The 2010-2011 Essay Contest:
Honorable Mention

High School Division Honorable Mention

Felicia DePriest
Grade 12
Immaculata High School
Leavenworth, Kansas

Fear, Stereotypes, and Prejudices

The media, with its unlimited influence, has great power when it comes to influencing its viewers. Whether or not the viewers realize it, every message delivered through the media has an intent to either persuade or inform. Often times, those who present the information are biased, bringing with them their own opinions that become mixed within the facts. The result of such a message is that viewers are unable to separate the fact from opinion, which in turn, creates an inaccurate message filled with fear, stereotypes, and prejudices.

I too fell victim to messages delivered by the media. However, it was not with anger that I developed prejudices- it was from fear. Until September eleventh, I did not know what terrorism was, but I was soon introduced to it. Having been introduced to terrorism at such a time made me even more vulnerable to developing my own stereotypes. No one, not even I, immediately saw the issue that was coming about -the unfair depiction of the Middle East and its inhabitants.

Two years after September eleventh, I was in an airport, waiting for a flight to Chicago. As I sat there waiting, I looked around, nervous with images of the fatal plane crashes flickering in my mind. As I looked around, a family caught my attention. Going through security was a family from the Middle East. At the sight of the man and the unfamiliar clothes he wore, I grew nervous, in my mind, wondering if he could be a terrorist. After he passed, I looked back to see a woman dressed in all black. Her body was completely covered, all except her face.

After a longer than necessary bag search, she was allowed t continue on through security. Grabbing her checked bags, the woman walked over to her husband who stood waiting for her. There the two stood, waiting for something else. I turned my focus back to the area they had come from. Standing there, attempting to take her bag off of the conveyer belt, was a little girl.

The little girl looked to be five, about half of my own age. She had long black hair and dark skin, and she wore a red jumper. As she passed through security, dragging her bag that was too heavy for her, she made her way towards her parents. All of a sudden, the little girl stopped. It took me several moments to realize that she was looking directly at me. Embarrassed because I had been caught staring, I turned and looked away. Several moments later, with my nose pressed into a book, attempting to hide, I felt someone tap on my knee. Moving the book away from my face, I saw the little girl was standing right in front of me. As I looked at her, I glanced back to her parents, who were beginning to move in our direction, obviously just as confused as I was. The little girl gave me a big smile and proceeded to unzip her bag and begin looking for something. Just before her parents grew nearer, the little girl resurfaced from the floor and pulled out of her bag the item she had been looking for. The item was a doll, a doll that I was quite familiar with. Excitedly, the little girl pointed to my own bag that sat beside me. There, sticking out from the top was the head of my own doll. In that moment, I understood. I unzipped my own bag and held the doll, the very same doll the little girl was holding. I smiled back at her.

"I like Felicity," she said. When she spoke, it surprised me how clear her English was.

"Me, too. She is my favorite," I responded. My mom now took notice, before having been consumed with her magazine in her hand.

"Felicia," she said to me, "Who is this?" She was smiling at the little girl, wondering what encounter she had missed.

"A friend." That was all the little girl had said as she gave me a smile that was bigger than any I had ever seen.

"We are sorry for bothering you," said the little girl's father as he put a hand on her shoulder and attempted to direct the little girl's attention elsewhere. At that moment the woman in black spoke to the little girl in a language I was unable to understand.

"It was nice to meet you, too," she said. The little girl grabbed her doll and squeezed it towards her chest as she turned around. I watched as the family walked away; the man carrying the bags, the woman holding the girl's hand, and the little girl hugging her doll.

After the family was out of my sight, I looked back down at the doll in my hands. Felicity was my American Girl doll, my most prized possession. At that moment, I understood that the little girl and I were not much different from each other; the only difference was the color of our skin.

