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Upon completing their written This I Believe essays, the honors scholars in HONOR 301H (The Role of Knowledge in Society) shared their statements of belief in personal audio recordings. Review them at http://www.personal.psu.edu/uxg3/blogs/honor301h/2011/08/2011thisibelieve.html

 


 


I Believe in Music - Jim Murphy, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

I believe that music makes us who we are. For some people it is a way of life, whether it is singing, playing, or even teaching music. Music is all around us, from hip hop to classical jazz, and we are unable to escape the wonderful sounds. Music is often used to display feelings by an artist so that his or her fans can relate to what they are trying to express. I believe that music can help me get out of stressful or uncertain times as artists can use their wise choice of words to make a song of grave influence to my mood. Also, I love to listen to music in a fun or joyful mood, but most of all, music really keeps me going when I am working out. When I am working out, there are songs that make me want to push through the pain, and make the sacrifices because I know it will all pay off in the end.

I believe that music has an impact on the type of people we hang out with. Music is a great thing to have in common with friends or family. Music has helped me make friends because we can relate to an artist or band and listen to them together. Music can move us in ways to come together as people with all different pasts and backgrounds. In different countries, a person my age can be interested in the same artist or band as me. Music is a bonding tool for every generation that has ever lived. It makes us come together and have the same feelings just from listening to a single song or a certain artist.

I believe that I cannot go anywhere without my iPod because music is moving and motivational. The wonderful sounds of music are everywhere, and I wish I could have music playing all the time because it never gets old. I believe in artists who make meaningful songs to inspire their fans. Music is all around us, and we are unable to escape its presence. Music will forever have an impact on my life, and every other life that will ever live. I believe that music will forever have a purpose in this world. I BELIEVE IN THE ART OF MUSIC.

 


 


Second Chances - Victoria Bolden, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

I failed my first driver’s test, and the experience was heart breaking. I did not accomplish my goal on my first try, but I decided that I was not going to quit. When offered, second chances are there for a reason. I had to learn from my mistake, correct the problem, and try again. Giving up was not in the second chances’ handbook. Trying something again took humility and courage, but I was willing to take on that challenge. My belief in second chances began to form.

During my first attempt, the driving instructor had me try to parallel park. This part of the test made me nervous. I only had six maneuvers in order to park the car. One, two, six, I was almost in, but I had been overcautious and was not fully in between the orange and silver barrels. All I could see were yellow poles sticking out of orange barrels that had been hidden from my view while I was trying to park. The back of the Volkswagen Jetta was protruding beyond the barrels. I failed my first test knowing what I needed to work on for next time.

When I arrived home, I immediately scheduled my second test. I was not going to give up or quit practicing. I decided to give myself a second chance and learn from my mistake and try again. I used the extra time to master parallel parking. Before the test, I did not believe I could park a car, but by the second test, I had the confidence to succeed.

I believed in giving myself a second chance, so that I could learn why I failed the first time. I gave myself a chance to do better, correct my mistakes, and master challenges. If I had never tried again, I would have never succeeded or improved in that area, missing an opportunity to discover something new about myself.

My belief in second chances carried over into other areas of my life and also helped me succeed in school. When I did not succeed the first time, I reminded myself that if I would practice and give myself more time, I would be able to accomplish whatever I wanted to achieve.

 


 


I Believe In Diversity - Abel Finta. English 15, Ms. Main

I believe in diversity. I’ve been exposed to diversity from the very beginning of life. The Main Line of Pennsylvania, where I grew up, is a very diverse culture. My family is also filled with much diversity. I believe diversity is a vital part of society and the more diverse a culture is, the better the community becomes.

As a child growing up in the small town of Narberth, I met many people who were a lot richer than my family, and many people who were a lot poorer, as well, on a daily basis. This wasn’t rocket science; I could tell school kids’ income status  based on how big their house was, how messy the inside of their parents’ cars were, and how many toys they had.

Additionally to the basic socioeconomic diversity in my town, I also cherish the diversity in my family. My family may quite possibly be one of the most diverse families in the world. While my family all originated from Hungary, I now have an aunt, uncle and cousins living in Romania; an uncle from Norway; aunts and cousins in Germany; my dad living in Singapore; an uncle, aunt, and four cousins in Australia; and I live in America with my mom and younger brother. That’s seven different countries on four different continents! We have had the very fortunate opportunity of most of the family getting together for a month in Hungary each summer for the past nineteen years. With everyone speaking Hungarian, it’s always a huge treat to see everyone each year to catch up and hang out.

While I was in high school I was struck with a question, “What would the world be like if everyone was the same?” This question made me realize the importance of diversity. Diversity is what makes people interesting. If all people looked and acted the same way, we’d be living in a dead, robotic world. From diversity we get new ideas. For example, with the rising gas prices around the world many people have started thinking about alternatives to gasoline powered cars. Elon Musk, the creator of the Tesla electric car, sees pure electric cars as the future. Other companies such as Honda believe Hydrogen is the fuel of the future. Still other researchers suggest air powered or water powered cars are the future. It’s the diversity of human ideas such as these, which lead to the solutions of the future.

From traveling in Australia, Germany, Hungary, Romania, as well as throughout America, I have seen firsthand how the diversity of different cultures influences people’s beliefs and ways of life. For example, I realized while in Australia how laid back and fun people appeared to be. They somehow had this feeling of carefreeness I had never experienced before, while at the same time they were also very productive and successful people. While I was in Germany, I could clearly tell they seemed to be very dependable and helpful people but at the same time always seemed to be very serious, even in “loose” environments. These travels lead me to ratify the importance of diversity in the world. I believe having diversity in neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and friends, leads to the world becoming a better place, which leads us to new ideas and solutions to real world problems.

 


 


Dreaded Decision - Breanna Davidson, English 15, Ms. Main

I believe in dreadlocks. They are just there on your head. They take little maintenance. When people wear dreadlocks, they don’t use harmful chemicals in their hair. It is an acquired taste that I have come to accept. But before I even thought of getting dreadlocks, there was a long process of difficult decisions.

From birth I was blessed with thick hair that could be manipulated to express many styles with the assistance of a comb. I could often experience braids and cornrows with this hair. Then I received the perm of 2001. I chose curling and flattening irons as my best friends, and chlorine became my worst enemy. Months after I had gotten my perm, I went swimming and didn’t wash out my hair immediately. The back of my hair was shorter than the front, and that brought on a new transition.

Weave was putting someone else’s hair on my head and claiming it as mine. The weave replaced some of the hair I’d lost due to breakage. Later rather than sooner, my hair was long enough to leave the weave scene for a while. The next method I decided on was straightening. That was my first step in going back to my “natural” roots. However, I would occasionally use weave to enhance the volume of my hair. I would style my hair but in the fog, heat and rain, my hair would frizz. The summer was awesome, but not for my hair.

I then experimented with the truly natural state. This meant no straightening and only grease as my confidante. I used gel and holding spray to maintain my twists. I decided to keep it in that style for as long as I could. I redid them until I was tired of enduring the five hours by myself. I needed something that was cheap, easy to maintain, and allowed me to focus on things other than my hair. On June 10, 2010, I got the taste for dreadlocks.

When I told my father my choice he had a long discussion with me. He told me to consider my job options with this hairstyle. There are no meteorologists with dreadlocks.  I also needed to think of what other repercussions might be. I thought long and hard about dreadlocks before I made the decision.

My decision hasn’t been something I’ve dreaded. I believe in making decisions that are difficult in order to have a good outcome. My choices in life have not been made to please the masses.  I make decisions to be content. After all, in the end, it’s just me and my dreads.

 


 


I Believe in Electricity - Matthew Bodek, Coordinator of Instructional Design, Penn State Brandywine

I believe in electricity.  I guess you could say I really, really believe in electricity when I have no electricity.  The storms of late August and early September provided for some interesting discussions:  "Did you lose power?"  "I only lost power for two hours."  "We still don't have power."

These comments made me think of conversations I had with my mother as she would tell of growing up without electricity; not because of storms but because it was thought to be too expensive to provide electricity to rural America.  I always had to laugh when she would say “rural America” since the farm she grew up on was only 25 miles from Philadelphia.  Yet at that time, the nearest neighbors were almost one mile away and electric companies did not want to spend the money to install utility poles, wiring and transformers to provide electricity to these individual homes.

She would then tell the story of how Franklin Delano Roosevelt allowed her family to have electricity.  It was only later that I learned it was the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 that provided federal loans for the installation of electric distribution systems to serve rural America that finally provided the opportunity for my mother's family to have electricity.  One of the first items her family purchased was a refrigeration system to store the milk products of the farm.  This allowed her family to sell a little more, and they then used this money to buy a washing machine, and slowly build confidence that things would be getting better for her and her family.  I'm sure these purchases, along with countless other farmers' purchases, slowly helped the country begin to emerge from the Great Depression by putting people to work building the products that people now had a reason to purchase.

I'm not an historian so I don't know if the country was as politically divided when my mother's family was getting electricity as the country is currently when the storm knocked out my electricity.  I don't know if signing of the Rural Electrification Act had members of Congress crying about the “Socialization of America” or its impact on increasing the country's debt and that we should be reducing the role of government and not increasing it.  Based on the shrill politics of today, I can only imagine the tone of the debate back then, and I have to wonder how many of the individuals today that scream for limited government had electricity provided to their grandparents’ or great grandparents’ homes based on this government investment.

So without electricity, I think about the role of government and how much longer my mother’s family would have needed to wait for a company to decide it was profitable enough to provide them with the opportunity to buy electricity.  Electricity for lights, for a pump to provide water for indoor plumbing, and for a better tomorrow.  I believe in electricity.

 


 

 I believe in Brandywine Global Programs - Patricia Hillen

The morning light paved the way as we walked single-file along the Gothic Quarter to the quintessential outdoor food market, La Boqueria, off La Rambla, the main thoroughfare in Barcelona. Once there, we split up. “Buy one thing. Meet back here in five minutes.” We scattered for prizes. Once together again, I filled my backpack with the recent bought contributions.

In a frenetic haze, we left Barcelona, about eight of us. “Which way to the metro? We’re going the wrong way! How much are the tickets?” Hoping not to buy the wrong two-way pass, we traded euros, passed metro tickets back and forth, and somehow missed our stop at Espanya. After finally reaching the station, we settled in, some of us sitting, some of us holding on, for the one hour and 50 minute train ride up to Montserrat.

Montserrat, home of the Benedictine Monk retreat, boasts a gorgeous cathedral where the world famous Montserrat choir boys sing every day at 1:00pm. The cliff-hung monastery above looked exactly the same, and my posse made our way from the train to the gondola. More tickets, a little line into the glass octagon theatre (thought for a second that I was in Switzerland), and while we soared, we lowered our eyes upon the valley that stared itself right out of a Joaquim Mir landscape. I had been to Montserrat years back, with my mother and my two sisters. All the girls bought these beautifully engraved, sterling silver wide-band black Madonna rings, but I had since lost mine. I remember thinking, at that very moment, while riding the mountain and hearing the camera shutter, that I would buy another ring.

First stop, the cathedral. People from all over come to move quietly and slowly down the right side of the cathedral, up the tiny marble stairs, into its sacristy, back up the back of the altar to pass by the sitting black Madonna. One turns right to touch her hand and fleetingly focus on the deity before turning left to look out high over the congregation (daring not to feel crucified). Quickly, down and out the side door. Hurry. Back to the front of the cathedral, we wind back inside so not to miss the voices of choir boys rising up to meet Madonna. I was struck with the sweet soul sounds of music bouncing off mosaic, scales of gratitude, one breath after another. I trembled with silence in my own crowded space. A short while later, we found each other huddled outside the bronze doors, amidst those who chose not to stay for the mass. We nodded here and there, once or twice, each of us confident that we did not hear that sound every day. We moved along the outside of the bell tower, through the cobbled atrium, down the hill to the gift shop. Exit through the gift shop. The woman, with fine strands of brown hair across her naked face and meaningful eyes, found my size, smiled, and without hesitation, I slid my new ring on my left middle finger.

Further up the mountain we went, by funicular (inclined cable railway). One more ticket and a short wait, but this time we were almost vertical. The mountain side hugged in close, and we became one with the visions we only moments before stared up at with mouths wide open.

The doors rushed open, spilling us out. We ventured a hike to the right, to the small abandoned chapel near the top. Soon we all became lighter, laughing and swinging our arms like dancers do atop sweeping views until we found our sacred spot. And we had a feast. We shared enormous strawberries, perfect clementines, serrano ham, bread and cheeses -- brie and manchego, We remembered a knife and the corkscrew but forgot the cups, so the full bodied bottle of tempranillo made its way around us. Eventually, out came the airy cinnamon, sugary sweets and rocks of almond studded chocolate. Communion, like never before. We ate and laughed out loud causing ripples of echos beyond any surreal surround. I felt the closeness, and the sun caught my squint as I lifted my lips for a drink before dropping my head in thanks and prayer.

 


 

In Time, We Can Rise Again - Jeannie Cammarota

I believe in resilience- the human capability to rise again after the unbearable weight of tragedy, illness, or a major life transition crushes us. How much loss can we carry in our hearts and yet still go on? Yet, the human spirit urges us up and forward.

I was awakened in the early hours by somber official agents bearing the news “ We regret… to inform you…madam” that my son died tragically while on duty for the United States Customs and Border Patrol in New Mexico. I felt every part o f me drop. I could not stop death from entering my home to take my child. I was separated then and soon to be divorced. My ideal view of family life was shattered.

A few years earlier, while living alone, I often walked from room to room in my sparsely furnished apartment. Walked and stood, gathering thoughts, trying to make sense of my life, quietly still, in the uncertain, but sacred space of possibilities. It takes time to process. I am still working on it. After my son died, there was much to process. Why did this happen? Could I have saved him? How could those birds sing the next morning when my life would never be the same? I wasn’t even sure I could breathe.

Trodden down grass in time springs back, tender, but determined. After a severe winter, maybe seasons of lying dormant, seeds reach for the light, for nutrition, and gain strength, each ready at last to grow. Are we like that too? I think so. Life altering events bring change, we ca! n never go back, we are not the same, but a scarred heart still beats. We seek the light of hope. I believe humans are resilient and we can in time, rise again. I am inspired by the fortitude of my children and others who have suffered loss. They begin anew. I am carving the stone of my life, taking the heaviness of unthinkable circumstances and shaping tomorrow. How can it help me be all I am?

The sickle that cut through that night, slashing my heart, may be the blade that forms my future. For now, I do my work and practice the art of resilience everyday; sometimes, I succeed. Five years later, the birds greet me in the morning, encouraging me to rise up and live my fullest life. I believe I will.

 


 

I BELIEVE IN THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL - Emily Sheehan. English 15, Dr. Maureen Fielding

The Light that Saved Me

I BELIEVE IN THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. Have you ever played the game where you try to hold your breath for the entire length of a tunnel?

At first it's not hard. Gradually, it becomes a struggle; you don't want to lose, so you keep pushing through. As time passes, you begin to panic. Suddenly, you see the slightest bit of light and gain the confidence to keep fighting. When you finally make it out and take your first gasp of air, you smile because you’ve succeeded.

I didn't have the typical "high school experience" that most teenagers had. I call it a cycle, because every year since the ninth grade, I’ve lost at least one person dear to me. When I was 15, Nicole was struck by a car and died instantly. Days later, my Aunt Sharon committed suicide. Before I could finish grieving, my grandmother lost the battle to cancer. When I was 17, Tara died from an accidental overdose and was followed by Dan, who suffered a traumatic head injury. Almost a year of silence had passed and I thought that the cycle was finally over. I spoke too soon. This year my dear friend, Brendan Seward, jumped in front of a high-speed train and committed suicide.

In my darkest moments, alcohol was my escape route. After high school, I moved to the beach for the entire summer. I drank every single day and night, spending way over $2,000 on alcohol alone. My habits increased when Brendan died during finals week in my first semester of college. I was devastated and entered the darkest point of the tunnel; I wanted to give up on holding my breath.

I felt as if the sole purpose of life was to experience death. I disappeared from my house for days at a time; I honestly didn't care about anyone or anything. At Christmas parties, I shut out my family because they hadn’t experience the tragedies that I had. It seemed as if they didn't care. I began to have sleep anxiety and my only solution was to drink. Then, and only then, did I realize that I hit rock bottom.

Becca is one of my best friends from high school; she would do anything to help me out. Subtly, she made comments to me about my habits. Our best friends from high school would jokingly inform me of my negative and aggressive actions from the night before. It took me a while to understand that it wasn’t a joke. The last comment that Becca made was, “So, I uhh…heard about you and Christie’s little scuffle last night…She was really upset about it. Why did you do that?” I could tell she was no longer joking. I finally realized that my best friends provided me with the only happiness in my life. I could not bear to lose them; so, I put those whom I have lost in a special place in my heart, in order to get out of this long, dark tunnel.

My friends were that little glimpse of light. I stopped dwelling on what I’ve lost and became more appreciative of what I have. To keep my friends, I cut out a portion of my drinking habits. Now, I express myself through drawing and playing the piano. I believe that if I made it through these past five years, then I can make it through anything. Everyone will come to a long, dark tunnel in his or her life. I believe that if you keep pushing through, at some point, there will be a light that brightens up your life and saves you.

 


 

I Believe in Rebelling From the Norm - Brittany Pereira

A common theme throughout my trip to Barcelona became stepping outside the box. Not only was I forced to do so by being completely out of my element in a different country with people who spoke a different language, but I was also learning about an artistic revolution where artists like Dali and Picasso were so beyond their time. I started to notice how much we are pressured to conform to what is acceptable. Everywhere that I went I had this looming feeling that I needed to blend in and be accepted by the local people. The question is, who says we have to be accepted?

Dali was known for his strange and peculiar ways and his ability to always be one step ahead of everyone else. As I walked through his museum and looked at his incredible artwork, I also took notice of all of the people in the museum. Everyone was dressed similarly, talked in either Spanish or English and had manners that are considered necessary in a museum. I couldn’t help but think, why? The thought made me want to scream.

