2015 Essay Contest Winners

Winner – Meghan Gilmore

of Fairview Middle School

The world is not something that can be learned from behind a textbook or screen. No matter how much you learn, no matter how opinions you form on the state of the world, a person is of no positive effect until they decide to help. Ignorance is, undoubtedly, a serious issue in our society but being aware of issues is only part of the solution. In the words of Dr. Jonnetta B. Cole, “[A]n education that teaches you to understand something about the world has done only half of the assignment. The other half is to teach you to do something about making the world a better place.”

Meghan Gilmore - Winner

Volunteering is exceptionally beneficial not only to the people around you, but to yourself. One of the best ways to understand is person has always been to walk a mile in their shoes; far from an easy task, but surely less difficult if you’re standing next to them. A strange distance exists in the dynamic of those who suffer and those who watch, a distance that often dilutes the victim’s pain. When someone is in front of you, with nowhere else to look but directly at their issues, it becomes so much easier to understand what the person is going through and how you can help.

During summer vacation, I volunteered at a summer reading camp for children who were struggling with the subject. Kids like the ones I met in those weeks are the kind that become statistics, trapped on a page until they’re discarded. Over those weeks I realized that they are all incredibly bright. Every day I found myself surprised by their intelligence; none of the children standing before me were hopeless, idiotic, or worthless. None of the issues they had were beyond repair. Working there made me realize that throughout my life I believed in the wrong idea. All of these kids, who I had thought to be doomed from the start, just needed some assistance. Being the person to help them made me se that I had been ignorant, and showed me how incorrect my assumptions were.

For some students, service is seen as nothing more than a grade, as something that has no purpose beyond college applications. The lack of visible results may sometimes give the impression that no changes are being made, but community service is one of the most important building blocks of our country. We have to look at each other when nobody else will lend a hand –organizations Habitat for Humanity and the Salvation Army have been doing this for decades. Without those who decide to help, our country will fall apart. Hunger, Homelessness, and misery would spread through it like cracks. Each case of service helps both parties involved; one person finally gets the help they need, and the other is a step closer to finally completing the rest of their full education.

Runner Up – Kirsten Whaley

of Deerlake Middle School

My interpretation of Johnnetta B. Cole’s quote is, “It’s not what my community can do for me, but what I can do for my community.” I feel acquiring a quality education and further enhancing your knowledge is vital in making the world a better place; however, how you apply it in the lives of others makes all the difference.

Kirsten Whaley - Runner Up

Learning outside the classroom can lead to a deeper understanding of the “real-world” that students can’t experience behind a desk. Community service has grown to be a vehicle for bringing a nation together. I feel that being involved in the community is a service that shines the light of importance of helping others. Not only does community service allow students the opportunity to make an impact in the life of others locally, but it also allows them to make a difference in society as a whole. Communities rely on the help of volunteers, because government doesn’t know all the true needs of its citizens. I like the fact that most school districts today require students to complete community service hours in order to graduate. This helps students to realize the importance of giving back and making a difference. This also helps to develop future leaders.

I believe volunteering makes a big impact not only on the community but within you. Doing something productive and helpful for you community makes you feel good about helping others and also teaches you values and skills which can be used in real life situations. It feels good to lend a helping hand and give up part of my time to make someone else’s job much easier and day much better. There are so many opportunities to help throughout the nation, and if everyone puts for the effort, it could lead to bigger, better and more positive outcomes in the communities.

Community service has also played a huge part in helping me decide my future goal to become a veterinarian. I have volunteered on the weekends at a local veterinarian office where I assist with taking care of the pets. I also volunteer at the pet adoption booth, where I assist with abused and abandoned animals that need a second chance at life. It’s rewarding to advocate for a new home on behalf of the animals. As a member of the Beta Club, I enjoy participating in the toy and canned food drives that gives back to the community for those in need. It’s a great satisfaction to know that a child had a toy to play with and someone did not go hungry.

I enjoy volunteering because it brings citizens within the community together to focus on improving the life of others. Giving service and time to others without expecting payment is one of the greatest feelings in the world. The desire to achieve does not come from dreams or wishes but the ability to do something about it.

Honorable Mention – Sarah Schaper

of the Homeschool Community

Have you ever thought about what would happen if we only taught children to recognize letters and never taught them to take that next step to help them form those letters into words? We would have many children knowing the alphabet but not knowing how to read. Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole understood this concept on a deeper level when she said “An education that teaches you to understand something about the world has done only half of the assignment. The other half is to teach you to do something about making the world a better place.” Just like not teaching a child how to use the alphabet, it would be a horrifying tragedy to teach about the needs of the community around you but never take the next step in getting involved to help make America stronger.

Sarah Schaper - Honorable Mention

There are many ways this quote can be lived out in our community. Teachers can provide the opportunity for their students to read for children in under privileged areas. This would help give children more confidence and direction. History teachers could embrace the elderly population by providing a time for students to gain firsthand knowledge about historical events in retirement homes or nursing homes. This would help close the gap between the older and younger generations as well as continue to give the elderly a purpose and joy in sharing their experiences. The possibilities are limitless.

I have had the privilege to serve in our community through Wildwood Ballet. Like most dance companies Wildwood Ballet is set up and structured to teach dance skills. They differ by taking that net step. The teachers have made opportunities for students to serve in their community. During the last few years, Wildwood Ballet has taken dance into places such as The Refuge House and more recently the Chelsea House. Wildwood ballet has recently put on a production called the Journey. They picked up women from the Chelsea house in a limousine, bought dresses for them, provided makeovers, and transported them to the show. After the show the dancers put on a reception just for the women. A total of $1,000 from the proceeds were donated to the Chelsea House. The women have gained hope and encouragement to make and achieve their goals. There is not doubt that participating in this outreach has given me a sense of pride and purpose.

Whether you’re a teacher or a student you can impact your community and America by simply taking that next step and applying Dr. Johnnetta B. Cole’s quote to our lives. I am a stronger person today because of my personal involvement in the community. A wise man once said “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12   Strong people make strong families. Strong families make stronger communities. Strong communities make America stronger. It’s time to get involved an help make America stronger.