I was ten years old when I realized my judgment had been wrong. Looking back, I am disappointed in myself for having been so impressionable. When I first saw the family, the immediate idea that ran through my mind was terrorist. That horrible stereotype is one that the entire nation, even now, needs to be focused on destroying. The only way to go about changing this stereotype and obliterating the prejudice is by spreading awareness. Through awareness, sharing the stories of Middle Easterners who have been hurt by prejudices, who have been insulted by fearful Americans, change can be achieved. But the ultimate source of change comes not from the media who holds all of the power, but from the people. As people open their hearts and remember to be accepting, forgiving, and compassionate, we can destroy the prejudices that the media has forced us to conceive.

Andrea Dygert
Grade 12
York High School
Seaford, Virginia

Erase the Judgment

"You don't want to do this, man," says Jake. "It's too late, Jake. Like you ever cared," replies his classmate Roger. Bang. A gun shot echoes throughout the halls. This is the last image of Roger Dawson that his fellow students have of him before he commits suicide in front of almost the entire student body in the 2010 movie, To Save a Life.

The movie tells the story of Jake Taylor, the school's popular star basketball player and his journey from being selfish and careless of those around him to being kind-hearted and open to others, no matter their differences from him. Jake was childhood best friends with Roger, the boy who committed suicide. They were so close that Roger even ran in front of a car to push Jake out of the way, and got hit instead. Because of this incident, Roger has a limp for the rest of his short life - one of the big reasons for his ostracism from his classmates and being an 'outcast'. As the two grow older, Jake grows more popular and eventually ditches Roger their freshman year of high school. Sadly, this event is the last time the two separated friends talk to each other until the moments before Roger's suicide.

After Roger's death, Jake realizes how cruelly he judged Roger for being the 'weird kid', and how wrong it was for him to go along with the condemnation that his new friends directed toward his old friend. His eyes are also opened to how ignorant he's been of other people around him like Roger that are really not all that different from him, but are ignored for going against the crowd. He starts befriending others outside of his clique that he normally would have never given a moment's thought, like Johnny Garcia, an anime and video game lover and online friend of Roger's, who sits by himself at lunch until the day Jake invites him to sit with his group of newfound friends. As the movies ends, Jake reads a letter that Johnny gives him before Jake leaves for college, and in it, Johnny says that although he claimed to have never thought of committing suicide like Roger, he had seriously been considering it until Jake reached out and invited him to lunch, despite their outward differences, and showed him what true friendship is.

This movie had a huge impact on its audience that it reached, allowing people, including myself, to recognize their own prejudices against the 'outcasts' in their own lives. It's a beautiful portrayal, in a sad but uplifting way, of the typical issues teenagers deal with. With all the stereotypes of teenagers addressed including Goths, geeks, church kids, and skater kids, the audience (especially teens) recognize their own prejudices that they hold in their hearts and that influence how they act towards and feel about certain people in a negative way.

I can't even explain in words how hard it was for me to watch To Save a Life. I realized that although I'm not a bully, I definitely am a bystander. I used to basically judge who was 'worth' standing up for when harm in school like bullying came their way; sadly, it only used to be my friends that made that list. I also realized that while not saying hateful words to peoples' faces, I judged many of my classmates on the some of the same stereotypes that the movie talked about.

The second time I watched the movie, after it came out on DVD, was about three weeks after a fifteen year old boy committed suicide at a high school five minutes from my house. He had just moved from Texas to escape bullying at his school there and after about six months of being cruelly bullied for "being emo" among other wrongful judgments, he took his own life. Although I didn't know him, I was devastated. This movie four months previously had changed my whole outlook on how I viewed people, and all of sudden, in what I thought was the comfort of my own town, a sweet young person decided that he wasn't worth it because people had their prejudices and decided to voice them into torturous words. In reality, he wasn't the weird kid; he volunteered continuously, and put a smile on the faces of his siblings, parents, and friends.

I learned from this that people aren't as different from each other as they think. Classifications, prejudices, and social classes only cause false labeling and unfair judgment. If people took time to get to know people outside of their 'cliques', the world would be a much better place. This sounds like a cliché but it is one of the truest things I've learned to embrace. There would be less innocent and beautiful lives lost, and people would feel more loved, more important, and more accepted.