A lot of the unexplainable work done by Dali reminded me a lot of Lady Gaga. Her transformation into the unpredictable artist that she is has launched a new era in the music and fashion industry. Her impact on my generation has brought the “weird” out in everyone as the new norm. It’s the kind of weirdness that only your best friends get to see and, the weirdness that makes you the person that you are, that is now accepted and even expected by fans. So I decided, I want to let out my weirdness. I want to push my own limits and follow in the footsteps of the great artists before me. I believe I need to be myself completely without any outside influence if I want to make a difference, and that is why I believe in rebelling from the norm.

 


 

I believe in everlasting Band-Aids - Courtisha Chavis. English 15, Mrs. Gerritsen

Everlasting Pain

I believe in everlasting Band-Aids.

Every day an innocent heart is being hurt. Some people get hurt and can heal from the pain instantly, but what about the hearts that can’t let go? A heart shouldn’t get hurt; a heart should be loved and cherished. My Band-Aid is everlasting by choice. I choose to hold on to the pain that my heart holds because it made me who I am today. I became a strong, independent young lady from my wounds.

What keeps me going is love. Love from my mother keeps the pain away from my wounds. Even though my wounds are a secret, my mother knows I have an everlasting Band-Aid on my heart. She looks into my eyes and tries to search to find out what that Band-Aid is trying to heal but she knows it will always be kept a secret. She told me whatever it is that you are holding on to has made you stronger and even though I want to know what it is, I am proud of what you have become.

There is a time when that wound will hurt me again and bring back pain, but I know I will overcome it like I did in the past. It’s not all about what it made me; it’s also how I overcame it and covered it with a Band-Aid.. The strength I had to forgive was powerful but I was too weak to forget. I had to make a big decision for my life; go down the wrong path or cover this cut with a Band-Aid that will last forever. I can now look back and say I made the right decision. I could have had dark clouds over my life and rain following me everywhere, but now it only rains when things get rough.

The great thing about this everlasting Band-Aid is I don’t know it’s there but when the pain comes back, I feel the lowest, the weakest, basically the opposite of what I am. I fight and fight my heart until I defeat what I have defeated over these last four years. The worst thing of it all is I have to deal and heal with this alone; alone in that dark cloud where it just rains over me. It gets so bad that I began to think this is the end of me, the end of my everlasting Band-Aid.

As of today I look in the mirror and think back at what happened and ask why I, but I then I smile and see how beautiful and happy I look and laugh. I laugh because I overcame it, I laugh because I am stronger than this cut and shut it up with a Band-Aid I call everlasting. Every time the pain comes back, it rains, I cry, it hurts more, then I fight harder. Once I shut the pain up I cover it up with something I like to call an “Everlasting Band-Aid.”

 


 

Only Trust In Yourself - Manuel Rebollo. English 15, Mrs. DeMarco

I believe people should only trust in themselves and in nobody else, not even in their own family. When I was about six years old, my dad put me on the table and told me to stand. He then told me to walk towards him and I did what I was told to do. Once I reached the end of the table, he told me to fall into his arms. As I was falling into his arms, he purposely let me fall and hit the ground. When I hit the ground, my father picked me up quickly and told me not to trust anyone, not even him.

When growing up, I did not clearly understand what my dad was trying to teach me until this year. Ever since I was able to walk and speak, my dad was my best friend. He was the first person I went to when I had a problem or tough decision to make. I then woke up one morning and had no idea where he went. I finally was told he moved back to Mexico and does not plan to come back. He left my mom and me with all the bills, while I am also attending college full time. My grades are not as high as they should be due to all the hours I work a week. I then remembered the lesson he was trying to teach me when I was six years old. Even though he specifically told me not to trust anyone, I always trusted him. He knew that if I trusted in him, the pain of him moving away would be higher than it should be. My entire childhood he was trying to prevent the pain from being too great.

Many people may think it is cruel what my father did to me when I was six years old. But now that I am older and looking back at it, I am glad he did it to me. My grandfather did the same thing to my father, and my dad has become a successful business man. All my dad wants is to see me be something positive for the community and family. He doesn’t want a family problem or friend problem to take that away from me. Even though I am angry because of what my dad has done, I turn the problem into a lesson. I will not let this problem take over my life and ruin the opportunities waiting for me. Many people close to my problem tell me to quit my job and just focus on school. I realize my mom needs the money now, and I simply cannot listen to the people around me and quit. I trust in myself, and I know that I can do both at the same time even if people tell me otherwise. I use my dad’s absence as motivation to keep doing better in school and work. I believe if my dad had not taught me this lesson, I would have quit school by now and let the problem take over my life.

 


 

Coming Home - Mary Frances McLaughlin

My husband Kevin and I just celebrated our 30th anniversary, marrying directly out of college with minimal thought to our future except that we would be together. We spent our honeymoon in a blue Volkswagen Beetle, driving across the U.S. with little more than a two-person tent, a Coleman stove, a couple of sleeping bags and a few dollars. Over two months, our travels took us as far south as Big Bend National Park in Texas (ever heard of it?) and as far west as San Francisco, experiencing as much of the natural beauty of our country as we possibly could. We were young and carefree, without jobs or responsibilities, and gas was cheap!

OK, maybe it wasn’t all smooth going: there were blown engines (New Orleans), rainy nights (Arizona), excessive heat (Nevada), quicksand (Texas), wandering animals (New Mexico), and creepy campgrounds (California), but every
sunrise pointed to a new destination, a new adventure, an unexpected opportunity for a new experience. And we had everything we needed: all of our worldly possessions neatly packed into a VW bug, and each other. Our recent move from our home of 22 years has forced me to consider how life has changed in the 30 years since the simple time of our cross country trip, not the least of which is the fact that our worldly possessions no longer fit neatly into any car, much less a VW bug. Boxes upon boxes fill every room of the place we now call home, with much of our time spent in frustration looking for this or that. I wonder, “Where did all of this stuff come from and why do we have it?” and think fondly of the days when our lives were not complicated by the clutter of material things.

My moving experience has made me yearn for a simpler time and a simpler existence, for the days when I filled my life with the things that cannot be stored in boxes. It has forced me to re-evaluate my priorities and, in the end, has afforded me the opportunity to unburden myself from many of the material things that manage to weigh me down. My moving experience has brought me back to who I really am, remembering my belief that the important things in life are the intangibles: the moments and people and experiences that fill my heart and mold my soul and form my being. I have always believed this, and while I may have taken a little detour, I am now, happily, working my way back to what I believe.

 


 

I Believe In Being an Individual - Tia Rollins. English 15, Mrs.Gerritsen

I believe that people are unique and there are no two exactly alike. Instead of trying to fit in with everyone, I believe I should embrace my uniqueness and be myself.

My first day of high school had to be perfect, my hair, clothes, shoes, everything. I was always told that a first impression was the most memorable, so I thought that a neat appearance was unforgettable. I made sure my expensive clothes were ironed neatly and not one hair was out of place. The foundation of the school was based on social cliques. I thought if I did not have any friends, I would have no universal identity. I did not know anyone, and assumed it would be difficult to make friends.

I was wrong. The older boys at school showed me more attention than I approved of. They would always open doors for me or offer to carry my books even though we did not have the same classes. One day as I stood in the line of the cafeteria, a girl walked up and asked me how I got seniors to carry my books. I responded I didn’t have to do anything and I found it rather annoying. I presumed she supported boys accommodating her, and that’s why she invited me to sit with her and her friend for lunch. From that day on I joined Brittany and Maria at lunch for juicy gossip and girl talk.

Since the formation of my newfound friendships, I learned that there was one thing I did not have in common with them: sex. I was younger than the two of them and still a virgin. Both of them were sexually active, and decided that I should be too. Brittany and Maria frequently introduced me to older guys who suggested would be perfect candidates for me. I had just undergone puberty and was not fascinated with boys, so I politely declined their offer.

Our friendship gradually dissolved after that. They stopped asking me to lunch and barely acknowledged my presence in the hallways. When I addressed the situation, they informed me that it was strange that everyone was having sex but me. They said that I didn’t fit in with them and that we could continue hanging out after I lost my virginity. I was beyond upset; I was furious, not because they did not want to hang with me, but because I had fooled myself into thinking they were my real friends.

I should never be forced to do something because others are doing it. I am happier alone than having friendships built out of false pretenses. That’s why I believe in being an individual. I believe that making a habit of going against what I believe is morally right will not benefit me in the future. This is a principle that will guide the way I react to situations in the future.

 


 

I Believe in Second Chances - Brian Welden, English 15, Mrs. Gerritsen

I believe everyone should be given a second chance at something only if they are positive about their situation. What I mean by the word positive is recognizing mistakes and learning from them. I believe that a person who learns from their misfortunes should be given a second chance at whatever their situation might be. A person who constantly continues to do something wrong over and over again obviously does not seem to care about the consequences of the situation or how it would affect the people around them. Therefore, I believe that they should not be given a second opportunity because in my eyes they had a chance to learn from their mistake and simply chose to ignore the situation. I am not saying that a person only should get just one second chance throughout their entire life. I am simply saying that a person should get a second chance only if they positively learn from their wrong doings.

Throughout my life I have been dealt my share of second chances. I stay positive about situations and learn from the mistakes I make. One particular situation I was in occurred in high school about three years ago. I was at a party with all my friends and we all happened to be drinking alcohol. The police came to the house and my friends and I were all charged with underage drinking. I had to complete a certain number of hours of community service, attend a certain number of drinking classes, and pay a certain amount of money. I personally learned from that particular situation. I knew I had made a huge mistake and I made sure I never made that mistake again. I realized how stupid it would be to do it again because I already knew what the consequences would be if I got caught again. I was not prepared to repeat those consequences for a second time.

I believe that second chances are such a great quality of life. Second chances grant people opportunities to change something significant in their lives. In my mind, as long as a person stays positive and strong throughout their situation, then they have a tremendous opportunity to change the aspects of their life and to affect the people around them in a positive way. I noticed that people respect someone that learns from their misfortunes and how they positively change themselves to not make that mistake again.

 


 

Fairytales - Taylor Brozak. English 15, Mrs. Gerritsen

I believe in fairytales. I believe anyone can be a hero, every girl deserves to find her Prince Charming, and love can break even the greatest boundaries. These stories are so familiar to all of us, but not many take the time or simply do not understand why these stories have become so great and important to us. Fairytales have been passed down and told to younger generations for years. They were used to not only tell a story, but also to teach a lesson or prove a point. Within the words and lines of each tale, a message is always present: that things are not always as they seem, especially the stories themselves.

Growing up, I loved to watch Disney movies and read fantasy stories. I would watch them so many times that eventually not only could I recite the whole thing from start to finish, but so could my parents, just because they heard it so often, I was fascinated by the characters and the magic and how good always triumphed over evil. As I got older, I realized that I saw or heard something new every time I watched the movies or heard the stories. A joke that I never understood was suddenly hilarious, or a line had a double meaning that helped tie the entire story together. What I did not realize was that I was learning the lesson behind the stories.

I learned that if you truly put your mind and heart to something, nothing will get in your way that you cannot handle. I learned that a kiss could wake a love so true it spans the millennia. I learned that even the most beautiful thing can be ugly because of what is inside, and the ugliest thing can be beautiful just by looking into their heart. To me, these realizations were something to be treasured, to use in everyday life. On others the message was lost.

I do not think people appreciate these messages anymore, just like the fairytales themselves are lost. Many kids today have no idea who Hansel and Gretel are, or what the evil Queen used to poison Snow White, or where the 12 Dancing Princesses went during the night. If the stories die out, the lessons they carry with them will as well. I believe there is still so much left to learn from them, even if they are just silly old stories. They have real lessons set into real stories and events that could happen to real people. That is why I believe in fairytales.

 


 

I believe in the Mediterranean Sea - Nancy Watson

I discovered the most peaceful and relaxing spot in the world: The Mediterranean Sea. The word ”Mediterranean” is Latin for “middle of the Earth,” but the body of water has been known by many titles throughout history. Being a landlocked sea makes the Mediterranean Sea a unique component of the planet Earth. The Sea is an inland sea in the middle of the Mediterranean region, which is partially connected to the Atlantic Ocean, and hence, associated with it. This amazing water body is virtually landlocked by three continents surrounding it - Europe, Africa and Asia. The Sea is typically characterized by its deep blue color, and has been a subject of fascination for many people across the world. Seen by moonlight it is bound to leave you amazed.

In the spring of 2012, I came back from my trip from Barcelona, Spain, where I explored three beaches and countless number of wondrous places. The Mediterranean Sea was the focal point of everything I’ve seen, in the common man's mind; even today, it has been the subject of fascination for many who have enjoyed its beauty before me. It didn’t matter whether I was looking at the sea that bordered the Pyrenees Mountains, where the French border meets Spain, standing with my feet buried in the sand in Stiges, or near the city of Barcelona; every view gave me such a surreal experience. The image that I held, in a few short words was breathtaking with feelings of endless possibilities.

Staring into the horizon something came over me, a feeling of calmness looking towards the sea; my mind was at rest, with a sense of peace. This is the place to be, pure visual beauty with a feeling of serenity. As you gaze out at the sky resting on the Sea, you could drift into unlimited promise that could inspire your hopes and dreams. If looking out into the Sea, as many civilizations have done before you, a physical sensation may come over you as you get closer to your spiritual self; it seems that reality could become a dream. I stood there in awe, as my thoughts were inspired, with the wind through my hair and the sun on my face. You get the best of both worlds in the Mediterranean, from the mountains to the Sea, a spiritual awakening of beauty and calmness. I felt self fulfillment was in reach, and I could make anything happen. If you believe in the Mediterranean Sea like I do, all your dreams can become reality there.

 


 

Live for Hobbies - Austin Trimbur. English 15, Mrs. DeMarco

Live for hobbies. They are the truest form of joy, the easiest way to happiness. I’ve hardly thought of it until now, but I have always thrived on the accompaniment of a hobby.

When I began first grade, my parents insisted that I join a team and play a sport, and since I always had a love for baseball, the choice was easy. I tried out and was assigned to a team, but although I loved the sport I felt something was missing. I could never put it into words, and frankly, I am still unable to fully describe the feeling. All I know is that for the next five years I hid inside of my own house when my parents told me it was try-out day again, and cried and cried when they found me, almost all the way to the batter’s plate. I felt forced; I was doing the sport of baseball (hitting, fielding, running, sliding), never once playing it with love. I didn’t need a baseball diamond, or a uniform, or an athletic cup, or a team. I needed my hobby back.

My dad and I played catch for hours. When it got old he’d throw high, like a pop fly, then low, spiking the ball on the grass. We kept this going until the sun fell beneath the horizon, after which I ran inside and flicked the light switch that powered our backyard lights. My only sorrow was true, pitch-black darkness, when the lights could no longer protect us from the rock hard piece of leather soaring through the air. I never hid. I never cried. And I never realized what the beauty of that interaction was until so very recently. It wasn’t a sport, a scoreboard, or a trophy. It was a hobby.

After ending my baseball “career” I adopted countless new hobbies. Like so many others I skateboarded, then I got too serious, just as with baseball, and it lost its charm. I migrated to racquetball, then to poetry, then cycling, then to hiking, then song-writing, then tree climbing, then longboarding. I even purchased a five- foot long blowgun that launches darts into bull’s-eyes from up to 50 feet away using sheer lung power. All of these things gave me immeasurable joy, and still do when I don’t become too focused on results. It’s easy to shoot a dart into the dead-center of a red circle and shout “I did it!”  What is truly difficult is to see the process and how the results, no matter how perfect, are simply a manifestation of the journey one undertakes.

Hobbies are not about results. They are about learning, they are about love, and above all, are about joy. Love the process, and live for hobbies.

 


 

Finding the Gems Within - Christina Felizzi

As I settled into the family room with family to watch home movies, I attempted to remember what I was like as a child. I imagined I had changed a great deal since I was young. Funny enough, I learned I was still the same little girl that I was then - just twenty three years wiser.

In the first clip, Mom is filming me as I timidly peek around the hallway’s corner by the upstairs bathroom. I’m about six years old, with a mild case of the chicken pox.

“Time for a bath, little Christina,” Mom said playfully.

I crawled out from behind the corner, on all fours. “I can’t take a bath, Mommy.”

“And why is that?” she asked.

I licked my hand as if it were a paw. “Because I’m a kitty and kitties don’t like water,” I said.

Eventually, Mom was successful in getting me to take a bath, but the whole time, I stayed in character, with Mom encouraging my role playing along the way.

Watching this home video, I realized I had a pretty active imagination. Sure, I was shy too, but once I felt comfortable, I let my imagination run wild. Literally.

In the second clip, I watch myself run towards the backyard to join my friends. I was turning seven that day. Dad was capturing my birthday bash on the camcorder from the porch, while Mom diligently set the tables with food, plates, and cups. As my friends gathered around me, I started explaining the rules of a game to my friends, with a bright smile on my face. Soon, I began leading my friends towards the tree swing, but as a spectator, I wasn’t really paying attention to the game - I was observing myself. I was a leader and a passionate one too. I had it in me to inspire others, which is a quality I didn’t think I had until recently.

The videos continued, but I realized I was still that same little girl – curious, imaginative, and passionate. Throughout my college years, I ran a newspaper as Editor in Chief, gave speeches, led students as an Orientation Leader, and illustrated a children’s book: things I thought I would never do as a kid.

That is why I believe in watching home movies. By looking back at the past, I learned a great deal about who was and who I am. I believe we are born as vessels holding abundant treasure, containing everything we need to live our lives, good and bad. But to reap the rewards of our gems, we must first find them within ourselves and then learn how to share them with the world.

 


 

Respect For All Who Love – Taylor Heideman. English 15, Ms. Kounios

When I was in high school, my best friend’s car was vandalized. He was a quiet boy who kept to himself and earned good grades. He did not do anything to upset anyone. He was not the confrontational type. My best friend’s car was vandalized because he did not fit into the mold of my small hometown in Michigan. He did not farm. He did not drive a big truck. He did not play football, or any sports, for that matter.

My best friend’s car was vandalized because he was gay—because he chose to follow his heart, despite what people would think or say. He chose to exercise his right to love.

