2012 Essay Contest Winners

Winner

Colleen Newton
Fairview Middle School

As students, we are constantly making decisions that shape the rest of our lives. Each choice we make can forever affect our future, our impact on society, and the way others perceive us. That’s why it is so important to develop our characters. Even a simple notion can spark a lifetime ideal – positive or negative. When we help out our communities, we are influencing ourselves in a positive way that often follows us throughout our adult lives. Each tiny thought, word, action, and habit, changes YOUR future.

This continuous sequence of events, this transformation of a single thought to one’s destiny, rests solely on you and your willpower. Middle-schoolers are at a pivotal point in their lives – and we can choose the actions that are going to shape our entire future! In my lifetime, I’ve tried to make decisions that will be constructive in the end. Our opportunities are growing, and helping others can only increase these opportunities. I’ve always felt that volunteering and community service are something that we, as citizens, are internally obligated to do. When we find a cause we care about, a cause we connect with, we are able to dedicate some time from our lives for this cause.

For me, this cause was homelessness. When I walk around this city, I see people trying to make it by on the street, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. For the past five years, I’ve dedicated my birthdays to volunteer work – a couple of friends and I hold a lemonade stand, where we raise funds for the shelter, and I accept only gifts of canned food for people who suffer from homelessness. It was a simple thought that has made a big difference in my life, and I hope, someone else’s life. This sympathy for people living in tough situations translated into a little fundraiser, which turned into a yearly tradition. Helping people this way has really inspired me: since, I have volunteered with the Homeless Shelter and other organizations, and I hope it has contributed to making me a more compassionate individual. A quick idea has easily morphed into a cherished ritual, and that alone should demonstrate the impact community service can have on your life.

Something as small as caring about something can change the outlook of your future. Whether you have a half-joking notion to become an actress, or a probing curiosity for science, or a love for animals: this seemingly small idea just might shape your fate. The ongoing transformation of words to actions, actions to habits, habits to character, and character to destiny, is always following us – it’s up to you to decide if you want to make a difference in this world.

Runner-Up

Simone Butler
Maclay School

“You must be the change you want to see in the world,” Gandhi once said. As a child you think that you could never make a difference in the world, but you can. It all starts with your thoughts. They soon become words, which becomes your actions, which become your habits, which become your character, which becomes your destiny.

Keep your thoughts on what really matters. Don’t clutter your brain with information that has no benefit to your community. If your thoughts are straight, then your words will be too. If you care about a goal it will be in your thoughts. Then, as the words start flowing out you will get closer to making that dream a reality. I sometimes think about how I can better myself and my community. After thinking about it enough I started to talk about it and before I knew it I was in the Hope Community kitchen cooking for the homeless. It’s always a good feeling to know that you can make an impact on someone’s life, but you have to think you can.

As you are acting out your thoughts and words you start to make it a habit to help. At first it may seem like going out of your way, but after a while it just becomes part of your daily life. Last summer I went on a mission trip to Haiti. There, I went to different orphanages and handed out shoes. It was a wonderful experience and you knew that you were making a difference when a child would smile at you. It really warmed my heart to know that I can help the less fortunate. You don’t have to go out of the country to make a difference, you can do activities like that in your home town. You would be surprised how a little goes a long way.

Habits are a major part of your character. If you have good, kind habits it will show in your character. While in the sixth grade I was given an opportunity to join my school’s Junior Beta Club. I joined because I thought it would be a great way to better myself. Since I joined, the club has done many things to help around town. Twice we’ve helped the Guardian Ad Litem by supplying them with Christmas gifts for their children. Even though I never got to meet the children, I knew that I did put a smile on their faces.

When I look back on all I have done in my thirteen years, I’m proud, and I know that I have a destiny to do much more in the future. I was able to take my thoughts and draw them out all the way so that they became my destiny. So even though I’m still young I know that I can make a difference wherever I go. Hopefully, Mahatma Gandhi would have been proud of me.

Honorable Mention

Alexandria Rogers
Fairview Middle School

I always monitor my thoughts, watching for what I think is good, and what isn’t. I do this now because once, a long time ago, so far I can barely remember, I didn’t. My thoughts were mean, targeting others. I didn’t believe that I would ever let them slip, but one day the words in my thoughts flew from my mouth. I gave no thought to the words either, until I started to act upon them. I acted as though I was better than the people closest to me. Soon, I couldn’t help it. The thoughts came in seconds, and a minute later they were flying from my mouth.  A minute after that I was acting like someone completely different, someone I never wanted to be.

I never gave much thought to habits, because for me, they were just another part of my day, something unavoidable. Today I spend most of my time erasing those habits and making better ones. It’s hard because those habits I developed so long ago are a part of me. These things that built upon each other are still haunting me today. They threaten my future, torture my past, and are with me in every moment of each day. I never thought that the things I said would still be impacting me so far down the road.

Hurtful things I’ve said to people caused my to ignore them, or them to ignore me, and now, I miss them with all my heart. Those are people I won’t get to speak to again because I hurt them so badly that they do everything in their power to avoid me. They resent me now because I spoke thoughts that were based off of the way they acted, which were just a result of how they spoke, thought and grew up. Today, I see those people and all I see in their eyes is sadness, resentment, and almost hatred because of little words that started as little thoughts.

So today, I monitor every habit, action, word and thought, because they make up the person that I am; the person standing in front of you. In my life I try to think less of the worst things about others, and more about their better qualities. I try to think about the things that they do to make themselves better people. My habits went from horrible; no studying, no homework, screaming and the like; to wonderful. I now work in my community, get straight A’s, and help other people in the position I was in just a year ago.

So on that note, I warn you: “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Choose your words, for they become actions. Understand your actions, for they become habits. Study your habits, for they will become your character. Develop your character, for it becomes your destiny.” And always, always, remember that there is time to change and people willing to help you, no matter what.

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