Some people seem to think that they need to do huge petitioning to international campaigns and countries' politicians to move towards peace. It is the right path for some, but for how about starting with reaching out to make new friends? My friends and I have been spotting out new and lonely students, and inviting them to eat with us. Some have found new friends in the room, some have stayed with us throughout this year, and others always pass with friendly smiles in the halls. True gratification comes from seeing the peace in eyes that used to be saddened, and to make a true and positive difference in someone's life, not from laughing along with friends at the expense of someone else's pain.

In the movie, Jake asks a group of teens, referring to a presentation about Roger, "What's the point of all of this if you're not going to let it change you?" That's what teens need to ask themselves when there is clearly so much pain from prejudice going on in their schools. Reach out, and you may save a life.

Azya C. Glass
Grade 12
Dutchtown High School
Stockbridge, Georgia

What Does a Racist Look Like?

What does a racist look like? I've seen on television and movies the image of an old man wearing a buzz cut, overalls, old work boots, chewing tobacco and spitting it out whenever a person of color walks by. I've also seen the image of a young man, bald or wearing a mohawk, flannel shirt, baggy jeans with chains hanging from the side, platform boots, tattoos and piercings who sneer and snarl at people walking by. Both images depict a white person who is obviously disgusted by someone who is not the same as them. I was terrified at both images and learned to stay clear of people that looked like that because, as a person of color, I didn't want anything violent to happen to me.

My parents certainly didn't teach me to be afraid of white people. My parents are the 70s generation of black folks who missed out on the angst of the Civil Rights movement and grew up with equal rights, Affirmative Action and integrated schools. My mom is even bi-racial, so I had the privilege of growing up in a melting pot of ethnic and racial cultures. My parents told me that all people are equal and to never judge anyone by how they look. But when I see a buzz cut wearing old white guy or a mohawk wearing, tatted up young guy, you can best believe that I am crossing to the other side of the street. So how did I learn to be so terrified of these types of people?

In the movie Higher Learning, actor Michael Rapaport plays a sheltered young man who enters college and immediately gets recruited by the local Aryan Nation group. He quickly turns from a naive young man into an angry racist. At the end, he climbs the watch tower on the college campus to shoot innocent black students. Although the movie was made in 1995, I saw the movie when I was 12 and it left me sad and disturbed. Guess how he looked when he climbed that watch tower? Flannel shirt... Mohawk... tattoos... complete with the sneer and the snarl.

My next nightmare example of a racist can be seen in just about any documentary or movie depicting the Jim Crow and Civil Rights era. Growing up in the South, I see this man with the buzz cut, country drawl, overalls and chewing tobacco everywhere. I don't make eye contact and I try to put as much distance as possible between me and that person as I can. After all, more likely than not, he probably doesn't like "my kind," so why antagonize him?

Isn't judging someone by the way they look the essence of prejudice and racism? Personally, I have never spoken to anyone who fits the description of these images, so how do I know definitively that these people do not like me because I'm not white? I watch movies and that is what the bad guy looked like. So wouldn't it be the smart thing to heed the message of the movie and be leery of people who look like that?

One day when I was shopping at the mall with some friends, I saw the Mohawk guy. It was summertime in Georgia, but he stood out like a sore thumb. Not just because he was wearing a long trench coat in 90 degree weather. But because he had the spiky hair, multiple piercings, eye makeup, chains and spikes, platform boots and ripped up clothes in a suburban mall. Parents would turn the corner, see him and turn the other direction. I saw him and my heart started beating fast. Why did I have to be in the mall with all of my black friends on this day? When we were leaving the mall and walking to the parking lot, I saw him standing at the bus stop. My car was parked in that direction so I kept my eyes on him as I walked close and closer. It was really hot that day and I watched him take off his trench coat. I then watched him as he turned his back to me while he took off his shirt. On his back, tattooed in large black letters were two words that I will never forget: END RACISM. I immediately stopped dead in my tracks while I read it again and again. And as I became enlightened by the words, I felt a cool breeze on this hot day and my eyes became clearer as I watched him get on the bus. It literally felt like the prejudice and fear that I had stored for people that looked like him blew away with the wind. If I don't ever want to be judged by the way I look or dress, then how can I do that to others? I was no better than the people that I had in my mind's eye. But now, I knew that I could not go back to thinking the same things. It's the old adage; you can't judge a book by its cover. Or better yet, it's part of Martin Luther King's dream where you are judged by the content of your character and not the color of your skin.