I watched as he attempted to hold his head high when school was let out and everyone saw what had happened to his car. Insulting words and symbols covered his red Jeep from front to back. I watched as he did not cry or get upset; instead, he kept his composure, packed up his things, and quickly drove home. Although he acted like what had happened did not affect him, I noticed the change that followed. He did not drive to school anymore, in fear that someone would do it again. In fact, he did not drive anywhere.

Ben did not hurt anyone. All he did was have the courage to love who he wanted and follow his heart instead of society. Although he never made his choice anyone else’s problem or business, people still felt the need to torment him because of his decision not to follow the mold.

Watching my best friend go through this act of discrimination inspired my belief. So, I believe in—and respect— love. I believe that it comes in every shape and size. I believe that everyone has the right to love and everyone deserves the opportunity to do so. I believe that love has no gender, no color, and no religion. I believe that love is love; it cannot be changed, molded, or confined.

 


 

Just Tie Your Shoes - Christine F. Brown

My motto is simply this: Just tie your shoes and go for a walk. This very simple activity can solve a multitude of problems. Like everyone else, my days are so busy and full that most of the time I operate on autopilot as work and family obligations fill almost every waking minute. There are few moments to just be, or to reflect. However, each day I find time to put on my sneakers and go for a walk no matter what else is happening or how busy I am.

I began talking walks a decade ago in early spring. I met two of my neighbors every morning at 5:45 to take a three-mile walk around our neighborhood. We all needed to exercise, and that was the only time we could all meet. The difficulty in waking up so early was eased by the thought of the camaraderie that awaited me. Six months passed; I began to wake up without my alarm most days. However, when late fall arrived, and the mornings were chilly and dark, my reliable neighbor friends began to miss a day or two… or three. By December, when the temperature was in the thirties most mornings, I was usually the only one up and out the door.

It was lonely, but by this time I was hooked. My morning routine had gone from being a means to squeeze some needed exercise time into a busy day to something far more personally and psychologically important – I needed those walks. Somehow I kept getting up every day, even though it was difficult to do so in punishing cold and without the companionship that had originally made these morning walks seem so pleasant. I made it through January and February. Yet I admit, when it dropped below fifteen degrees, I was often unable to force myself to leave the warmth of my home. But on those days I didn’t go, I felt out of sorts for the rest of the day.

As time passed I learned something else. Each time I treaded those four laps around my neighborhood, I was able to clear my head and think. My mind generated new ideas. Solutions to nagging problems came to me easily, and I visualized myself succeeding in new areas. New perspectives were gained along with mental clarity and a focus that I was unable to obtain during the commotion of a regular day. Just a few minutes’ quiet reflection while making the circuit around my neighborhood were enough to allow me to tackle complex problems through looking at them in a new light.

Ten years later, I am still at it. The majority of my days include a three-mile walk. On those rare days I go without, I am irritable and overwhelmed. So whenever I need to figure out a problem, or plan something, or just release some stress, I find my sneakers and head out the door.

 


 

Mean-Spirited Ornithology: A Humorous “This I Believe” Essay - Andrew G. Dombalagian

Folklore regards owls as symbols of wisdom, yet I believe they are nocturnal jerks. After two summers volunteering at a zoo, I became all too familiar with these mammal-swallowing, child-attacking, howling, beaky beasts. Their vile behaviors aside, whether or not they are wise, they can never possess the knowledge humans earn by studying the owls’ regurgitation. This may seem like the logic of a madman, but I believe the human capacity to dive into unpleasant situations opens many avenues for enlightenment. While this learning may be dirty business, it brings achievements and progress that evoke wide-eyed envy in the feathery fools.

This lesson dates back to the dissection of owl pellets in high school science class. Not since the third grade art class lesson on papier-mâché was I so unnerved and disgusted by a classroom. For the uninitiated, “pellets” are the hirsute globs of undigested prey that birds cough up. Since owls, creatures far less magical than the average boy wizard suspects, tend to swallow their meals whole, their pellets can contain the entire skeleton of a mouse.

We were served a buffet of owl pellets and asked to reconstruct their contents. Like the most macabre jigsaw puzzle in existence, we cracked open hardened balls of vomited fur, picked out the tiniest fragments of rodent bones, and glued the pieces back into coherence. To conclude the entire ordeal, we also had to identify what animal our particular owl dinner used to be. I believe I found a vole in my pellet. Some students named their skeletal puzzles.

Nevertheless, there is a significant difference between wisdom and knowledge, the latter of which owls certainly do not have. Album covers by Rush notwithstanding, owls have never been to the Moon. While humans can partner with rats and mice to decode gene sequences and animate adorable musical numbers, owls only bother to eat and vomit those critters. I never want to see another owl pellet again. However, I believe that the willingness of humans to dissect these pestilent blights is indicative of our curiosity and inventiveness which can change, destroy, and save the entire world. Owls, remember this the next time you perch in smug judgment of we, the creatures who study your poo and puke, you fluff-headed, empty-eyed, woodpecker-scaring simpletons: we’ve flown farther than you ever will.

 


 

My search for meaning - Sean O’Neill. English 15, Mrs. DeMarco

Like most young men my age, my belief system was cultivated by the people and the world around me. The values and principles I have don’t differ much from those of my family. However, the foremost belief that I have adopted is that the real struggle in every person’s life is their search for meaning. My entire world and all I thought dear had to disintegrate in order for me to stumble onto this belief. The specifics are not what are important; what is, however, is that when you think all is lost, you start to wonder just where exactly you fit in this world. This “search” for meaning, if you will, can be cathartic, but can also be quite a quandary.

No amount of soul searching, or any list of goals I could have made for myself would ever set me on the path that I knew in the marrow of my bones was the one I was destined to follow, like the birth of my son. The film had been wiped away from my eyes. Why hadn’t this dawned on me before? My father is the single greatest man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, and now God is granting me with the opportunity to have the very same impact on another human being. My entire life I have idolized my father. He has been my moral compass. Whenever I was in doubt of any decision, I would ask myself, “What would Daddy think about this?” Not that I erred on the side of caution all the time, but whatever I decided, I always knew which side of the fence my father would be on. He was fair, honest, hard-working, exuberant and incredibly loving. Now this was my chance to, at the very least, have one person in this world that would remember me with the adulation that I have for my father.

I searched, gave up and searched again for something that would give purpose to my life, and this “search for meaning” led me to diapers and suppositories. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Those things have led to bed time stories, and a laugh that makes you feel as though there could never be such a thing as sadness. Eventually, it will be baseballs and beer. I cherish the moments I have had with Seany, and the ones that I have yet to have with him. Just like the years I have cherished with my father, and the years yet that I hope the three of us will share together.

Everyone’s life is different and we all think we know what we want with our lives. The truth is that fleeting aspirations can become destructive when they are placed above all else. Pursuing whatever it is you find that finally gives meaning to the life you have been living, makes all the pain of searching worth it.

 


 

Resilience - Eileen Dougherty. English 15, Mrs. Kounios

Resilience is defined as the power or ability to return to the original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched. Resilience also means the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, or adversity. A resilient individual can overcome tragedies and difficulties. I believe resilience comes from deep within a person’s soul. In times of great suffering, people are amazing when they dig deep and overcome hardship with resilience. A person’s ability to conquer hard knocks and bad fortune is inspiring. I believe that resilience is a great intrinsic strength, although many people are unaware that they possess it.

Throughout history, groups of people have been plagued by atrocious, unfair treatment. The Jews suffered from the anguish of the Holocaust. They were chased and ripped out of their homes, separated from their families, and tortured by incinerators and gas chambers. People from the Jewish community who survived demonstrated resilience, and fortunately they went on to live their lives and share their stories with the world. Irish immigrants were another group who displayed resilience. The Irish were not very welcome when they immigrated to the United States. Many of the already established citizens of America did not want to hire them. Signs read, “IRISH NEED NOT APPLY.” Because the Irish were discriminated against, they lived in poverty and were forced to dwell in slums. This ethnic group continued to progress by sticking together and being resilient. Eventually, the Irish became equals and lived in harmony with other citizens in the United States. Through resilience, the victimized Irish and Jews were able to succeed, build lives for themselves, and prevail in the face of adversity and prejudice.

Throughout my life, I have met some amazing people. Among these individuals, my dearest friend, Hillary, comes to mind when I hear the words “strong” and “resilient.” Hillary is a young, beautiful blonde who has overcome many difficult times in her life. She and members of her family have struggled with life’s hardships, and they have come out of every situation stronger. Recently, Hillary suffered the loss of her father. I’ve never witnessed someone carry herself so gracefully and powerfully during such a heartbreaking time. Her resilience is remarkable and something that I admire. She also is one of the hardest workers I know and continues to strive for more greatness. I have learned from Hillary’s display of resilience that anything is possible and everything will be okay even when times feel as if they are never going to get better.

Resilience is the virtue that has carried thousands of people to overcome cancer, death, drug addiction, influenza, depression, domestic violence, and life on life’s terms. Resilient people return to their original form after being bent. Those who are resilient go on and live after the damage they endured. I believe in resilience, and this merit helps me to live my life.

 


 

Faith - Shane Diven. English 15, Mrs. DeMarco

I believe in having faith. When I was 17 years young, I had to deal with what would most likely be the hardest moment in my life. My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In the blink of an eye, my whole life had been turned upside down. After cancer had set an all-out assault on my family, I lost all hope of anything good in this world. Everything of color turned gray; everything warm changed to cold, as I began to lose hope in being happy. However, my pain did not stop the future from happening, and my mom began to fight her demon head on and work to defeat cancer with the help of her doctors. As the months went on, I began to place my faith in my mother’s life in the hands of her doctors. I figured they had done an amazing job so far, so clearly they knew what they were doing. I trusted their opinions and skills and let them take control. Knowing the doctors were going to save my mother’s life gave me peace of mind. I slowly regained my positive attitude of the world and began to see clearly again. My mom, however, placed all her faith in God, and let her religious beliefs guide her. My father placed his faith in my mother, convinced she was strong enough to make it through cancer. All three of us believed in someone or something else, but we all had faith my mom would pull through.

Ultimately, it does not matter what or where one places his or her faith in. The only thing that matters is that one has faith and believes in something. Life is too difficult and confusing to take it on by one’s self, so it is imperative that one places faith in something to help him or her get through their lives. I know for sure that if my family members had not placed our faith in something, we would have never stopped my mom’s cancer from ruining our lives. A person’s entire life is based on trust and faith. Each and every day one is required to have faith in something or someone. People have faith in their alarm to wake them up in the morning, their car to get them to work, and their boss to not fire them. We as humans have to have faith in things other than ourselves. Without faith there is no hope, and without hope life is meaningless. I put my faith in other people with my mom’s life and because of that she is healthy, and we get to spend more of our lives together.

 


 

Determination To Achieve Success - Sid Kelly. English 15, Mrs. Kounios

I believe in determination. My most memorable time of being determined was my first semester at Penn State. It began with challenging news: I found out that I would have to start the semester as a provisional student. My provisional status prohibited me from trying out and making the basketball team, which was one of my goals coming into college. However, this disappointment gave me the necessary determination to become a better student and to work and study harder so that I could achieve all of my goals.

Knowing my determined mentality, which had led me to be valedictorian of my graduating high school class, I had all the confidence in the world that I would conquer any challenges as well as pass a difficult class with a reasonable grade. I never got rattled or nervous about anything. I started studying more and began talking to a campus tutor. I made that class my number one priority. My second paper came around, and I was determined to do better than my first and receive a perfect score. My determination and hard work paid off because I earned an A+ on the paper.

Next was my final exam. I devised a new plan on how to study for it. I began to rewrite my class notes and made up flash cards that I kept in my back pocket. The night before the exam, I studied for only two hours and went to bed at 9:30 because of how eager I was to take this particular final. I earned a close-to-perfect grade on it and ended up passing the class respectably.

I believe that every person should have a little bit of determination inside of himself or herself. My first semester at Penn State resulted in success because of my motivated determination.

 


 

Hey There, Sports Fans! - Joe Susco. English 15, Mrs. Kounios

I believe in being a sports fan. Supporting any sports team shows that a person can express a passion in something that he or she cannot control. Being a fan means not only being there to celebrate when the team is on top but also being willing to support the team in defeat. It’s about showing love under the best and worst conditions.

Growing up in Delaware County, I was first acquainted with sports through the hometown teams. Since the age of six, I have been a fan of the Philadelphia Phillies. From the days when they played at the “Vet” to seasons at their new home at Citizens Bank Park, I have been on their side. By having a birthday at the end of March, I not only celebrate being a whole year older, but I also anticipate that baseball season is right around the corner.

Spending countless summer evenings with my dad at the ballpark throughout the years has increased my passion for my beloved Phillies. We arrive to the stadium early, to catch batting practice in hopes of snagging a ball or getting an autograph from my favorite players. We then grab a bite to eat at Tony Luke’s before we head to our seats. Having a partial-season ticket plan allows for us to sit in the same seats each game. Settling into our seats, we greet the fellow season ticket holders who regularly sit near us, which creates a connection with these new friends who share our loyalty to the Phillies.

Whether I am at the stadium surrounded by forty-five thousand screaming fans or sitting at home on my couch with family or friends, watching the Phillies play makes me feel like I am a part of something special.

I believe in being a fan of a sports team because it creates a special bond with those around me. In addition, because of the stressful lives that most of us live these days, I think that being able to forget about all the worries that we might have and just relax by watching a sporting event is a great feeling. Supporting something that I do not have control over, such as the performance of a professional sports team, requires dedication, patience, and faith, but the benefits I receive emotionally are completely worth my time and effort.

 


 

I Believe in My Curves - Megan Connolly. English 15, Mrs. Kounios

Lately, it seems to me that most people are on some type of diet. Many different types of diets are out there, from shakes to pills and protein bars and workouts. It seems that this world is slowly but surely becoming psycho over weight, but not me. I believe in my beautiful curves.

One day I was out shopping for new clothes for a new school year. I was in one of my all-time favorite stores, PacSun. I was picking out some pretty amazing jeans to wear on the first day of school. As I was on the side where the sizes ranged from five to ten, two thirteen-year-old girls were standing on the side where the sizes ranged from double zero to four. These two girls were staring at me like I was some kind of freak from outer space. Then I realized that they were not staring at me, but they were staring at my jeans.

At first I thought that they wanted the pair of jeans that I had. I asked them very kindly if they wanted the jeans, and what I got back was unbelievable.
“They would not fit me. I am not a size seven like you; I am a size two.”

This was said in a tone as if it were horrible for me to be in a size seven. Now I realized why they were giving me the death stare. They were giving me looks because I was not a twig. After some exchanged words, it turned out that I was proud to say that I wear a size seven.

I am proud to not be ashamed to say that I wear size seven jeans. I love wearing a size ten dress that makes me feel like I am on top of the world. I am happy that I do not have to worry about what I am eating and how long of a workout I will have to do in order to lose all the calories from a snack or a treat. I am proud to be healthy.

From this experience, I know that I am a strong individual. I believe in my beautiful curves, my size seven jeans, and my size ten dress. I am proud to say that I have curves and hips and that it is okay. I am beautiful just as I am.

 


 

Language - Amy Reimer

During my stay in Barcelona, I discovered that language is a very important aspect in one's life. I took two years of Spanish in high school, and I thought I would be prepared to go to a foreign country like Spain. I was under the impression that in Spain they spoke Spanish, but I was surprised when I found out that the people spoke Catalan instead. One day during the trip, my friend Danielle and I ventured out to a restaurant to get some lunch after visiting the Dali Museum. When we entered the restaurant we took our seats, and waited for the waitress. The waitress kept waiting on other tables and ignoring us, and we thought that we were doing something wrong. After about ten minutes, she finally came up to our table, and we thought we were ready to order, until we realized that she only spoke Catalan. Before we could tell her that we didn't know any Catalan, she just started speaking, and stared at us. After a few seconds she walked away to another table and didn't come back to us again. Not knowing a language is a huge barrier when it comes to communicating. I value knowing the language of the country I live in, and I took it for granted before I went on this trip.

 


 

I believe that love is selfless - Allie Henry

 

All my life I was told that my grandparents’ relationship was complicated-- that they loved each other in a certain way but not how couples usually do. I was told that the common bond they shared was religion and that most likely if they didn’t have that, they would not be together. I thought this all my life, until the last week of the woman I hold closest to my heart’s life.

Sitting at my grandmother’s bedside, holding her hand, I remember praying for a miracle, a miracle that she would wake up from her unconscious state and become again the loving, caring grandmother I had known her to be for seventeen years. The woman I had known and loved had not been with us for days now, but I could not bear the thought of her not physically being with me anymore. I prayed every day, and every night for a miracle, one selfish miracle to keep my grandmom with me for just a little bit longer.

As I sat there holding the hand of the women I knew, my grandfather walked in. He stared down at the bed, not noticing or paying an ounce of attention to anyone else in the room. He rested his hand on her fragile shoulder and paused, staring at her face. The words he uttered I will never forget. “We are going to be okay here, Maureen. Go home, go see your brothers,” was all he said. You see, my family and myself believe in a higher power, another place after this life. We believe home is with God, and our time spent here is preparing us for our life in heaven. Putting his own selfish wants to keep her here on this earth, my grandfather was willing to let her go and rest in peace, to be pain free, to go home, knowing one day they would be with each other again. From that day forward I saw the love that they had. You see, love isn’t about how many good or bad times you’ve had with someone. It’s not about the hours spent together. Love is selfless; it is knowing when to let someone go even though you wish they could stay.

 


 

Hard work pays off - Ryan O’Donoghue. English 15, Mrs. Kounios

I believe in being a hard worker. When I was a little kid, I would always try to take the easy way out of things. I never really thought it was that big of a deal, and if it “got the job done,” it was good enough. In the past few years I have discovered that working hard is essential and pays off in the long run.

In high school, taking the easy way out always sounded good--picking the shortest homework questions to do, not doing the extra credit because a grade was “good enough,” or not studying for a test because I thought the material on it was easy. Then, I began to see that all of my peers who took that extra step, and did a little more than I was doing, were excelling. For example, they were the ones getting scholarships that I could’ve really used to help pay for my college tuition.

