing in his/her heart and learn that the gift of compassion is plentiful. Imagine a community where each student has been taught how to reap the crops they produce and cast seeds everywhere; the blooms our community would see!

When I was 10 years old, my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia. This lit a fire under me to do something. I started a program called “Bridging the Gap Between Today’s Youth and Our Elders.” The program led me to spend time at nursing homes and living assistance programs. Once a visit, I danced for over two dozen patients. The patients were smiling. The nurse point to a few Alzheimer’s patients and told me that making those patients smile for 5 minutes was equivalent to doing something that made others smile for 20 minutes. I was hooked; the power of the compassion in my heart was unleased! I just couldn’t believe I could make them smile that long.

Not underestimating the power of kindness, at age 13 I started “Giving Graces,” a program which encourages other to give random and deliberate acts of kindness. For example, on my 12th birthday, instead of asking my friends for boxed presents with bows, my friends gave from their heart to the charity of their choice in an effort to ‘give a grace’ to me. Some of my friends gave money to the cancer foundation, some gave needed items to the animal shelter, some gave their time to special needs of others and some gave to the arts within their community. Everyone sharing their experiences was eye opening; my friends began to consider volunteer opportunities they had never before considered.

We can unleash the power we already have within is to make our community better! We can utilize social media to promote community service and blast the message that volunteerism not only can be, but should be, a lifestyle for each of us. Every person has gifts that are needed by someone; share and share alike!


Honorable Mention

 Allie Boyd

from Augusta Raa Middle School

This quote, although it may seem cliché isn’t entirely true. Many people underestimate the little things, when, in reality, it’s the little things that count. This quote conveys that when we do something for someone, no matter how small, it has a positive impact on that person. We often underestimate what a small act of kindness can do. Small acts build up, so even if you just hold the door for someone every day or complement someone’s outfit, it impacts their life in a positive way. Volunteering is another great way to improve your community and the people who live in it. Community service has a lasting impact.

As a middle schooler, I have had the countless opportunities with my church to volunteer at many different places to benefit the community. I volunteered through a program called Epic Missions, which sends a volunteer group to different locations. We picked bean for a farm that donated all of its food to people in need, repainted a homeless shelter, visited Alzheimer’s patients, and volunteered at multiple other places as well. Even though at each place we only did a small act of caring, we helped turn lives around. The best illustration of this quote was visiting Alzheimer’s patients. We just sat and listened to their stories, but for some reason we were the only visitors. To see the joy on their faces as the talked with us was enough to know that even the smallest things can have a large impact on someone’s life. This can impact a community by helping people one person at a time.

I also participated in programs called Thirty Four Hour Famine. They raise finds to fight hunger. Part of the program is to experience hunger so the world can be hunger free, too fast for 30 hours. In 2014, 16,000 children younger than five died every day (that’s one child every  seconds), mostly from preventable cases, half tied to hunger. Our youth during part of the thirty hours of fasting volunteered, drawing attention to hunger and raising funds. This was a small act for each person individually but when you act as a community it becomes something that can impact people worldwide.

Starting with one person dong one small act we can change the world. Communities can help turn lives around. Small acts of caring are what really matter, volunteering some of your day to help those in need, even just acting to inspire others. Lead by example and start changing the world. In the wise words of Leo Buscaglia, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn life around.”