So how do I impart this revelation in my day to day interactions with other people? It's not something as big as doing motivational speeches or sharing this particular story with anyone who will listen. It's how I speak to people while in line at the grocery store. And how I smile at someone while I walk down the hallway at school even if I don't know who they are. I still haven't had a chance to speak to the guy with the buzz cut, overalls and chewing tobacco. But when I do get the chance, I won't cross the street to the other side and I'll simply say hello.

Katie Snider
Grade 12
Riverdale High School
Mt. Blanchard, Ohio

Counter-acting Prejudice Media Epidemic

In almost every television show and children's book that I was exposed to as a child, I came to know communities that consisted primarily of Caucasian Americans with very few minorities or African Americans present in these communities. I did not look down upon the African Americans or think of them any differently than the Caucasian Americans. When I began to think about racial differences in my own life, I reasoned that if I had a few African American friends, I would not be racist or prejudice towards any African American people. This was the impression that I was given through television shows and story books as a child. The media that I had been exposed to caused me to limit my way of thinking to only noticing African Americans as the minority within a primarily Caucasian community. I had unintentionally learned to ignore the communities where Caucasian people were the minority. This made me realize a prejudice of my own: I was accepting of African Americans who were the minority in a community, but when I became the minority, I felt uncomfortable and unsafe, regardless of the fact that I had several African American friends. When I realized my own prejudice and where it had originated, I felt that I had to do something to change my own prejudice towards African Americans as well as educate new generations more accurately about multi-cultural acceptance.

When I realized my own prejudice and where it had originated, I felt that I had to do something to change my own prejudice towards African Americans. I re-examined the way I viewed people. I realized that I was judging African Americans within African American societies much more harshly than I did Caucasians or African Americans within a primarily Caucasian society. I came to realize that this was because I did not understand the culture or background of African Americans. I also noted that I accepted African Americans within a primarily Caucasian community so easily because they had conformed to the Caucasian cultural styles in most aspects of the ways they lived. I began to become aware of the humongous influence that the African people within America's history had on their behaviors and ways of life. I realized that many of them did not trust the police or American governmental authorities because of the American government's past history of discriminating against them. I remembered that the American government had promised them that African American schools and public areas would be equal with Caucasian facilities, but our government did not uphold to these claims. I remembered learning about the terrible treatment that African Americans received from their Caucasian neighbors such as lynching. Our American government promised African Americans the right to vote with an official amendment to the constitution, but our government still implemented laws designed to stop African Americans from voting. When African Americans were promised citizenship from the American government, they were still discriminated against and did not receive all of the same citizenship rights as Caucasian Americans. The American government has also attempted to take away any African culture and force America's western ways of life on them. The Caucasians of America also discriminated against African Americans in the employment process for jobs, making it difficult for them to survive. The African American people have been taken advantage of by their government and fellow Caucasian citizens for hundreds of years, and the government has not yet earned the full trust of their African American citizens. Recalling their background helped me to put myself in their shoes and understand their lives better.

When I realized my own prejudice and where it had originated, I felt that I had to do something to educate new generations more accurately about multicultural acceptance. Since I am currently employed at a daycare facility, I decided that the daycare would be a good place to start my work of creating an accepting, understanding community of Americans, regardless of cultural backgrounds. I began selecting some movies that a mixture of races represented and some movies where Caucasian people were the minority. My hope was to expose children to these types of communities and people, so that they would eventually develop a healthy view of racial acceptance and cultural backgrounds. I also began selecting picture books that had different races represented, as well as some story lines that were developed to help children understand racial acceptance. I plan to continue teaching young children about the beauty of people's differences and their ability to live together in peace. This is my way of helping to counteract the prejudice media and help to make our world a better place!