After finally realizing that hard work is definitely noticed, I wanted to become that person who goes the extra step to see if that would pay off for me. A time that sticks out in my mind is when I’m at work. I have a fairly easy job, but the extra little things I do there stand out and make people notice. I first started contributing more at work by picking up an extra shift when someone couldn’t work or staying later than scheduled to help out. My boss came up to me one day and said that because of all of my recent hard, he was giving me a raise. This made me feel good because I knew that all of my extra work, done while everyone else did the bare minimum, was finally noticed, and I was thrilled that I was being rewarded for it. A couple months later, after continuing my hard work there, I was promoted to assistant manager. My friends with whom I worked were jealous, but I knew that I worked hard and earned my rewards.

This is one of many stories that show how being a hard-working person is a good trait to have. I believe that working hard, no matter what the situation or circumstances may be, will pay off, whether it’s a physical reward or just the good feeling one gets after an accomplishment. Being hard working is a little trait that could bring the biggest positive rewards in return.

 


 

What I Believe - Barcelona - Peter Henson

My name is Peter Henson and I found out about the course, AMST 105, Popular Culture which had an embedded weeklong excursion to Barcelona, Spain, through my friend, Colin Bradley. He presented this opportunity to me and immediately I told him I was going to register for the course. Right before leaving for the airport I was filled with doubt and second guessing the entire trip, but soon all that uneasiness turned into excitement. The minute we all got out of the shuttles and walked into the airport, I knew that this group was destined for something more than just a spring break trip to Spain.

To me, friendships and close bonds are more important than anything in the world. Family and friends of mine I love to keep close and always keep in touch with, because without companionship, we are left with nothing. This trip, for me, brought me close with people I would probably have never met in my life,and even closer to the ones I knew coming into the trip. Seeing everyone come together to travel around the city, go out to eat, and then all go out together really made my experience the best week of my life. I met so many amazing people, who inspired me in so many ways. My roommate, Chris “Rome” Baker showed me that there is more to life than just going through the motions, and really challenged me to step outside my comfort zones. Steve Baker showed me that no matter what the situation, you can be happy with what you’re dealt, because being upset about gets you nowhere. And even my teacher, Patricia Hillen, showed me that no matter who you’re with or where you are, you can always have a great time.

This trip showed me a lot about the Spanish culture and how different it is from what we are used here. However, most importantly, it showed me that there are truly amazing people out there in the world that I was so fortunate enough to meet, and spend a whole week with. This trip will forever be engraved in my memory, and I cannot thank everyone that went with me enough for showing me how beautiful the world can be. I feel like a changed man, and I will forever cherish all the lessons I learned in Barcelona.

 


 

To Be Honest... - Tracy Eccles. English 15, Mrs. Kounios

I believe in honesty. I believe in telling the truth no matter what the consequences. I believe all individuals deserve to know something that may affect them.

Growing up, I’ve told lies, I’ve believed lies, and I’ve been upset over a lie. For example, one night , two of my friends and I arranged to hang out for the first time in a while. College was keeping us apart, so we planned a night to reunite. After an hour together, the lies began from one friend. She started with, “My mom needs me home.” We weren’t going to question it, so we let her leave.

At around 3 a.m., her mother called, asking if my other friend and I knew where she was because she never came home. We were confused because we dropped her off at home and were not aware that she planned on going somewhere else. This scared us because we all thought she was somewhere that she was not. By telling a lie, my friend put everyone who loves her into panic. Everyone was worried and upset over what might have happened to her. Luckily, she just left to go hang out with other friends, and she was fine.

She learned from this incident and realized that no unnecessary lie is worth hurting others. I’ve learned from this also: I believe no lie is ever worth telling.

I think that if someone feels the need to lie about something, then maybe he or she shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. No truth can hurt someone more than a lie. When people lie, it can show they have no respect for themselves or the people they’re telling the lie to. Over the years, I’ve caught many people in a lie or have been caught in a lie myself. By my experiences and witnessing others’ experiences with lies, I’ve come to the conclusion that relationships require honesty to thrive.

 


 

Love Builds Strength - Nicole Lyons. English 15, Mrs. Kounios

I believe that love builds strength. When I was a junior in high school, my mom passed away from breast cancer. I did not know how I was going to go on with my life without her in it. She was my best friend and the person whom I could go to about everything. She had the best advice and was always there for me even when I did something wrong. After she passed away, I felt that there wasn’t a purpose for getting out of bed and doing anything.

However, I remembered that my mom’s cancer did not stop her from living her life. She got out of bed every morning, went to work, and took care of her kids. She is one of the strongest people I will ever know. I think that she was diagnosed with breast cancer for a reason; I never knew that reason until after she died. The reason was to show everyone she knew that she was able to do anything, no matter what got in her way, because of her love for her family.

When she was going to her numerous doctor appointments and chemotherapy treatments, I never heard her complain once. Even through her last few weeks, she continued going to work and holding on because she did not want to leave her family. Her love for us gave her strength, and it is my family’s love for her that is inspiring our strength. Perhaps the reason why God took her from my family at that time was to show us that we are able to get through anything that is thrown at us. He took my mom away to show me that I am a strong person and that I will be able to get through this tragedy.

I will always remember the good times I had with my mom and the lesson she taught me to never give up no matter what gets in the way. Her love will always be with me, and that helps me to stay strong.

 


 

The Power of a Nap - Justin Miller. English 15, Mrs. Kounios

Many of us start our day very early. By the time that we get home from work or school in the late afternoon, we might have been up for eight, ten, or even twelve hours. Unfortunately, our days do not end there. Plenty is still to be done, from completing homework to parenting. Usually people are exhausted long before they go to bed. I believe in the power of a good nap because there is no better way to fight tiredness than simply with sleep.

When people get tired, they often drink coffee or have an “energy drink.” But instead of all that, I have a different way to keep myself focused. Almost every day after I get home from my last class, I lie down on the couch in my living room and doze off. I set the alarm on my cell phone for one hour so that I don’t sleep too long. With just an hour, I wake up feeling energized instead of groggy. That makes focusing on homework or staying alert at the job much easier.

Napping not only boosts energy but also contributes to better health. It also can ensure safety. For example, when a person is struggling to stay awake on a long road trip, pulling over and getting some sleep could save one’s own life as well as the lives of other drivers.

The benefits of what a person can do with more energy are endless.

During my first semester at college, I had to write a seven-to-nine-page research paper for my psychology course. My grade was teetering on the edge of B and C, so it was important to do well. Although we had half of a semester to complete it, I put it off for way too long. The day before it was due, instead of coming home and hitting the books, I decided to take a quick siesta. After that, I started working. I didn’t finish the paper until almost 3 o’clock in the morning. Had I started when I got home, either I would have fallen asleep working on the paper, or the quality of the work would have suffered dramatically. Luckily, I had gained hours’ worth of alertness from just a one-hour nap.

Everyone has something to gain by napping. People try as hard as they can to keep themselves awake instead of just letting themselves sleep. With our increasingly busy lives, it helps to just stop and relax. I cannot think of a time when taking a quick snooze has inconvenienced me. It is the simplest form of gaining energy and therefore relieves stress. I truly believe in the benefits of napping, and it has served me pretty well thus far.

 


 

Believe in the Program - Paige Kounnas. English 15, Mrs. Gerritsen

Today all around the world, people are addicted to various things. Many people are addicted to alcohol and drugs. I believe that the AA and NA programs can help people stay sober. AA stands for Alcoholics Anonymous and NA stands for Narcotics Anonymous. I know many people who have been addicted to both alcohol and drugs, and it is very unpleasant to experience.

I have witnessed seeing drugs and alcohol affect my father’s life in a negative way. My father first tried smoking when he was eight years old. My grandmother would make him light her cigarettes for her. He had his first sip of alcohol not too long after that. My grandmother would have parties, and my dad was the alcohol runner for everyone. My dad grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, when drugs were very popular. He hung out with a lot of older people and was willing to try new things. He then began smoking marijuana, but that was the least drug to worry about.

My dad became addicted to drugs; his drug of choice was cocaine. He attempted to get sober when my older sister was born, but he struggled for years. He was always in and out of different rehabs. Finally, when I was born in March of 1993, he sobered up. He was doing well for a few years, but then began smoking marijuana again. Not too long after that he relapsed completely, and started to abuse cocaine and alcohol again.

I was twelve years old when this was all occurring, and it was a nightmare for me. I had never seen my father act in such horrible ways. The man I looked up to left, and this monster took over. It took a while for my dad to get his act together. He was arrested three times, and was sent to jail for a few months. While in jail he started to attend AA and NA meetings. He had no choice but to be sober in jail. When he was released he was sent to a half-way house, and continued to go to meetings. I was very proud of my father. The man I used to know was quickly coming back.

When my dad came home, I barely saw him. I was too busy working and going to school. Whenever I was home he would be at a meeting. I was very angry that he would spend all of his spare time there, and wondered what was so special about them. I decided to go to an NA meeting with him one evening. There were many people just like my father who struggled with staying sober. I then understood why he was always there.

The program is a place where people can get sober, and stay sober. People have to be 100 percent committed, attend meetings every day, and complete the 12 steps to staying sober. Meetings are there for people to go to when they feel the urge to use. They are also a place for people to relate to each other.

My dad continues to go to meetings every day. He has been clean and sober for three and a half years. I know that if people set their minds to it, and want to be sober, they can. If my dad can get sober, I believe anyone can. The program is very helpful, and can save your life. If only people knew how bad drugs and alcohol affect people’s lives, I do not think they would ever start using. I believe NA and AA meetings can help people.

 


 

Beautifully Different - Alex Curcio. English 15, Mrs. Gerritsen

I believe we should end bullying and accept people for who they are. It sounds like a simple concept. Unfortunately, some people seem to have a problem with people loving the same sex. Growing up is hard enough: however, growing up gay or lesbian is even harder. Many of my friends who are gay or lesbian have had a very hard time growing up because people discriminate, tell them that they are going to hell for the decision that they are making and look at them as a lower class human being. I believe that people should have the right to choose whom they love because I undoubtedly think that everyone is born exactly the way they should be. Unfortunately, some people push young gay and lesbian teens over the edge.

When I was 15 years old I finally came to terms with myself. I owned up to the fact that I was gay. The standards that society set made it hard for me to accept that fact but I eventually did. At that point in my life I needed people that I could easily connect to, so I reached out and met other gay and lesbian teenagers my own age. I made a very close friend who was also gay; his name is Mike. Mike came out to his parents when he was only 13 years old, and they never accepted him. They told Mike that he shouldn’t have made the decision to be gay. His parents bought him issues of Playboy, let him watch movies with extreme sexual content between a man and a woman, and even wanted some of his friends that were girls to spend the night with him, all in hopes that he would turn straight again. Mike and I laughed at this because we both knew that it was never a decision, we never made a choice; we were just born this way. Not only was there trouble at home, but also at his school. People pushed him around, called him vulgar names and would make fun of him for the simple fact that he was gay. The fact that Mike was gay didn’t kill anyone, it didn’t hurt anyone or break the law but they continued to treat him as if he were a criminal.

I will never forget the day the phone rang and it was Mike’s parents. They told me Mike took his life at the young age of 14. I was crushed, and from that moment on I wanted to help people get through tough times to prevent something similar to Mike’s situation. Growing up is hard, but growing up gay or lesbian can be unbearable to handle. I believe that everyone is born without any flaws. There are millions and millions of people that are born gay, lesbian and bisexual. We are just like anyone else; the only thing that is different is whom we love. I believe we should end bullying and accept people for who they are. Not hate them because they are different. Our differences are what make us beautiful.

 


 

I Believe in Living - Joe Stackhouse. English 15, Mrs. Gerritsen

I believe in just living life to the fullest. Living life with no regrets at all times is the best state of mind to be in. There is nothing in this world that should be able to break someone. I personally am just completely opened minded and completely charismatic about everything. Every single person in this world is their own person no matter where they are from. You are the person that decides every part of your life, no other person’s judgments or remarks should have anything to do with that. Human beings have rights that just happen to make everyone equal, and not one person can deny that or take that from somebody. We have the power to lead our lives in our own way, and that is where people have to grasp and take that advantage. Pride and confidence can take people beyond their dreams, and live life with no limitations.

Obviously, there are things in life that are inevitable such as death. Death of a loved one can cause depression, drug abuse, or even suicides. It is obviously a horrible moment in anyone’s life, and yet there are still people that would use that mentality of heartbreak and actually do something about it. This action could range from comforting others or starting social groups. These strong people would try to prevent these horrible moments from happening to other people. It is the people who are strong willed who are going to survive the longest. No limitations, but an unlimited number of goals. The higher a person reaches, the further they will make it in life. What’s the point of holding back? This country would never be as advanced and historical as it is today if those great people did not push themselves to exceed the limits and achieve greatness.

I live life one day at a time, and make the best out of each and every single second of the day. Hard work will get you far in life, laziness nowhere. Living it up on the weekends and focus on school during the week should be every college student’s philosophy. There will be multiple obstacles that interfere and disrupt someone’s life. It is the ones who fight with their dying breath for what they want who will come out successful.

Live your life and do not let anybody interfere; trust no one besides family, and work hard. I repeat these steps every day and it always puts me in a good mood. I fight for what I believe in; if something gets me down, there is nothing that can keep me there. I have plans for the future and never will I give up on these goals. Life would be pointless if everything was easy; without obstacles to overcome there is no point. I always say what is on my mind, and my opinion is my own. This I believe in and no one can take that away from me.

 


 

If You Have Limits, We can Break Them - Jason Sirirathasuk. English 15, Mrs. Gerritsen

When I learned how to breakdance I didn’t expect it to change my life. As I look back on my past, I see I’ve changed from being a shy person to an outspoken individual. Now I can have a conversation with a stranger without hesitating or even not talking to them at all. My confidence level has increased because now I believe I can achieve anything I desire. I believe that breakdancing has made me the person I am today

Before I started breakdancing, I did not talk to anybody in my high school; I would always keep to myself. I would sit in the back of the classroom and not say a word. I had an interest in breakdancing from a young age, but I never really took the time to learn. Since I didn’t have a teacher to teach me the ways of a break-dancer, I used the Internet as my mentor. Staying up all night just searching and perfecting certain moves was the difficult part of my breakdancing journey. After countless hours of practice, it finally paid off.

I walked past the performing arts center of my high school one day and saw my peers singing, acting out plays, and best of all, dancing. A circle began to form in the middle of the stage and students started to show off their dancing skills. I watched different kids dance and was amazed on how they moved their body in unique styles to the beat of the song. Pumped up from the music playing and students performing, I unconsciously jumped into the circle and started showing off my breakdancing skills; I heard the crowds of students cheering me on. Hearing them react to my moves made me overjoyed.

After I finished my last move, a group of students came up to me and started to ask questions about teaching them how to breakdance or to join their crew; I was so proud of myself that day. I finally built up the courage and self-confidence from breakdancing and learned a skill I wanted ever since I was child. I believe that breakdancing has made me the person I am today. I wonder how I would turn out if I didn’t learn how to breakdance and what kind of person I would be today.

 


 

Inspiration - Brett Bierman. English 15, Mrs. Gerritsen

I believe in the power of inspiration. Inspiration is defined as an inspiring or animating action or influence. Human beings are unique creatures and each individual is inspired in different ways. Some believe heavily in its powers whereas some fail to see its effects. Everyone experiences it differently and what is inspirational to one may not be to another.

There are examples of inspiration in everyday life. A composer may be inspired by the chirping birds out of his window, an athlete by a lost loved one, and many others. Humans can also accomplish incredible feats when properly inspired. For example, an artist can watch a sunset and proceed to paint a beautiful and elaborate work of art from it. A woman could gain the strength to lift the weight of a car to save her child because love inspires her to. Every day people are inspired to perform what seem like meaningless tasks at the time, but actually impact their lives. Students drive themselves to wake up and attend class. Teachers attempt to impact and inspire young minds through their own inspiration. Heroes, such as police and firefighters, put their lives on the line to save others, even in the most hopeless situations. Everyone does their own routine because of something that inspired them to do so.

I too was unexpectedly inspired one day to do something I never gave much thought to. I was inspired by my father and brother to become a firefighter just as they are. I would hear stories and see news reports about these selfless duties that they would perform for complete strangers looking for nothing in return. It was hard for me to believe that someone with a family could put the life of another person, whom they have never met before, above their own. I was not inspired by the glory of saving a life, but by the people who perform the courageous acts and do not expect any praise. It has been a hard road, but never once has anyone of us thought about giving up; we are driven by something deep inside that pushes us to keep fighting forward. It cannot be explained or put into words, but it can be shown and demonstrated to the world through action.

True inspiration is known to all, yet is a total mystery at the same time. It is difficult to describe, yet it is experienced and understood by all human beings, no matter how young or old. I believe that is the beauty of the power of inspiration.

 


 

Encouragement - Yvette Kounios

On many occasions, I gratifyingly observe and experience that someone’s life can be bettered, or just bolstered, by a fortuitous moment of kindness, concern, caring, or polite interest.

That is why I believe in encouragement.

I do, though, smile—completely agreeing—when I hear, in The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” Paul McCartney sing “…begin/You’re waiting for someone to perform with….” Self-reliance is vital. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that it even fosters genius. We must believe in ourselves, make things happen, and persevere—when others give us thumbs-up or not.

Yet the moment is sweet when someone else believes in us, too.

My parents are masters of encouragement. Both Greek immigrants, they believe in the pure gesture of showing support to anyone with a good idea or a good heart. They came to this joint notion from unique perspectives. My mother survived the horrors of World War II and came to America with an unwavering faith that better days are possible with love, prayer, and determination. After she moved from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, the result of marrying my father, her Southern friends would call not only to keep in touch but also to get her optimistic take on a problem they were facing. Her new Northern friends and acquaintances would find her utterance of “Isn’t that nice!” or “Honey, that will work out…”just what they needed to hear on a given day. And my brother and I, and now our own families as well, have benefited from her encouragement. The issue may have been a childhood ailment, a teenage crush, a big test in school, the passing of a beloved relative, a professional achievement, an unruly toddler, or—into the concerns of the next generation—a soccer game or dance recital; my mother usually has helped to make a bad day tolerable and a great day celebratory.

My father has always been an “Oh, boy! Isn’t that great!” kind of guy. He is a sturdy, naturally athletic man who served as an Army sergeant when he was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and met my mom. When my brother and I were growing up, he would walk around the house from time to time singing songs from Gordon MacRae musicals like Oklahoma, and then my mom—with her warm brown eyes, fierce sense of humor, and Snow White-style bouffant hairdo—would chime in, but that’s a whole other essay. The classic example of a hardworking immigrant, Dad believes that everyone should pursue a dream, and is he ever one to praise someone for realizing it or comfort someone when a plan must change.

In introducing an acquaintance to me, he often says something along the lines of, “This is Mr. So-and-So. He just achieved such-and-such at work. [Wait for it…] Isn’t that great!”

All the Mr., Mrs., and Ms. So-and-Sos love my mom and dad. So do I.

That’s the point of encouragement: preserving and inspiring community. Individual sense of purpose and achievement are necessary. But when things go right, a party for one is not too fun. When things go wrong, a supportive or constructive comment can motivate someone to feel better or to move on to an amazing accomplishment.

Encouragement betters society: at home, at work, anywhere. (Here, there, and everywhere—those Beatles: what a way of phrasing things!)

It is a simple, productive practice in which I enthusiastically believe.

 


 

Education in the United States - Peggy Owusu-Twum

I believe in the educational system in America. Education is an important key to succeed in life. I was born and raised in West Africa, Ghana. I did not recognize the important differences between the educational system in Ghana and in the United States till I came to this country. The lack of recourse, the poor transportation system and limited physical educational activities are some of the differences between a Ghana education and an American education.

The lack of resources in Ghana’s education was a major problem for some students. I remember when I was in 7th grade, we were assigned to do a group project which required a computer. There was no computer in the school for us to complete the project in school. The only way we could get access to a computer was at the public library. This library was the only one in the town . There were about five computers in the library to use. The library was always packed with many people and there was a time limit on the usage of the computers. This was really stressful for us, but we had no choice but to complete the project. Students had to buy their own school supplies, including textbooks, and they were expensive. In Ghana, the people do not pay taxes, so parents have to pay their children’s school fees while they are in school. There are no after school programs for the students. I came to the United States in the middle of the semester in 8th grade. My first day in school, I had a teacher who introduced me to all the resources that were available for me to use whenever I needed. She also introduced me to a tutor, who was going to help me with my English assignments and other classes. After school, when I was going home I said to myself, “The education in the United States is amazing and the students are very fortunate to have all the resources that Ghana does not have.”

One problem that most students were facing when I was there was the poor transportation system in Ghana. This was a problem for most students who lived far from their school. There was only one public school in a city and there were three private schools. Many parents let their children attend the public school because it was less expensive than the private schools. Some students had to walk about thirty minutes to school every day. This caused some students to drop out of school because they were late for school and were not able to focus on their studies. I was fortunate to have my mother in the United States to send me money every month for my transportation to school. In America there are school buses for students that are far from their school. There is more than one public school in the cities which makes it easier for every student to go to school.

Lastly, physical education activities were limited, especially for women. The only sport that was available was soccer. Only the men were allowed to play. Some people believe that soccer was only meant for boys and not for girls. There were a couple of occasions when my friends and I would play with the guys after school in a park close to our house. We showed the great skills that we had in soccer. We were all happy to play not just for fun but to show our talent. There were some other girls who had their own skills in different kinds of sports. Some students felt the best thing for them was to just focus on their education even if they had potential in other skills. After all, that was what they came there for, not to show their skills. In the United States, there are lots of physical activities that are both played by men and women, such as basketball, baseball, volleyball, football and soccer. I joined the women’s soccer team when I was in 9th grade. For the first time, I felt proud to do what I have been waiting for and wanting to do. Playing soccer has allowed me to see who I am. It made me felt great whenever my team won. I was able to visit different states by playing soccer.

I truly believe in the educational system in the United States, for the help that is there for students. Experiencing these differences has made me value the importance of education in the United States. I wish that Ghana would have had this kind of educational system. I saw some students in high school, who were not serious about their education. I hope that these students will appreciate the educational system that this country has to offer. I have gained much knowledge by being part of this educational system. There is diversity in the schools which gave me a chance to learn about other people and their cultures. I have met different people of different races through my educational life and I learn something new each day. Education in the United States is the best a person can get.

 


 

I Believe Everything Happens for a Reason - Wilkens Camille

At one time Haiti was best known as the pearl of the Antilles. After two hundred years of slavery, it became a model of liberty. However, on January 12th 2010 Haiti was famous again. People around the world had their eyes on this poor country. Haiti and its friends felt their lives were destroyed like the multiple buildings in Port-au-Prince and other cities that collapsed.

It was a normal day; the temperature was warm as always. People were attending their activities similar to the days before the great flood in the Bible. Once, a wise man said to me, “Live your life as if it was your last day.” I did not understand the concept yet; since that cataclysm happened, it was like an apocalypse in Haiti. Sometimes, I feel it was a blessing because I was not there. I cannot stop thinking that if I were there on the darkest day, I would not be here today to write this story.

I was almost done with my internship in a neighboring country, The Dominican Republic. Medical students have the cruel responsibility to be constantly up-to-date, to assist procedures, and to practice the art of medicine. Also, people expect your work to be well done. By the time you are an intern, you do not realize how important of a step it is in your career. You feel people around are asking too much from you. You just want to run away, but you cannot. After all your medical studies, it would be a waste of time, money and brainpower. Therefore, when it is time to leave the hospital, you do not want to stay any longer. I left around noon; I thought it was going to be a fantastic day. Later in the afternoon, I went to see some friends that I used to have fun with. I was in the middle of a conversation talking about the prettiest Dominican lady I had ever met and suddenly I felt the earth shaking as hard as my heart was beating for this lady. I did not even have time to take refuge because everything was calm after a second. A couple minutes later, a Dominican friend texted me a message to turn on my television. I could not believe my eyes. According to the news, it was a catastrophic magnitude 7.0 Mw earthquake, with an epicenter near the town of Leogâne, approximately 25 km west of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. I was trapped all night staring at the TV news, because I could not join my family by phone. Haiti was like the valley of death. I looked in vain to see if I could recognize my family, but all the people looked the same.

“I am not afraid of chaos because chaos is the womb of light and life; what I do not like is no management of chaos,” wrote Frankétienne, the man known as the father of Haitian literature. Haitian prowess to become the first Independent Black Country was not seen well by its mother country. Furthermore, the self-interest of many Haitians did not help the baby country grow up, but instead to dive into poverty and poor management. In fact, Haiti looked more chaotic because of no management. I believe everything happens for a reason. Thus, Haiti might serve as a reference for what could happen in the rest of world as someone said before, and it could elicit this Haitian generation to build a new country worthy of its history and its cultural richness.

 


 

I believe that anyone, no matter their age, can make a difference - Max Jackson, English 15, Mrs. DeMarco

When I was young, maybe ten or eleven, I lived in a neighborhood in Voorhees, NJ. This neighborhood was put smack in the middle of two main roads, so it was used as a cut through all the time, and cars would fly down the street. Most of the families had kids my age or a little older and we would all play hockey or other games in the street. But this became impossible when the cars were doing 45 in our 25 mph neighborhood. I decided I needed to do something about it, so I did.

I talked to my dad about what I wanted to do because he was on the township board at the time, but he told me he had nothing to do with neighborhoods or residential streets. We decided that the best thing for me to do would be to get up at the end of a township meeting and tell everyone what I had to say. I remember to this day sitting in the front row in that plastic folding chair all alone surrounded by strangers. My dad was at the table across from me working. I didn't pay any attention to what was going on throughout the meeting because I was so nervous and just kept thinking about what I was going to say.

When it finally came time at the very end for me to get up and speak, my palms were sweaty and I was trembling, but I still had to do it.

I got up there and my little- boy voice was amplified by the microphone they gave me and I stood on a stool so everyone could see me. I told them that people cut through my neighborhood all the time and they sped like it was the highway. Looking back on it, I'm sure some of the people in the room were culprits as well. I said that we needed speed bumps and signs in the neighborhood to make the cars slow down so that we could all be safe. After that my dad said a few things and we went home, proud that I got up and did what had to be done for our safety.

A few days later I came home from school and to my surprise there were “Slow, Children at Play” signs scattered throughout the neighborhood. I was so happy and proud of myself because even though I was only a little boy I made a huge change for the safety of my neighbors and friends. Unfortunately I have gone back to the neighborhood where I used to live and the signs have since been removed, which was very disappointing. I almost want to go back in front of the town board to get them put back in because I'm sure it is still used as a cut through.

 


 

Fishing for Explanations - Anonymous, English 15, Mrs. Gilbert

Over the summer after my senior year in high school, my friend invited me to accompany him on his family trip with his parents to a beach house near the outer banks of Atlantic City. One early morning, I awoke to search for a bottle of water. As I peered out the window towards the calm sheltered bay, I saw my friend and his dad fishing together on the dock. At first I smiled for them. It was a beautiful moment, a father and son sitting, fishing and talking, but then I thought about my father. What kind of activities did we do together? We watched television and ate in silence during dinner. What did we talk about? School and chores. What do I know about my dad? He emigrated from Vietnam and now he is a mechanic. That was just a shallow fact. My smile faded away. My throat felt dry, so I tried to drink some water. It felt like stones tumbling down my throat. I was never close to my father, probably because we were raised in two immensely different cultures.

My dad was born in Vietnam and he was one of nine siblings from a poor family. From a young age, he sold bread on the streets and worked on a rice farm to help support his family. In contrast, I was born in the United States. My only concerns in life involved doing well in academics and completing my chores. My dad and I used to get into arguments about how much I did around the house. Each argument increased the gap between us.

It was this very essay that caused me to really think about my father. My English professor had told me during a writing conference about her father, and how he made her play baseball because he wanted a son. I laughed at her funny story, but it made me wonder.

That night when I came home from school, I found my dad sitting at the kitchen table watching the nightly news. I do not believe in transitioning into questions and shallow conversations, so I just asked, “Hey Ba, how was your relationship with your father?” Ba means dad in Vietnamese. Ba still sat in the chair as if I didn’t say anything, but eventually he reached for the remote and turned off the television. After taking a long sigh, he responded.

“We did a lot of fishing together. Throwing the nets into the river or pond was how we fished back then. On cool nights we would lie on our backs outside on the grass and look at the stars together. I would listen to his folktales. One day he got sick. At first it was the numbness in his hands. Sometimes he couldn’t pick things up.” My dad tried to pick up his mug of tea as if he had no use of his hands. He couldn’t raise the mug to his lips. “One evening, he collapsed in the bathroom. He struggled to get to bed to sleep. When he awoke he couldn’t walk normally. His leg dragged behind him. He was unable to go to work, so your grandmother had to start working on the rice fields. We needed food to go with the rice so I would go fish alone. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and they didn’t have the right equipment to find out either. Eventually, all he could do was lie in bed. He would only call on me if he needed to go to the bathroom or eat. For three years I took care of him. By that time the communists took over and there was no school for a while. He couldn’t talk anymore after some time, so I would often wake up to find his bed wet. I had to clean up and change the sheets every time. It got to the point when he couldn’t eat or drink anymore. The water would just pour out of his mouth.”

I asked Ba if grandpa said anything to him while he still had his voice. I was hoping to hear a thank you, or some kind of words of wisdom, but Ba said that my grandfather only spoke if he needed something. That must have been painful for my dad. His eyes were watering by the time I told him it was getting late. His frizzled hair and wrinkled face made him look fatigued. It crossed my mind if something like this was to happen to Ba.

I believe in asking about a parent’s childhood experiences. I was never close to my father because I didn’t know him. I lived with him all of these years and it took until now to find out about Ba’s childhood experience with his father. These experiences are windows into the past, but if these windows are not noticed, they are shut when the parent passes on. Knowing what my father went through has made us closer than we were ever before. If he ever finds himself in trouble I will be there for him, like he was with grandpa.

 


 

Learning to Win - Zachary DeVito, English 15, Mrs. Gilbert

I’ve been playing basketball all of my life. I started out practicing in my driveway. This is where my father introduced me to the sport at a young age, and I fell in love with it. Throughout my childhood, I played on many different basketball teams. Traveling around the tri-state area to different tournaments gave me the opportunity to experience unfamiliar ways of life that most children my age would never be exposed to. The tournaments were always exciting and competitive. Although we won a lot of tournaments, losing always made me angry. I used to take defeat a lot harder than I do now.

I remember one high school season when defeat turned into victory. Standing at five and a half feet, I was a fourteen-year old freshman in high school. Although four starters from the prior season had graduated, my coach had very high expectations for us. Our team consisted of small, fast, and talented players. During the preseason, I lifted weights and practiced shooting every day. Hard work and dedication helped me earn the role of starting point guard.

The first game was against the Upper Darby Royals, an experienced team with an endless number of phenomenal athletes. Before the game, I could hear roaring sounds of the sold out Upper Darby gymnasium from our locker room. As my coach drew the game strategy on the chalk board, he quoted John Wooden: “We are going to match their athleticism.” Butterflies fought to break out of my stomach; I never felt such a jittery feeling in my entire life. Before I knew it, the ball was in the air, and the game had begun. The butterflies in my stomach had transformed into a burst of energy. They ran us up and down the court until we were out of breath. We played as hard as we could for the entire game. However, that was not enough to defeat the Royals. Our strategy resulted in a thirty point loss.

We had a full season ahead of us, including a rematch at home versus the Royals, so our coach didn’t want us to get discouraged. He told us, “For each failure provides a lesson that we will never forget.” We developed team chemistry, improved our skills, and realized where our strengths were on the court. Gaining experience and discipline, we were a different team after two months of practice and games.

An undefeated Upper Darby team, who had embarrassed us earlier in the season, was the last game on our schedule. We knew that they were bigger, faster, and could jump higher than us. Our new game plan was to slow down the tempo by extending our offensive possessions and playing a zone defense in order to force them to shoot three-pointers. Our longer offensive possessions revealed the flaws in their defense, which allowed us to get easy lay-ups. By packing our defense in tight and forcing them to shoot long shots, they were not able to score as many points as usual. We shocked the entire league that night by defeating the Royals by twenty points. We had successfully learned from our failure.

Throughout the season, I learned a lot about handling defeat. I used to see failure as a bad thing but only through the most brutal failures do we see the light of success. I believe that failure is as important as success. Defeating the Royals the second time around was not only a great basketball memory, but it was also a life lesson. To this day I continue to learn from my mistakes. Without failures, how does one improve?

 


 

I Believe in Both Sides - Carlie Swallow, English 15, Mrs. Gilbert

When I hear the word “believe,” I associate it with God. All of my life, I attended Catholic schools. My parents and I went to church every Sunday and I never questioned my religion. I lived eleven years of my life believing anything my teachers, parents or priests told me about God, but my whole belief about religion changed one day when I was a sophomore in high school.

Throughout all of my schooling, my classmates and I were raised to believe that God created the universe; however, during my sophomore year I took a biology class which was scheduled right before my theology class. About half way through the year in biology, my teacher started the chapter on the theory of evolution and the big bang theory. He explained that the big bang theory is a scientific belief that the universe was created from an atom exploding. He then told us how scientists believe that humans evolved from monkeys, given all the similarities between us. There was so much evidence supporting these theories that I automatically believed them, wondering how I could have been so naive to have believed that an entity that no one has ever seen could have possibly created a world out of nothing, a man out of clay, and a woman out of one of his ribs. Also, there was no scientific proof of anything that my theology teacher taught us. The only history is in the Bible, a simple book that many perceive to be a fictional story.

I then went to my theology class. My teacher started talking about creation and when I started asking questions about the theory of evolution and different stories in the Bible, like Noah’s Ark, he began to get very defensive and short answered with me, telling me that the proof that God made the universe and everything in it was all around me. “How could evolution make something this beautiful?” he asked me. But that wasn’t a good enough answer for me. I needed something more than to just “look around.”

I went home and tried to talk to my mom about it. When I told her my belief of God was in jeopardy, she got angry and asked me, “If there's no God, where do you think you are going to go when you die?” This thought scared me a lot, but then the “what ifs” started to invade my thoughts. I started to think, what if people created the thought of a god to protect themselves against the unknown? What if death was just death and nothing else? What if God didn’t exist at all? But then I thought about my eleven years of learning and realized that there was no way he did not not exist, but couldn’t convince myself why. Then I started to get mad at myself. How could I go through eleven years of Catholic teachings and in one class let my beliefs completely change?

The next day I went back and talked to my biology teacher and asked him what I should have asked him right from the beginning. “What do you believe?” He thought about it for a minute and then told me, to my surprise, that he believed a little bit of both. He believed that God does exist and that He created the first atom that exploded and after that physics and science took over. His opinion held the most weight in my thoughts.

I graduated two years later still somewhat confused, but now I know. I believe in a little bit of both. I believe in not knowing exactly what to believe as long as it has been questioned. I believe that it is extremely important to question what people are teaching as the truth. But over anything, I believe that I need to know why I believe in something.

 


 

Awakened Presence - Joshua Cannon, English 15, Mrs. Gilbert

My grandmother had been dead for eleven years before I felt her presence. A troubled woman, my grandmother killed herself in her bedroom with a single gunshot to her chest. In a recorded tape, she said the pain in her head got to be too bad. Immediately after the suicide, my aunt became severely depressed and built a strong wall of hate towards her mother.

I was seven when my grandmother took her own life, and it wasn’t until a few months after I turned 18 that I encountered her again. Just like any other night, I took a shower, but this night was different. As the bathroom filled with steam, I felt an entity of hatred and anger on the other side of the shower curtain, as if something was trying to attack me. Although I was scared to lift my head, I thought if I took my eyes and mind off whatever was in my bathroom, it would dive at my legs through the shower curtain and tackle me. I forced myself to open the shower curtain and stare toward the floor where I envisioned the entity.