Fabricio Torrez
Grade 12
Sandalwood High School
Jacksonville, Florida

Social Empathy: the Key to Happyness

Social empathy is the key to someone else's shoes. With everyone walking around, living their daily lives, we sometimes forget about whom we really are and who we share this wonderful world with. We all share life's up and downs, but what we sometimes lack in sharing is social empathy for each other. The steps are simple and quick, but procrastination and prioritizing take over our schedule to help those in need of our help. I used to be a statistic; I never gave my time to others, I thought I had better things to do until I saw a movie and it changed my perception of the entire world. I started helping in the community and at school; empathy started to seep through soul. I have been a changed man ever since.

One of the few times in my life I was able to see a homeless person sleeping on a bench, I clearly remember being frightened, but not for his life, but for mine. I used to turn the other cheek even though I knew I could lend a hand. And it was not until I saw a movie on TV one hot summer night that my perception of the homeless started to change. The movie was The Pursuit of Happyness, a film about the struggles of father and son, when economic troubles force them to become homeless individuals who even have to sleep in cramped and dirty subway bathrooms. The movie had a great script, but what really reached out to me was the suffering son when he saw the situation his dad was in and his perpetual hope for the best. The credits came on, but I wanted to see more and thus my want to help the homeless began. No longer was I afraid when I saw a homeless person, instead upon came a sense of hope and want to help that person stabilize themselves and become once again, an important part in society's prosperity.

Community service ranges from local to national, and from publicly noticed to probably never being noticed; what ever one does to help society is community service. I have helped my local community through services like helping at the local food bank or donating my own money to a homeless man in need, all to benefit my society and myself. Every time I help someone out, I get a shower of happiness over my day. While many declare to be in search of happiness, I believe they are looking in the wrong place; there is no bigger reward to the soul like the gift of gratitude one receives when you share empathy, nothing come close to the amount of ecstasy your soul is injected with. Happiness would never be closer in reach.

Happiness is a needle in a haystack, some will never find it. I believe everyone can change; even the most stubborn have moments in their life in which they realize change is good. I used to consider myself ignorant and cold hearted, but after I started to share empathy with others around me, I noticed I was beginning to change. No longer did I feel like a cold and dark person; empathy had changed my life.

Read the High School 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Essays

Middle School Division Honorable Mention

Allison Gilbreth
Grade 8
Indian Valley Middle School
Springfield, Ohio

The Former Queen-Bee

I stared at my reflection in the mirror. I've never hated my own appearance so much. I was a picture perfect model of what everyone wanted to look like, with my blonde hair, blue eyes and perfectly tan skin. Here in Mexico, my new home, I looked like an alien from another planet more than a new girl at school. We had just moved here from the U.S. and everything about me was different, from the language I spoke to the life I had lived. At school everyone around me had jet black hair, brown skin, and dark eyes. They all spoke Spanish, while I spoke only English. I knew people were discriminated against all the time, but never would I have thought it would happen to me.

This would be the beginning of the storyline for my movie. When you think of discrimination, you think of race. When you think of race you think of discrimination toward African Americans in mostly white communities, but really it happens all over the world. TV can display some ideas that cause people to discriminate others without thinking about how bad they would feel if it were to happen to them. This movie would be a great example of how a girl handles being a target of discrimination and helps prevent it at her school. This character would be someone you would least expect to be a target. In fact you would think she'd be the one discriminating others.

As the story continued she would have flashbacks to the times when she was queen-bee of her school in America and discriminated against others. She would feel terrible about her past actions and set out to change herself along with her community. She would do things to help lift others up, rather than tear them down. Her feelings of loneliness will make her breakthrough to the understanding that knowing the true personality of someone is what really counts. Soon her classmates would join her on her mission for change. Going from the top of the social ladder to the very bottom and having things done to her that she used to do to others will really grab her attention. This causes her to understand where she was wrong and do everything she can so she looks for the best in others, rather than their flaws.