My knees were weak as I stood in the shower powerless, the entity of anger progressively getting worse. Suddenly, I felt the presence of my Aunt Stacey, as if the anger was coming from her and she wanted to hurt me. There was no reason my aunt would be mad at me, let alone want to hurt me. We were on good terms; I didn’t see her that often but it was pleasant every time we spoke. Then I felt another entity form above me, while the entity of hatred still remained in front of me. I felt my grandmother. Overloaded with emotions, I began to tear up. I shut the water off and managed to call my mother. I told her what had happened and to call my aunt
and ask her if everything was all right.

My mom told my aunt what had happened. My aunt then told my mom how, for the first time in many years, she had gone to visit my grandmother at her grave, just hours before this happened to me. My aunt admitted her anger towards my grandmother hadn’t changed since the day my grandmother committed suicide. My aunt also told my mom that right after she visited my grandmother’s grave, she had come to our house and used our bathroom. The spot where I felt the anger is exactly where my aunt had been standing in our bathroom a couple of hours before I took my shower.

I was not aware of my grandmother’s presence until the entity of anger that my aunt brought into my house challenged my grandmother. Now I believe that my grandmother is always with me; I just don’t always know it. I feel safe now, guarded, knowing my grandmother is with me and protecting me, not only because she loves me and because I’m her grandson, but also maybe as a way of saying she’s sorry. I was close to my grandmother before her death, so now I have more peace of mind about her suicide, knowing that my grandmother isn’t actually gone, but with me in a different way.

 


 

I believe in the small things - Kari Staiber, English 15, Mrs. DeMarco

I believe in the small things. I believe that a smile to a stranger goes farther than a paycheck. I believe that cleaning your room when your mom asks you to brings her more than we realize as kids. When I’m driving, I’ll let someone in front of me. I’ll text an old friend and ask how they are. When I’m done with class and get home I’ll ask my dad if he needs anything. I believe that acting towards others without passing judgment and offering ourselves is worth the risk. I believe in leaving an extra few dollars for the waiter after a night out to dinner.

I can recall instances in my own life when the “smaller” acts went the extra mile. I went on a senior retreat last year in April. The second night we were given a giant manila envelope and told to go back to our rooms and empty the contents alone and in silence. The envelope was filled with numerous letters from friends and family. The first one I happened to open and read was from an old friend who I met freshman year and hadn’t talked to since. Back then he could have been defined as “nerdy”; he was extremely unsociable and not as developed as most of our grade. We were in the same study hall, 7th period. We began talking because we also had 8th period together. We bonded uniquely because he was shy and personally for me when I got to high school I became much more outgoing.

After that year we just drifted apart; we didn’t keep in touch at all. Something so common in high school. I never thought twice about him, honestly, except when I would pass him in the hallways, which was infrequent. Each year that passed I realized how much he had grown since then, physically and socially. I rarely thought about that either until his letter brought my attention back to our past friendship. As follows is his letter:

“It has been awhile hasn’t it? I hope you’re surprised. I know I was! Kari, I really don’t think I have talked to you since freshman year but I want you to know that I periodically thought about you from time to time. Truthfully, I have missed you. You were one of my greatest friends and you always made me laugh and I knew I could always talk to you. Since I was a shy kid, it wasn’t easy for me to make friends but knowing I had you meant a lot to me. Now this may have sounded awkward anywhere else, but this is a Kairos letter so it doesn’t matter, but I have always found you to be a pretty girl. I thought it back in freshman year and I still think it now. It makes me sad that we aren’t close. I do really miss your friendship. I hope that you are doing well. You were always so nice to me and always made me feel welcome. Thanks for that. I really needed it back then. You probably don’t understand how much your friendship has affected me and that doesn’t really matter, all that matters is that you know that I am here, always remember that. I miss you! Give this Kairos your all and you will receive so much in return.”

Needless to add, I was touched by the surprise itself as well as the meaning it gave to me. I wasn’t his friend because I felt bad for him. I liked that we were so different. I was glad to have a friend like him, smart, funny, and quirky. Reading this three years later from his perspective made an impact on me larger than most. It went deep. It meant more to me than the money I received for my birthday when I returned from this retreat. It helped in changing my life along with the rest of the letters and surprises that happened while I was there.

I believe in the small things. I believe that if more people could realize the heightened and positive impact of how much the little acts we do have, this could be a happier world. Tell your friend how you feel about what she said earlier. Share with your brother the impact that his actions have on you, whether it will be a positive or negative conversation. When you wake up, tell your mom you love her. When you go to sleep, tell your dad the same. I believe that it can change lives and change the world.

 


 

I believe in a respect for passion - Drew Petrillo, English 15, Mrs. DeMarco

I have an unorthodox passion for video games. I say unorthodox because in today’s society video games are still viewed as a childish hobby that people eventually “grow out of.” At least that is what my father believes. I had recently apologized to him for having a lack of interest in the sports he so feverishly enjoys. He responded with an apathetic “That’s okay,” implying tolerance rather than acceptance of my hobby. I had always known my father disapproved of video games, but the way he spoke that line showed a much deeper disappointment than I had realized. No,, this is not the darkest or most depressing story in the world, but having something I feel so passionately about be scoffed at and thought of as a waste of time is, quite frankly, demeaning. I will always feel for the man whose significant other is not letting him pay extra for the more-expensive beer, and he is thought of as “crazy for thinking it tastes any different.” I will always feel for the teenage girl who has to hide away her stuffed animal collection because the boy she likes is visiting her house soon. Sports fans have it easy; they can wear their team’s colors and maybe add a few bumper stickers to their car without being thought of as strange and when brought up in conversation will more often than not result in a positive response. Hobbies like video games, especially when speaking with adults, are usually kept secret unless specifically asked. Why is this? Why do some people have to hide what they love because it is not accepted by society? I say, if one truly has a passion for something they should let it be heard. People are bound to hear them and some may even enjoy the same things they do. They may be looked at as strange, but that matters little in the long run that humans call life. I believe in a respect for passion.

 


 

I Believe in Determination - Amber Jones, English 15, Mrs. DeMarco

Over the course of my senior year, I was determined to fulfill my goal that I set back in 4th grade, of becoming Glenwood’s assistant physical education teacher. I enjoyed working with young children, especially when it came to sports, and I felt that I had the patience and athleticism that was needed. The process of achieving my desire was not easy and felt like it was taking forever. During my sophomore year, I presented my dream to my guidance counselor, who then told me to write a proposal for the school board’s approval. Since I was the first to create this opportunity, the board was shocked and had to analyze it carefully before making a final decision. To my surprise, I received my letter of approval a year later, which showed that my hard work and determination paid off.

A few months later I was finally right where I wanted to be: standing tall in front of my new students with my black whistle around my neck. It was not until about mid-way through the year that I realized I was not the only determined one standing in that gym.  My students were determined, too! I had realized that it didn’t matter if the student was talented, stubborn, or handicapped; each showed some type of determination. Although they all showed determination, the definition of their determination was different for each individual and thus exhibited in different ways. For example, the athletically talented group of students was determined to win, and did what ever they could to get the victory. Whether it was encouraging the average skilled players to try their best, or giving the stubborn students a reality check by shouting “there’s no ‘I’ in TEAM,” the end result was still the same; they were determined to win. Out of that desire to win, they had realized that they needed to show support, be a leader, and make sacrifices. Unfortunately, the stubborn kids were determined in a different way. They were determined to get their own way, even if it meant not working as a team, and hurting others around them. Although they were still determined to win, talking back to their elders and calling each other names was not teamwork, which was why they never achieved the victory. The handicapped children showed a different type of determination. Their dream was to overcome the obstacles that prevented them from running around with all the other students. Dreaming of being viewed as equals, they did whatever they could to measure up to the talented ones. Those students had a continuously positive attitude while they tried their hardest. T! hat was the best thing that I could ever ask for.

I believe in determination. Everyone has it in them; skin color, gender, age, or religious beliefs doesn’t matter. I showed my determination by achieving my goal, and my students showed their personal determination through various incidents, both positive and negative. Determination and pride go hand-and-hand. If you take pride in a specific goal, it is more likely you will be even more determined to make that goal into reality.

 


 

I Believe in Food - Sarah Jurden, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

“When’s Dinner?”

I believe in food, not for the reason that it keeps you alive, but that food creates life around a person or even people. Food is a unifier, a centerpiece of celebration. Sitting around a giant table with friends and family, passing and serving, tasting and smelling, laughing and arguing are all ways to create good and bad memories. I always look forward to Christmas dinner at my grandparents’ house. Everyone is happy to finally see each other and catch up, but the dinner brings a wonderful bonus to the occasion. Everyone is happy to see one another, but the dinner “kicks it up a notch,” as Chef Emeril Lagasse would say. Food recharges the mind and it warms the soul. The homemade Cuban marinated pork, black beans and rice, and maduros, bring the Christmas spirit out in everybody.

Unhealthy as it sounds, food is my stress reliever, my sanity. Food is like a committed relationship in a sense. A simple Campbell’s Tomato Soup and a grilled cheese are there when I am feeling down and when I need comfort and warmth. A tiramisu and a cup of coffee are there when I need a “pick me up.” A cup of fruit and a bagel help me get up and out of bed in the morning. I do not just love food; I love to cook it too. There is something about the smells I create by the combinations of spices that I put into a sauce. The opportunity food gives me to be creative and to impress my friends and family is magical. Also cooking simply just lets my mind escape.

I am not necessarily sure how food became such a passion of mine; I have just been cooking or assisting in my home kitchen for practically my whole life. When I do cook with my family, I have a feeling of closeness with them. I even feel close to them even when I cook alone. Our favorite meal to create is spaghetti Bolognese with homemade meatballs, and it gets better every time. Cooking with someone, whether it is a family member, a friend, or a coworker in a restaurant, just brings each person together. Food gives people a chance to learn, to communicate, to laugh, and to create stunning, delicious, pieces of art that everybody can share. Food is wonderful. Food is life.

 


 

I believe in trying your best and never giving up - Joe Kramer, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

Determination

I believe in trying your best and never giving up. The people who achieved success in their lives did so with persistence and determination.

None of my grandparents could afford the luxuries of college when they were growing up. They came from indigent families who received welfare checks from the government in order to meet the lowest of adequate standards of living.

When my grandfather graduated from high school, he decided to get a job at a General Motors car factory, a job that he kept for over 15 years. My grandfather knew that he wanted more than a blue-collar job, so he visited various banks in order to acquire loans to start his own business. He did this knowing fully well that the majority of people who try to forge their own businesses fail after the first year. My grandfather ignored these daunting statistics and went on to start a successful restaurant.

After many years of working long hours and late nights, my grandfather finally reached a point where he could provide for his family and enjoy the benefits of financial independence.

Both of my parents were able to go to college because I had grandparents that worked hard for a better life. My parents did not have to take the risks that my grandfather took when he was their age, but they still worked hard to achieve good grades in college and eventually successful careers later on. My parents were then able to start a family that I am lucky enough to be a part of. My brother, my sister, and I are all able to enjoy a comfortable standard of living, and it is all thanks to my grandfather who pursued his goal of a better life with adamant willpower and determination.

I take after my grandfather because when I want to accomplish a risky but rewarding goal, I also remain persistent in order to achieve success. I remain determined in all aspects of my life because I know that determination and hard work always lead to success for everyone in the end.

 


 

I Believe in Love - Cornelius McGroarty, English 15, Ms. Main

What is Love?

I believe in love. I believe that we need someone to maintain balance and happiness in our lives. What is life unless one has some other person to enjoy it with? Love is a biological function. Lesser animals such as penguins and elephants love their mates and their offspring. Finding someone who one truly cares about is a magical feeling, but to have the same love returned is one extraordinary miracle of life. It is almost absurd to believe two beings that arose from inanimate stardust through countless years of nuclear fusion and evolution have the ability to love. Some define life simply as perception. I believe the most important thing we will do in our time here is perceive the many experiences that life has to offer, love being the greatest and most exhilarating.

Love is a balance in life that is so strong it shines through in a world overcome by hate. Love derives its strength from rarity. Love is the ability to be fully comfortable around another individual and know that he or she will always be available, no matter the circumstances. It is an individual who knows every fiber of one's being and can accept one's faults with open arms and celebrate one's strengths. Love is eternal. Love is unfaltering. It can't be diminished by time or great distances.

I was going through the hardest point in my life about a year ago from a combination of poor choices and bad luck. The girl I had in my life for two years told me that she was moving to Utah with her family. Upon hearing this news, I tried to separate myself emotionally from losing her. Months went by with light contact between us after she moved away, but if anything my beliefs about this amazing girl were strengthened. The void created in my life by her departure forced me to recognize what I had lost from my life and truly respect what I once had. I was forced to recognize how much she meant to me. From this point I knew I would do anything I could to be with her again. We made a vow together that we would do whatever we had to in order to be together in the end. Love is walking blindly hand in hand with someone else in life with no doubt that either of you will be able to hold on. As I once read written on the bottom of a Snapple cap, "absence makes thy heart grow fonder.

 


 

What They Say About Love and War - Matt Murphy, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

What They Say About Love and War

The world, as a whole, seems to be built around a complex struggle, an epic and titanic feud between two states of mind that has spanned millennia. Everything from minor grievances to whole wars can be said to have been seeded by this gap in mentality. The flames of crusades and mass genocides are fanned by the rage of zealots acting simply under the belief that they are right, and anyone who would defect must be cut down. If one were to ask any other random person on this Earth, there is a good chance, unfortunately, that this person would not have an answer. But I believe most conflicts, if not all of them, can be traced back to that age old tug-of-war between love and hate.

Love, in its truest and purest form, is the counteragent of hate, and all sin in general. Love is selflessness and kindness. It is compassion and respect, even if the person does not believe or support another’s views. Love is the desire to see everyone happy, as opposed to oneself.

But where there is a lack of love, there can only exist sin. The way I see it, love must be taught, it must be passed on from generation to generation, or else let the degenerating instincts of sin find its way into the heart. Take children, for example. They must be taught to share by the parents. If the parents are neglectful, or the child grows in an environment where he or she would have no need to share, the child generally grows to be self-centered. Or, when I see reports on the television of murderers and psychopaths, or of vengeful or zealous extremists or dictators, I think, maybe they were never shown any love as a child. If they were shown some compassion, then things might have ended differently. Or, take for example, a child who just wanted his or her mom or dad to show up at sports game.

So when I am confronted with adversity, or I see someone who seems like they need someone to reach out to them, I try to show a little kindness, despite how this person may act towards me. If love is the counteragent to sin, then introducing even just a little compassion can disarm people, or maybe even help them to change. If they have met with hardships, then maybe just that little bit of support can push them over that obstacle. Whenever I see anyone treating others harshly for any reason, big or small, I try to pass on this message, because in the end, it helps to make both people better, and through them, maybe even the world.

 


 

I Believe in Whipped Butter - Steven Hargis, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

Live Your Loaf

I believe in whipped butter. It spreads over bread, maintaining its flavor and potency until the very instant that it is simply spread too thin. I believe in reaching that limit, that productive capacity, making the most of all of something, whether it’s the butter on my bread, or the energy in my body.

I have always been one to take on a challenge. So when sheer laziness left me with a 1.9 GPA as I entered my senior year of high school, I knew that it was time to make a change and push myself to my own limits.

College acceptance depended on my becoming butter. I took the most rigorous courses my schedule would allow, as my peers shortened their school days for an easy final year. I became the President of my school’s DECA chapter and Hockey Club, Marketing Manager for the yearbook committee, and a member of at least two other clubs. I got a job, working about twenty-five hours each week, and like every other year, I played for two ice hockey teams.

Sleep became a reward. Relaxation became a dream. All-nighters became familiar acquaintances. Caffeine gum became a close friend. Friends and family said I was spreading myself too thin. I refused to agree. I was, for the first time, realizing what I was capable of. The busier I was, the less tempted I was to shrug off responsibilities. I took pride in my determination. Taking a break only made it harder to resume. Butter is no good before it reaches both ends of the bread. I decided, as I found success, that it was in my own best interest to take on as much as I could handle, to reach my limit without overstepping.

I spent my summer working sixty hours each week between three jobs, and another twenty hours or so working out. I have never had a busier summer, with so little time for my friends. However, I have never been so prepared for the start of a school year either.

I believe that spreading myself across the perfect stretch of endeavors is the key to my own success. My effort is potent in every task, but I take on enough to consistently challenge myself and compose flavorful, butter-covered bread.

 


 

I Believe in Solitude - Alexzandrea E Sutsko, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

This I Believe

There is nothing I believe in more than solitude. Solitude is something that requires a deliberate effort because it is easy to lose oneself in everyday life. Too often I throw myself into my job, into my schoolwork, into distractions, and into relationships while sacrificing my time alone. My entire life I have always cherished the time I get to spend alone, but my obligations tend to get in the way of that. This all changed when I talked to a stranger. This stranger told me that he spends every Saturday in complete silence without leaving the house or any external stimuli.

This idea of taking a day off from the world really resonated with me. It inspired me to find moments of solitude. I found these moments while waiting in excessively long lines, riding the trains for hours at a time, walking around a city aimlessly, and by driving the longer routes. Slowly I began enjoying my surroundings and appreciating this 'found time' that gave me time to think and be alone, even if it was only internally.

When I moved back to America, I decided to make more time to be alone. Now, for two hours a night or one whole night a week, I turn everything off and ignore any outside influence of the world. I take time to discover my thoughts in silence, without any disturbances. My thoughts always start off scattered, bouncing between things I need to get done and worrying about different people in my life. Eventually my brain can't make any more distractions and I am forced to confront the thoughts that I have been suppressing and avoiding. Sometimes I sit there and feel unbelievably happy and content, but more often than not I feel upset or a situation I encountered confuses me but I am unsure why. I use my time of solitude to analyze and come to terms with whatever emotions arise. Solitude gives me a feeling of inner peace and has made me a more centered individual. I understand myself better, my heart feels lighter, and I am happier every time I make myself confront any lingering demons in my mind.

In The World As I See It, Albert Einstein aptly says, "I am truly a 'lone traveler' and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties, I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude."

 


 

I Believe in Appreciating the Simplest Things in Life - Matt Hasek, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

What’s Simple is True

I believe in appreciating the simplest things in life. Were it not for the small splendors of life, each day would probably just seem a different shade of grey. I have tried to notice the moments that make my flesh tingle with joy. Some of those moments happen for minutes a day, others hours each day, and some mere seconds every week or two. It took some time for me to recognize these moments in life that seem to fly by sometimes. Since I have, though, I have accomplished the feat of being able to bask in the little things.

Someone who helped me take note of these simple things is my brother’s dog, Pepper. I most cherish the moments when she is calm and mellow. I scoop the forty pound dog onto my lap and just sit on the ground with her. I always make an effort to sit quietly with her, and luckily she seems to revel in it as much I do. The split second that warms my spirits most is when she looks me right in the eyes and I give her a little smooch on the nose. She always makes me beam, because I’ve noticed she always responds in one of two ways. She either licks my face, or winks at me. I do not understand how she knows how to wink at me, but it makes my life feel complete each time she does it.

I believe the important detail about the simple things in life is their abundance. Although this is only one instance, the list goes on and on, from things like getting ten skips of a rock on placid water, to getting chills while listening to music, to the necessity of a daily hot shower. Each little nuance brings a new distinction into life, but it has to be searched for, even if for only a second. It actually takes work to notice the most instantaneous things that we often take for granted, but when we take the time to identify them, the benefits outweigh the efforts.

 


 

I Believe in Being an Introvert - Sujeet Bhandari, English 15, Ms Gerritsen

Introversion
I believe in being an introvert.

As time has passed, we as mankind have become more and more selfish. All around us, there are people who criticize that things have not gone their way. They always want more and more, and are never satisfied with what they already have.

I have always been known to be slightly withdrawn, keeping to myself for a lot of tasks. But to me, that is a decision which I find to be the most satisfying. Being an introvert, I do not have to conform to society and do what pleases people; instead I can act in whichever manner I choose. Even if I am judged on my behavior, I know how to brush criticism off and keep myself going strong. I always prefer to take some time off and just converse with myself, throwing out mental ideas and thoughts and reflecting on what I know. Knowing that I am not an extrovert, I do not have to be flamboyant in order to appeal to others. I can completely be myself. People appreciate me for who I am and not who I appear to be, and I return my views in the same manner.

Introverts are generally simple people and being a simple person, there are only a few things you want from life. Personally, I just want to be happy. I do not need money, I do not need wealth – I just want to be happy with what I have and not with what I want. I have always followed this philosophy, and it has not failed me yet. I am always cheery and optimistic, which tends to lighten the ambiance around me. Others tend to hang around people who are jolly, rather than people who are depressed – and that was when I realized that being an introvert and lacking social skills are two very different things and not mutually exclusive.

I love being an introvert. I love to think before I speak. I love to think before I act. Being an introvert allows me to look at a situation in different perspectives, in a better perspective. It allows me to understand before I judge. It makes me who I am. I am not shy, I am not flashy – I am simply me. It is my preference, and I am perfectly content in being introverted.

 


 

I Believe in Teen Love - Deanna Baker, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

I believe in teen love

I believe that everyone should have that one, head-over-heels, love. The kind they have in movies, and write songs about. Where you sneak out at night and turn the ringer down on the phone so your parents don’t hear it ringing. The kind that every adult calls “puppy love,” but then recall who that person was for them. I just turned eighteen and I’m still very much in this phase.

I have been for three years. They have been the most challenging, tumultuous years, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything. At my fifteenth birthday party, I met the guy that influenced this story. It wasn’t long until I was “in love” with him and, oh, so sure that I would spend every waking moment of the rest of my life with him. It’s like the song “Fifteen” by Taylor Swift; “When you’re fifteen and somebody tells you they love you, you’re gonna believe them.” Of course, no one could change my mind though.

It’s so perfect and effortless opening up to someone for the first time. Trusting them with every secret and insecurity almost comes naturally. But after a few months it starts to wear off, and when you’re that age it doesn’t usually matter too much. It’s so carefree and open the first time you trust someone like that, you almost never get to experience that kind of release ever again. You never get that trust back.

Though, on the rare occasion that there’s something there, you can’t help but to feel even more special. I’ve been lucky enough to have my best friend by my side for everything; high school, graduation, college, and everything in between. When you’re young and say “I want to be with you forever,” it doesn’t really hit home until you realize that may actually be an option. I’m still young and have a lot of life ahead of me, but if I have the opportunity to have that first, perfect love for the rest of my life, by all means, I’m going to take it.

I believe that everyone needs that chance. Whether it’s summer vacation or the rest of their lives, everyone deserves to know what it feels like to love, and be loved unconditionally, with no real responsibilities or challenges, whether it lasts forever or not.

 


 

I Believe in Following your Instincts - Mitch Schenk, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

Stick to Your Instincts

I believe in following your instincts. Whether it’s pursuing your dreams or cutting the blue cord instead of the green cord while disarming a bomb, going with your gut can help you accomplish your dreams and not get blown up. How do you think Lance Armstrong got where he is today? By sitting on the sidelines and playing by the book? Of course not. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, and is known worldwide for his accomplishments gained by sticking to his instincts.

When you get that deep feeling inside while you are approaching an obstacle that subconsciously pushes you in one direction or the other, sticking with your gut feeling is more likely right than wrong. Everyone has their own instincts; some choose to embrace them while others let them remain dormant in the depths of their souls, where they reside next to imaginary friends and their dignity. Many people spend too much time worrying about consequences or over analyzing things. Listen to what your heart tells you, and you cannot go wrong.

I have learned to trust my instincts not necessarily to hunt for food or anything like that, but in many aspects in my life like sports. I spend a lot of time skateboarding. Skating is all about instincts because there is no right way to skate. You just have to let your body take control and land the trick. Many times when doing a big trick, your mind seems to shut down or blackout while in midair. At this point it is just you floating in the air, not thinking, and allowing your body’s natural instincts to land you safely on the ground with a small piece of wood under your feet. There is no time to analyze anything about the landing and so you find yourself in a very pure state of subconscious control.

Obviously, when making a big choice in life you have to think about it. I would never push someone to come up with an answer on the fly, but while all that thought is going on in your head, you need to sit back a take a deep breath and listen to that inner voice. Just go with the flow. Your feet can only take you to the destination you choose to go to. And I believe that.

 


 

I Believe in Marching to the Beat of your Own Drum - Laura Domblesky, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

The Beat of the Drum

I believe in marching to the beat of your own drum. It is not only acceptable to be unique, but also important. In our society, everyone’s goal seems to be trying to fit in, to be normal. Yet, no one is normal; everyone has their own quirky traits that should be shown. I have always been told that being weird is a good thing. To embrace yourself could be the hardest thing to do because of all our standards. I have seen so many people crushed by the pressure to follow society’s “norms,” especially the extremes women will go through to be beautiful.

Young women always have this idea that they must be pretty in order to be accepted. They want the tiny waist, flawless skin, perfect hair and amazing outfits. In order to attain this image, young girls will spend enormous amounts of money and even starve themselves. Pain and suffering become a habit as these women become obsessed with how they appear on the outside. There are two paths that these individuals can take. On the one hand, they can get stuck in their ways and live a life of misery. The other choice is to look within to find their beauty.

The saying, “It’s not what is on the outside, but what is inside that counts,” is exactly true. Personality really does make a person lovely, but it’s also more than that. It’s the uniqueness of their personality that makes them beautiful. When looking into a field of perfect red roses, it’s the imperfect yellow daffodil that will draw everyone’s eye.

So, to all the women who want to have the attention they desire, they must stand out. Diversity is what makes our life exciting. If two people looked the same and did the same thing, one of them would not be needed. Our country was even formed because we wanted the freedom to be different. I may be young and not yet have a lot of experience, but I know I want to be true to myself. I don’t just want to march; I want to create the beat to which I’m marching.

 


 

I Believe in the Power of Small Acts of Kindness - Courtney Campbell, English 15, Ms. deGategno

Small Acts of Kindness

I believe in the power of small acts of kindness. That a simple smile to a person passing by can create a difference in his or her day. That holding the door, leaving a tip for the cashier, or letting someone into your lane on the highway are the little things that amount to a happier lifestyle.

My older sister passed away when I was thirteen. She suffered from Batten Disease, a sickness that killed brain cells, which ultimately resulted in a loss in her muscle function, her ability to talk, and her vision. On the rare occasions that my family and I had the opportunity to go on vacation, my mother or father would push my sister around in a wheelchair. One year, when I was eight years old, my family and I went to Disney World. As one can imagine, this was a trip that required a lot of effort and assistance in order to maneuver a wheelchair around amusement parks for five days.

During those five days in Disney World, however, I had never felt more special. Everywhere my family and I went, it appeared to me we were treated like royalty. Getting off and on the tramcar, our family always got to go first, and there were always staff members already there wherever we arrived, waiting to place down ramps for my sister’s wheelchair. My family and I went to see a live performance of Beauty and the Beast, and not only did we get to go straight to the front of the line, but we were given front row seats, too!

At the time, I was so entranced by all of the special treatment our family received while on the trip. Today, as I look back on it, I appreciate every little thing the employees at Disney World did to make our family trip a little easier. My parents had not paid extra for this treatment, and we certainly weren’t any type of celebrities. They were simply people helping out others just because they could.

Ever since my sister passed away, I have learned to slow down and appreciate the power of human interaction. Growing up, I had so many people in my life who worked hard to help out my family any way they could. Knowing how it feels to be on the receiving end of these selfless acts has taught me to believe that being kind goes a long way. These small acts of kindness are presented to every single person every single day. They may make no difference, or they could make all the difference. They could change the mood or actions of a person for the rest of his or her day, or even his or her life. We will never know what kind of a difference these acts can make to a person, This is why I try to be nice to anyone I speak to, remember to say thank you, and pay these small acts of kindness forward with every opportunity I am given.

 


 

This I Believe - Brittany Cappella, English 15, Dr. Reynolds

This I Believe

I believe that you should always think positive, no matter how bad things may seem. I think worrying too much only makes things more stressful.

My cousin Owen is a five- year-old little boy. He is always smiling and dancing around. You would never think just by looking at him that he has been through sickness and surgeries. When he was born, my entire family was thrilled to see him. We all waited in the waiting room to hear when he finally arrived.

Upon being brought into the world, the doctor told my aunt that he was blind. This news hit us all very hard, and we did not know what to do. Personally, I thought about how we were all going to interact with him, since I was young and this was very different to me. We all agreed that we would do whatever we could to help make this an easier situation for both my aunt and uncle. After five days in the hospital and countless tests later, he was finally allowed to come home.

As weeks went on, my aunt started to notice that Owen would respond to movement. For example, if someone waved to him, he would look directly at them. So, she made a doctor’s appointment to get his eyes checked. It turned out that he is not blind; he just has bad vision, due to his optic nerve being damaged. My family was so happy because now, there was room for his sight to improve. Even more testing took place, and the doctor told us that Owen has mitochondria disease. Mitochondrion is the power house of the cell, and due to this condition he functions differently. Owen develops slower than the average child. For instance, he learned to walk when he was four years old, and to this day he still cannot hold a conversation with someone. He was taught sign language, and he communicates that way. However, he has learned a few words and phrases here and there. This was hard on my family for the sole reason that this was completely different than anything that we had to deal with before.

 


 

Tenacity - Elizabeth Christopher, English 15, Ms. deGategno

Tenacity

Once, I went out with a friend to a Chinese restaurant. We went through our troubles over some shrimp and fried noodles. When I opened my fortune cookie, I was surprised to find that a dessert can be so spiritually uplifting. I read my fortune out loud:

“Whatever you do, do with all your heart.”

I couldn’t help but smile. My friend told me that it was a cute fortune--she usually threw away her fortune cookies unopened, so she never got one like mine. I told her I appreciated my fortunes; they were on-target sometimes. We cleaned up and started to head out, so my friend offered to throw my fortune out. I refused her, and that little slip of wisdom went right into my pocket.

I believe in determination – set goals can be achieved as long as you make a constant effort and keep your sincerity.

I remember being an enthusiastic 13-year-old who dreamed of shoving my way into the art world as an underground sensation. That was a secret passion of mine, to express myself with aesthetics, and to maybe someday be recognized for it. Over the years, I went through many art forms to find one perfect for me – right now, my heart beats for music and singing. However....let’s just say, I’m less than a virtuoso.

I have quite a lot of trouble putting music theory into practice. Vocabulary and interpretation went up in the air trying to find a G major chord on my piano. Hell would overflow with damned souls if I saw a triplet or an accidental while reading sheet music.

In spite of this, I practice. I look up and try breathing exercises, vocal routines, and ways to keep my voice healthy. When I can summon up the courage and patience, I try applying that music theory to the piano. Every day, I get a little bit closer to somewhere. Progress is progress, no matter how futile it may seem at the time. By trying to get better constantly, I am proving to myself that I want to get better, that I want to reach this goal.

Perhaps I have a two percent chance of becoming slightly noteworthy, perhaps not. It’s likely that my audience demographic will not exceed my wall posters. This doesn’t mean that I have any plausible reason for not making something of myself. If I put forth no effort to achieve goals, how can I succeed? What justification can I make for not giving my all in my pursuits? Am I then just making excuses for a lack of motivation, or even laziness?

I think my fortune slip is long-gone; it’s well hidden amongst old ATM receipts, unread magazines, and graded homework. However, its philosophy is something I have held dear to my entire outlook on life -- well before my friend and I ever walked into that restaurant. I believe in going for what you love -- but instead of believing a philosophy, I should simply do it.

 


 

I believe prejudice still exists - John Gavin, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

Appearance Makes All the Difference

I believe prejudice still exists. I’ve been called many names in my life. Some of my ‘favorites’ have been ‘pot head,’ ‘menace to society,’ ‘production of failed parents,’ and ‘juvenile delinquent.’ So many people that I don’t know call me those things without really knowing me. They name me as a trouble maker, the kid no one should be like, but they don’t know that I’m an Eagle Scout, that I volunteer with the Coast Guard, that I have never done any drugs, or that I don’t try to cause trouble. I must admit that I do like heavy punk and very dark metal, but that’s not all I am, even though that’s what I usually wear. I honestly think that people today don’t inquire about personality further than seeing and believing what they see. When they see me, all they choose to see and believe is that I’m a kid who wears a ratty jacket with studs and spikes, that I’m a kid who must smoke weed because I look like I do, and that I’m a kid who causes trouble for the authorities.

I’ve been profiled many times by the police. I’ve been cited for everything from skating near (not in) a no-skating zone to walking home through my yard at night, because my yard is a park. I’ve been pulled out of line in airports for ‘random’ screening, a completely incorrect term that is used to pretend that prejudice is not a factor. Every time I fly, Homeland Security pulls me aside, demands to see identification, and then searches my belongings. Not once have they found any illegal materials or weapons. Where ever I go, it seems like at least one person thinks I’m going to cause problems.

People don’t really care to know people for who they really are anymore. Many people today are judged on appearance alone. People don’t see other important things. I think that one has to really know a person before making judgments about them. The only way to decide if a person’s a good person or a bad person is to meet them with an open mind about who they are and what they do. No one should be judged on appearance, but on what they’ve done in life and what they plan to do.

 


 

I believe in fear - Zach Perri, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

To Be Afraid

I believe in fear. Not that fear exists, but that it is a good thing. While you read this you may be thinking that fear is for cowards, but that is wrong. Everyone experiences fear no matter what they say or how tough they try to act. Most of us experience it more often than we would like to admit or care to remember. I, however, do not see why people are so ashamed to be afraid.

I believe that fear is not only good but necessary. Without fear, none of humanity’s greatest triumphs could be seen as such. If there was no fear, then anything that is considered heroic or courageous would appear as any everyday, mundane task, like tying your shoes. The element of fear in any situation will show who truly has courage and who is just another coward. And while the heroes overcome their fears, all the bystanders can know they are witnessing something truly amazing because of what needs to be overcome to accomplish heroism, not only from outside but from within. Fear is an inevitable part of life. Another inevitable thing is the decision of whether or not to overcome these fears or give into them.

A great man once said, "The only thing to fear is fear itself." I respectfully disagree. I believe that we should not be afraid of our fears but instead embrace them. We should embrace the fears that haunt our thoughts and mind because that is the only way to overcome them. If we try to run from our fears and constantly try to act like we fear nothing, then those fears will loom and cast a massive shadow over our lives. We, instead, need to accept these fears because coming to terms with them is the only way we can truly get past them.

Fear is a necessary and inevitable part of life and instead of avoiding it and pushing it away, it should be revered and accepted. That is how you can truly conquer your fears.

 


 

I Believe in Me - Allison Tansky, English 15, Mrs. Gerritsen

I have no other way to say it; it is true. I believe in millions of things in life but it all comes back to what “I” believe in. I am not prejudiced against others’ beliefs, or other people in general. A majority of teenagers are lost in the big blue sea of other teenagers just trying to fit in with the other lost teenagers. It’s a horrible truth, and I wish more people would be themselves. I have never been much of a follower; I never fit in with the cliques at school. I am my own person and I always have been, and I pray that I have the courage to remain an individual for the rest of my life and to always believe in me.

When I was younger, coming from a home with only one parent raising you was quite out of the ordinary. My father was not part of my life and I was judged by children my age, their parents, and even teachers, for his absence. I thought nothing of it as I went on my merry way living each day like nothing was ever wrong. I heard what people would say at the “Father-Daughter Dance” and at“Family Day” at school, but I never blinked twice.

I was never expected to become of much in the future, because according to the outside world, I would indeed be my father’s daughter. I would grow up with trust issues, which would lead to drug and alcohol abuse, which would lead to teen pregnancy, and what people would call a “waste of a life.” So far, I’ve proven every belief wrong, and I intend on proving it more every day. Sure, I may not be a straight “A” student and, of course, I make mistakes, but I think I am doing a pretty great job just by trying my hardest to be the best person I can be. Despite the harsh words spoken to me or about me, I love with my whole being and I wish everyone happiness with a smile. Sure, call me crazy, but I wouldn’t care. I truly put myself in other people’s shoes, and I want to be treated the way I try to treat them; I’ve been on both sides of the fence.