I would call this movie: The Former Queen-Bee and I think it would really grab the attention of middle school and high school students, a group that can be hard to reach. There are lots of forms of discrimination that are often overlooked. Taking attention away from our own imperfections is often why middle school and high school students discriminate. Our main character will use kindness and the power of reassurance to not only boost the victim but also change the attitude of the discriminator. The class clown who was looking for attention to make everyone around him laugh, never stopped to think about the feeling s of whom he was laughing at. Our character stands up for the victim and teaches her how to stand up for herself, not letting the jokes get to her and not giving the discriminators the pleasure their looking for. I think the movie would make people take a look at the other side of the problem and understand how hurtful discrimination really is. It should cause them to feel good about themselves and not need to make fun of others. The movie could make kids accept the things that appear strange or different and allow them to let go of their prejudice and bias thoughts toward others. It would cause kids to walk in the footsteps of someone who is being discriminated and realize how bad they must feel. Kids would start being aware of what they say and do and be more considerate of others. Discrimination is a big issue, but this movie could help get us moving in the right direction toward change.

Michael Jensen
Grade 7
Vernon Center Middle School
Vernon, Connecticut

The Fat and the Furious

My movie will be called The Fat and the Furious. It will be about an overweight boy named Dan in seventh grade who gets teased all the time. Since everyone avoids him and makes fun of him because of his weight, he doesn't get the chance to prove to anyone that he is really nice on the inside.

One day while he is walking down the hall in his school, Dan sees a flier. It says, "Cart Race sponsored by the mayor Friday at the hill on Lake Street. Admission is $5. First place takes home a huge trophy!" Dan realized that this could be his chance to prove to everyone that he isn't as different as everyone thinks he is.

After school he took the bus home, went into his garage, and started working on his racing cart right away. Since it was only Monday, he had plenty of time to build it before Friday. Two hours later he was exhausted from building his cart, so he ate dinner and went to bed.

The next day he got up, ate breakfast, and went to school. While Dan was walking to his Block 1 class a kid walked up to him and started teasing him about entering the race. He said that he was never going to win and that his cart will break halfway down the hill because he weighed too much. Even though his words were hurtful, Dan was still determined to win the race. At the end of Block 8 he quickly ran home and started working on his cart right away. Dan stayed up all night building it. Then Dan went to bed, almost finished with his cart.

Dan woke up, got ready, and went to school just like he did almost every day. Dan noticed that everyone was avoiding him, and that no one was making fun of him. Dan thought that he had finally earned some respect by entering the race. With that thought in his head, he went to his class. (6 hours later) Dan finally got home after a long day of not being bullied. He set his backpack down and was making the finishing touches to his racing cart. By 6:30 P.M., he was finished. Dan was so excited that he skipped dinner and went straight to bed. The next morning Dan woke up, got ready, and went to school. His day was just like Wednesday. Everyone seemed to be avoiding him. He wondered why.

Dan got off the bus and started walking toward his house. When he got home, he noticed a note on his garage. It said, "You will never win!" Hardly discouraged by the note he received, he opened his garage only to find his cart destroyed. "So that's what they were planning," he said to himself. Then he started to cry and stomped to his room. When his dad asked him what was wrong, he told him about how he was going to enter a cart race and when he got home he found his cart destroyed. His dad left the room for a minute, only to return with a dusty old cart in his hands. He told Dan to use this cart instead. He also told him that he used to be a little overweight and he still entered those races with his cart and won every time. That cheered Dan up. His father left the room and Dan went to bed.

The next morning at school everyone was laughing at how they destroyed his cart. Dan barely survived the day without crying. When he got home, he grabbed $5 off of the counter and dragged his dad's cart to the race. When he got there, he noticed that this race was more popular than he thought. There were at least 30 other carts participating in the race. Then someone on the microphone told everyone to get ready. Everyone got in there carts, a few snickered at how slow Dan took to get in his. Then the person on the microphone was speaking again. He said, "On your marks, get set, GO!" At that moment everyone released the breaks on their carts and flew down the hill. Dan was immediately in the lead, but other carts were gaining fast. Finally, Dan was neck and neck with cart 14 as he flew through the finish line. The judges picked the winner, and it was Dan. The kid in cart 14 looked so disappointed that he was almost going to cry. At that moment Dan realized what he had to do to gain respect. He slowly walked over to the kid in cart 14 and gave him the trophy. From that day forward, no one ever picked on Dan again.

Hijab Khan
Grade 7
Vernon Center Middle School
Vernon, Connecticut

Finding Happiness

My movie would be called Finding Happiness. The movie would be about a guy, named Grant, who goes to a school where people do not accept because he is gay. He has only a father to support him, and he doesn't feel like dad does because his father always takes his step-son to all the basketball games and football games. His father doesn't take him to do any guy stuff. This is only at home; at his public high school he has to deal with a lot more. He has to deal with people calling him names and football players beating him up and also calling him names.

One day Grant was getting so angry and noticed something while he is taking all of his anger out while he is outside kicking a soccer ball. He noticed that he is an amazing kicker and he can kick very hard and very far. He is amazed by it, and when goes back to the locker room to change, he sees the football team needs a kicker. Grant very excitedly changes and then goes to the football coach he tells him that he can be the kicker for their football team.

The football coach just stared and then he says, "You are going to have to go to try outs like every-one else." Grant is wondering how much better his life will be know that his father will start to take him to basket ball games and how everyone will look up to him because he will be in the football team

Grant goes to the try outs. He walks on to the football field. The entire football team looks at him and start to laugh and some even fall to the ground. The coach calls the people one by one, and then comes Grant. He puffs his chest up and shows all of his courage and then walks on to the grass and then he goes and he kicks the ball. It goes through the goal and he makes a field goal. Everyone thinks it's just good luck, but then he does it again and again and again. He looks behind him and sees all the football players who used to throw him in the dumpster. They are all sitting there with wide eyes and some even have their mouths opened. He asked the coach if he made the team. The coach said that he will let him know, but it is obvious that he made the team. At the end of the day the coach comes to Grant and tells him that he made the team. Grant gets so excited that he starts to jump up and down. The coach also tells him that his first game is on Friday. After that he goes home and tells his surprised father about what happened. Grant's father tells him that he will be at every game and there to cheer him on.

On Thursday while Grant is English he gets a note from the high school quarter back. It says that after the game everyone is going to go to his house for an after game party. He is very surprised by this invitation, but accepted to go. Then finally comes Friday, the day of the big game. Grant is ecstatic. The game goes by grants high school is down by one. Then when both teams are tied, it is Grant's turn to kick the ball. This will determine if Grants team will win or lose. He kicks and the ball goes up and up and then slowly into the goal. IT WENT INTO THE GOAL. His team won because of him. He arrives to the party on other peoples shoulders. Everyone loves him. And his dad was also there to support him. Now everyone accept him. And at the party all of the football players that used to throw him in the dumpster came up to him and apologized very sincerely and then told him how great he did. When people researched a little about the team they found out that he was the first homosexual person on his school's football team.

Even though everyone thought Grant is now a hero, maybe if he hadn't had the talent to be a football player, but was still a normal guy that was homosexual. Would he still get bullied? Would people treat him any differently? The question still remains that if he didn't win the game would he still be treated the same.

Kirsten Lawson
Grade 8
Indian Valley Middle School
Enon, Ohio

Together We Can

I believe that discrimination starts very early in life. Whether it's how many toys you have, how high you can swing, or how well you can color, throughout your life someone will always be judging you, and you judging them. That is why I am here to propose an idea to stop discrimination early.

One of the biggest forms of prejudice I see in my daily life is against people with handicaps. Mental or physical, people do not understand that just because that they may look or act different they are really just like anyone else: human. Most people have developed a natural aversion to them, because they do not understand them, and, as a part of human nature people fear the unknown. This, I have decided, needs to change.

But how to do it? When dealing with children and trying to teach them a lesson, you need a way to do this without boring them, something that will capture, and hold, a child's attention. That's when it came to me, the perfect way to influence today's youth: Television.

My idea consists of a cartoon, something children could easily relate to and enjoy. The basis of my show will be consistent to the storyline of the popular cartoon, Dora The Explorer. The cartoon will feature a child who is physically impaired and restrained to a wheel chair, going on a number of journeys. Along with this boy will be a group of friends, who, although not handicapped like the main character, Sam, are able to interact with him without difficulty, and are even able to help him with some of the many challenges he faces on there trips.

In the show, Sam is not the only character who faces difficulties, though. His friends will also face several problems of their own, which Sam will then help them. The message I hope to convey by this is that everyone has something to offer, and by combining your talents, anything is possible. Basically, the message of the show is also the name of the show, because, Together We Can.

With this show I'm looking to achieve an understanding of those with handicaps. I think by placing this serious subject in such a carefree environment that children will be more perceptible to the message I am trying to teach. And maybe, just maybe, with the help of the media, you, me, and the children, we may someday bridge the gap between us, and end discrimination against the handicapped. Thus proving, that, indeed, Together We Can.

Molly Lippitt
Grade 8
West Hills Middle School
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan

Skate to the Top

Girls can do anything boys can do. Everyone says it all of the time. They envision this is true, but their actions allege that they believe differently. Kids are compelled to live with this every day. At my elementary school, girls never played sports with the boys at recess, and many of them wanted to. And even if they did play in the game, everyone ignored them and never permitted them to fully join in. It's about time that this changed. If I were to create a movie that prevented discrimination, I would make it about discrimination of gender, and make it the most common example; sports. The movie I have created, Skate to the Top, is about proving that 'girls can do anything boys can do' is a true statement.

The setting of my story is Manhattan. The protagonist is a fourteen year old girl named Brooke who has never played a sport in her life. One chilly fall afternoon, Brooke walks home from school to see her seventeen year old brother Devon and his friend playing hockey at the park. She watches for a bit, and is surprised to see that she enjoys observing the sport. She asks if she can play with them, and the boys expect her to be awful at the sport. But in the first thirty seconds of the game, she whirled around her brother and shoots the puck into the goal so fast they could hear the wind. This was a big deal because it was her first time playing hockey and Devon and his friends were on the high school varsity team. They practiced more and more with Brooke, and over just a couple of weeks, she developed an abiding and potent love for hockey.

Around the end of fall, her middle school hockey team tryouts were due to start the following week. Brooke longed to play with the boys at her school, and she bet that she was as good of a player as most of them. Brooke asked her gym teacher about joining the team, but he just said that girls never play with the boys. Brooke refused to squander her talent. Frustrated and determined, Brooke did some research later that night. She found that there were no rules that kept girls from playing on the hockey team. She told the coach this before tryouts, and he, cornered, allowed her to play. Brooke got a familiar rush from playing hockey, weaving around each player as she raced to the goal, and as usual, scored. About half of the boys were impressed, and the other half were incensed that she was beating them. She made the team.

At the beginning of the season, the boys are vexed that she joined the team. But over time, Brooke becomes a teammate and friend to everyone, as do they to her. The antagonist of the story, Chris, stays enraged because he was the star player before Brooke joined the team. He is constantly bantering Brooke, but Brooke has become strong from this experience and is able to handle it well. When their team plays other teams, the boys and even the coaches make fun of her, but she proves them wrong by vanquishing them on the ice. At the end of the season, even Chris has warmed up to her. Brooke learns the value of being a team, and everyone on the team learns that girls can truly do anything boys can do.

When Brooke grows up, she becomes a professional hockey player. Her work, talent, determination, and dedication help her climb, or skate, her way to the top. She is a role model to kids and adults, and many middle and high school hockey teams now play with boys and girls.

This movie will help prevent discrimination because like Brooke and her teammates, they will learn that gender does not affect talent. The story takes place in everyday life, so kids will be able to relate to the story. It is a way to show kids this message without it being forced into their brain, like lectures at school. If the characters become 'real', then the audience will care about them. This will make them care and really listen to the theme of the movie.

This movie will be a great way for kids to learn about discrimination and want to stop it. Skate to the Top demonstrates that talent knows no gender.

Read the Middle School 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Essays