Yes, I am my father’s daughter, but I also am a daughter to a heroic mother, a granddaughter to loving grandparents, an older sister with wisdom, a best friend, and a silly blonde with every intention of becoming someone great. I could honestly go on forever about what I believe in, and why, but I won’t do that. I will continue to live my life full of determination and happiness, and I will continue to wish that on every person who passes me by.

 


 

I believe in forgiveness - Jasseley Clarke, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

An Open Heart

I never knew my mother until I was thirteen years old. I had always heard stories about her, which made me wonder why she would leave me. I never understood what kind of a woman would leave her only child, and because of that my heart was filled with anger. I always heard my friends talk about how they live with their moms and how their dads left them. It sometimes brought tears to my eyes, wondering if I would ever get reconnected with my mother someday. Would I see her walking on the street one lucky day while on my way from school? And if I did, would I purposely miss the bus so I could walk home with her? Would I be able to forgive her for abandoning me?

One day my father called me downstairs to finally introduce me to my mother. I didn’t want to see her. Somehow all my curiosity about my mother had turned into anger. My mother had gotten married, which made me furious at her, because this would make me be split between two families. I had to somehow get her involved in my life, but how could I do that if I felt so angry and betrayed? I realized that I had to give my mom a second chance and in order to do that I had to forgive her and open a new chapter of life.

Giving my mother a second chance has not been easy, but I have learned that through love comes forgiveness. I have forgiven myself for having so much anger and hatred towards another human being. I have forgiven my mom for leaving me at such a young age and have grown to love her for coming back when I needed her the most. After all these years she has been trying to make up for lost time.

Today, as I live my everyday life, I try to handle situations with an open heart. When I get into an argument with my father, I try to look at his point of view. Considering how he’s feeling always helps me to let go of all the anger I was feeling. I have also learned that when a friend treats me unfairly, I always tell him or her how I feel about the problem and then I forgive, instead of holding a grudge in my heart.

 


 

Quality Over Quantity - Theressa Ha, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

I believe that everyone needs a good friend. Whether one has many friends or just one, a person needs someone he or she can share secrets with and let his or her guard down. It is not about the quantity of friends a person has, but the quality of the friendship.

Growing up, I always thought I needed many friends in order to be popular. I thought that popularity would make me happy, like the girls on those television shows, and for a while, I did have many friends but none I could truly rely on. I was not as happy as I had imagined I would be, but I did not know why I was so unsatisfied. I was lucky to have all of my friends, but I felt something missing in my friendships. It was not until I met my best friend, Susan, that I began to realize I did not need to be popular or cool to be happy. I just needed someone with whom I could let down my guard and be my crazy self. I just needed someone to understand and accept me for me.

I met Susan during the summer of second grade. We were both shy, but once we started talking, we were practically inseparable. We would have sleepovers every weekend and do the craziest things, like trying to hatch an unfertilized egg. Over the years we talked about a variety of topics ranging from the light subject matter of cartoons and boys to the heavy issues of family and our beliefs. For example, I grew up in a single parent household, and when my mom began to date again, Susan helped me come to terms with the fact that I should be happy that my mom is happy. I can trust Susan with anything, and in many ways, I am closer to her than to my own sister. Susan and I are practically sisters.

From her, I learned that I did not need many friends; I just needed a good friend in whom I could confide. (What was lacking in other friendships?) Having Susan as my friend helped to shape my belief that happiness does not depend on the quantity of friends a person has but the quality of the friendships. I am glad to have met her.

 


 

This, I Believe - James Bevan, English 15, Dr. Reynolds

I believe in knowledge for the sake of knowledge. I have had this belief for as long as I can remember, but have not been able to appropriately express it. In high school, I found that the Renaissance Humanism ideal of "studia humanitatis" defines exactly what I believe. Knowledge should be pursued primarily out of respect for its existence and our capabilities to attain it. Also, I have concluded that someone who has been denied the opportunity to attain knowledge suffers from a great misfortune of their own doing.

Knowledge can be gained through a variety of ways and opportunities in life, but the essentials for developing intelligence must be nurtured along the way. As a child, I showed signs of two important factors for attaining knowledge: curiosity and respect. I was always asking my parents why things were the way they were simply because I wanted to know. Whether it be the color of the sky or the function of a lock and key, I was extremely interested. Even in Elementary school, I understood that my mom had a degree in biology and worked as a chemist while my dad worked as a civil engineer. I saw my parents as paragons of their respective sciences merely because of their titles and accomplishments. This great respect for my parents led me to drive myself towards success in everything I did.

My entire life has been founded upon this personal belief so I cannot think of one, defining event that created it. I can, however, think of instances where my belief has been shown through my actions. Upon receiving my report card in the final quarter of sixth grade, I found that I had not earned First Honors, but only Second Honors. This was enough to ruin my hopes and dreams and led me to sit outside crying while waiting for my ride. Even at such a young age, I found disgust in my performance and thought I could have done much better, despite the fact that I was already being recognized for achievement. Two years later, in eighth grade, I received my results from Terra Nova testing, which included an I.Q. equivalency portion. I had placed in the top ten percent of test takers and had scored an I.Q. near that of Einstein's. This information baffled my fellow students and filled me with a feeling of true accomplishment. My friends uttered phrases like, "Just go to college already" and "You're in the wrong school, Jimmy." That one instance inspired me to continue learning and never stop advancing my knowledge and interest in the world around me.

One year in middle school, my good friend Antonio and I were grouped together for the yearly Science Fair. The requirement for the fair was to follow the Scientific Method, make a presentation, and come to a conclusion regarding something interesting in the world of science. My partner and I chose to demonstrate splicing peas to extract physical DNA. I have no recollection of how we did it, but at the time I felt tremendously accomplished with our work and certain that we would win first place in the fair. Our project ended up getting second place to a soda rocket project that did not follow the Scientific Method. While my partner was rejoicing over receiving second place, I was busy loathing the judges for not recognizing the educational value of our work. My belief has had this negative effect on me in that it has given me a very serious mentality and prevented me from many simple joys in life.

I enjoy applying knowledge to everyday situations. A few weeks ago, I was talking to a coworker and complained about cutting onions due to my sensitivity to sulfur. She gave me a puzzled look, and I explained that when the cell walls of an onion are broken, they release sulfur into the air. When the sulfur makes contact with your eyes, it mixes with the water on the surface to create sulfuric acid. The outer layer of your eye burns and causes a chain reaction of more water and more acid. My coworker and manager stared at me after I explained it and began to make playful comments like, "Penn State, oh yeah!" and "Jimbo, the scientist." Such a simple interaction provided me with the satisfaction of knowing that my knowledge can be applied effectively in mundane situations. I will use this belief in my future by maintaining success throughout college and continuing my interest in learning throughout the rest of my life. One's education does not stop with graduation, it continues on with life itself.

I believe knowledge itself should be honored by pursuing as much of it as I can. Countless discoveries and research projects have been put forth to provide individuals with the ability to learn and understand their world; it would be a waste if they were not used to do so. As a human being, I have been granted the capability of higher thinking and want to use it to its fullest extent. I feel that my belief has provided me with the means for success and true purpose in life. This is why I believe in knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

 


 

I believe in being a kid at heart - Yasmine Baroody, English 15, Ms. Gerritsen

Seeing the World Through the Eyes of a Child

On my first day of college, a friend of mine drove by my house without my knowing. She later called to tell me that it was a little funny seeing a college student watching cartoons on their first day of school. “C’mon, you have to admit that that’s really hilarious,” she teased. I laughed, but thought to myself, where in the rulebook of life does it say that college kids are not allowed to watch cartoons?

Most of the time, it is very easy to be swept away by the daunting responsibilities of everyday life. If one is not careful, one may be completely overrun by these daily stresses: schoolwork, projects, deadlines, kids, homework, money, dinner, work, work, and more work! Even hearing these words may cause one’s heart to sink; however, I believe that God did not intend for humans to be depressing creatures, lacking a sense of humor. I have been taught that we need to find joy in every aspect of life, not just the Fridays and Saturdays, the parties and celebrations. Face every day like a child would, with enthusiasm and excitement!

If something is too stressful for me to handle, I just walk away for a few minutes to laugh with my parents or call a friend or – dare I say it? – watch an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. Seeing the world as a child allows me to realize what is most important in my life. Of course, all of my responsibilities are very important but, to me, they are not as important as my family, friends, and faith. If something goes wrong, which happens occasionally, I try to fix it and, if I cannot, I move on. Do not dwell on the negatives, but rather, focus on the positives and live in the moment, just as a child would. Live like every day is a Saturday night.

I refuse to believe that the length of one’s life has to determine how one lives life. Just because I am in college does not mean that I have to stop watching cartoons and become a stern-faced adult. Be a little immature from time to time, have a sense of humor, live with simplicity, role with the punches, see the world through a child’s eyes! This is what I believe.

 


 

I believe in love - Cornelius McGroarty, English 15, Ms. Main

What is Love?

I believe in love. I believe that we need someone to maintain balance and happiness in our lives. What is life unless one has some other person to enjoy it with? Love is a biological function. Lesser animals such as penguins and elephants love their mates and their offspring. Finding someone who one truly cares about is a magical feeling, but to have the same love returned is one extraordinary miracle of life. It is almost absurd to believe two beings that arose from inanimate stardust through countless years of nuclear fusion and evolution have the ability to love. Some define life simply as perception. I believe the most important thing we will do in our time here is perceive the many experiences that life has to offer, love being the greatest and most exhilarating.

Love is a balance in life that is so strong it shines through in a world overcome by hate. Love derives its strength from rarity. Love is the ability to be fully comfortable around another individual and know that he or she will always be available, no matter the circumstances. An individual that knows every fiber of one's being and can accept one's faults with open arms and celebrate one's strengths. Love is eternal. Love is unfaltering. It can't be diminished by time or great distances.

I was going through the hardest point in my life about a year ago from a combination of poor choices and bad luck. The girl I had in my life for two years told me that she was moving to Utah with her family. Upon hearing this news, I tried to separate myself emotionally from losing her. Months went by with light contact between us after she moved away but if anything, my beliefs about this amazing girl were strengthened. The void created in my life by her departure forced me to recognize what I had lost from my life and truly respect what I once had. I was forced to recognize how much she meant to me. From this point I knew I would do anything I could to be with her again. We made a vow together that we would do whatever we had to in order to be together in the end. Love is walking blindly hand in hand with someone else in life with no doubt that either of you will be able to hold on. As I once read written on the bottom of a Snapple cap, "absence makes thy heart grow fonder."

 


 

I believe in road trips - Brooke Sennott, English 15, Ms. Gerritson

I believe in road trips. The epitome of freedom; with a sense of reckless abandon and festering excitement, I set off on an adventure with no purpose other than to explore the nooks and crannies of my country and to enjoy living. There’s no real destination in mind; I will stop when I’m tired, and until then, I’ll continue to flip a penny to see which way to turn.

I’m an hour’s drive into the country. The rolling hills of green and yellow, the smells of honeysuckle and mud pies, the towering windmills, all these things calm me. The sky is an ethereal shade of blue, and I can’t help but notice the quiet calm that settles over these back roads. There are no horns honking or otherwise unpleasant sounds. There is just me and my car and the road.

My thoughts evaporate as I hear a familiar tune playing from the old am/fm car radio. I squeal in joy, giving a true effort to roll down the window without complaining about the lack of automatic control. I stick my head out of the window. On any busy highway or jam-packed traffic intersection, I could never do such a thing. Instantly, I feel the wind pick up, and I become ecstatic as the wind laps in my hair, no longer caring about how it looks. I watch my hand dive up and down; the wind grazes my open palm as I sing along to the words out in the open, for the whole wide world to hear.

Everyone deserves to experience a road trip at least once. Don’t worry about how much gas will cost, or what to pack, or where you’ll sleep. Life is about improvisation and spontaneity. So get out there, explore the world you live in, drop your inhibitions, and discover yourself.

 


 

Sobriety - Pat Ketler, English 15, Ms. Main

I believe in sobriety. Growing up I had an uncle who was a drinker and used drugs heavily. I do not think I can say that I saw him sober once when I was a child. Every family party I went to he was a wreck. He would be the loud and obnoxious drunk that always ended up staying over because he was too drunk to drive home. Looking back on it now it was sad to see.

My Uncle Marty grew up in the city of Philadelphia and was a bright child, according to my mother. It was not until he reached high school that he started going down the wrong path. Drugs and alcohol became a big part of his life. After high school, he did not go on to college and struggled to hold a job. Eventually he did get married, but because of his addictions he lost his wife to divorce. From there it only got worse. Uncle Marty started using more drugs and spent every dime he had on drugs and alcohol. He was one of eleven in my mother’s family, and the only reason I was so close to him was that my mother was the only one who checked up on him. She would talk to him at least once a week, and he would come to our house to visit periodically. However, he always showed up with a case a beer. By the end of the night the beer would gone and my Uncle Marty was usually found urinating in the corner of the living room, thinking it was the bathroom.

If it was not alcohol, it was drugs. When I was younger, I got to meet one my uncle’s new girlfriends who came with us to my cousin’s wedding. It was a couple weeks after that wedding that I was going her funeral because she and Uncle Marty both decided to get high, and she ended up overdosing right in front of him. There was a time that I thought for sure he was dead when my mother could not get a hold of him for over a month. She had the police check where he was staying, but there was no sign of him. All that they found was some needles and a crack pipe. Eventually he did show up.

A couple years ago he finally got help and became sober. He found a good job, a house, and a girlfriend who he was planning on marrying. Then he had to get surgery and the doctors had him on pain medicine. After that he relapsed and lost everything, again. His girlfriend left him, he used all of his money to pay his mortgage on drugs, and he lost his job. He also lost the one person that stayed with through his life, my mother. She vowed to never speak to him again until he checked himself into rehab. No one knows where he is, and I don’t know if my family will ever see Uncle Marty again. It is because of him that I am so cautious with drugs and alcohol. Seeing how drugs and alcohol can really make someone lose everything, make me want to stay on the right track. Seeing how his life turned out makes me want to do well in school and stay sober.

 


 

The True Measure of a Parent’s Love - Halle Dunn, English 15, Ms. Main

I believe that having involved parents can help set a positive course for a child's life. From the time I was born, I had someone who stayed at home with me. After my mother finished her maternity leave, both she and my father decided they wanted someone to be with their child at all the times. They wanted to be the ones to raise me, not have someone else do it for them. It was then decided that my dad would quit his job and stay home. He didn’t like his job as a car service manager to begin with, so it was a very easy decision for him. From then on, even after my brother was born, my father stayed at home.

I can remember vividly how my dad would talk to me when I was little. There were never any “goo-goos” or “ga-ga’s.” In fact, even though at the time I hated being disciplined by my father, I can now see why he did it. From that discipline, he has created two well-rounded children. Both of my parents spoke to me as an adult even when I was an infant. They always listened and knew just how to guide me through any situation. I’m sure they didn’t always know how to proceed with certain things, but they never let me see that. They were calm and confident, and deep down that has always brought me such peace. I’ve always felt like I could do great things with my life, such as going to college. There was never a time when I didn’t believe I could be whatever I wanted to be or do whatever I wanted to do. I believe that my parents gave me that strength. With every “I love you,” and every “You can do whatever you set your mind to,” I grew stronger and more confident.

In this day and age, many parents, are more concerned about making sure their kids can get by. They’re not teaching their children what truly matters because they simply don’t have the time. My mother has always taught me that materialistic things don’t matter and that I can stand alone and be just fine. My father has taught me that education will take me places that I could never dream of going and to accept others for who they are. My parents and I have had an unimaginable bond from the beginning. They are my best friends and without them I feel as if I would sink. But deep down, from their love and guidance, I have learned that even without my parents I will be okay. From them I have learned that I will do great things with my life. To me, that will always be the greatest lesson that any parent could ever teach.

 


 

There’s Nothing Like the Outside - Danielle Hemcher, English 15, Ms. Main

I believe in a few days in the woods with nothing but good friends and sleeping in a tent. It’s best to go camping when the days are still warm but the nights cool. The warmth from the sun instead of a beeping phone saying that it is time to start another long day, wakes each dreamer as it rises in the morning. The heat begins to bake inside the tent and become unbearable; the decision is made to get up. The first zip of the door on the first tent to open is quickly followed by other tents opening up to see a full campsite. Everyone begins to stretch out the knots in their backs from lying on the ground all night. A few big yawns break the silence, and then begins the first walk through the woods of the day to find some privacy.

As all the members of the campsite return, and the first few sentences are usually about what will come of the day. On a perfect camping trip, the only planning is the camping site. Everything else is up to how people feel once fully awake and take in the new day. Options from surrounding areas come into discussion around the fire pit, where the camping chairs are set up perfectly in a circle. The idea of a hike around the area is always first to be discussed and is a pretty standard activity. But it is not until the person with a list of a million things to do in case no one can think of anything starts talking that the final decision of the day’s plans are made. Everyone begins to stomp around the campsite, and gather up the essentials into their backpacks: flashlights, blankets, extra water, and of course a camera.

After a decent meal of eggs and bacon cooked over an open flame and skillet has ended, the hiking begins. A couple miles to walk for an adventure is not too far, especially if what’s at the end of the walk is what you really wanted to see or do. There is nothing like the outdoors and to hear nothing but laughing and crunching of sticks under your boots. There are no telephone poles, wires, or asphalt. Only natural elements surrounding a walking path show what the world used to be. Putting up a tent and sleeping on the ground brings a type of self satisfaction that you can be without the everyday goods. At the end of a long day of hiking and talking with good friends, the simple act of zipping up your tent and hearing a chorus of other zippers to follow allows for the best night’s sleep under a thousand stars you could never see in the city.

 


 

Determination - Anthony Baldini, English 15 paper, Ms. Main

I believe that determination makes quitting impossible. Everyone is capable of being determined; however, not everyone can access that capability routinely.  There are people who can trigger this trait automatically.  Some, however, need events bearing drastic consequences to initiate a determination.

During the month of August in 2011, weather reports and warnings for Hurricane Irene began to flood my television.  My family was informed that the peak intensity of the storm would strike our area at nightfall during the last weekend in August.  I was skeptical that our area would actually accumulate over a foot of water by the end of the weekend.  I was dead wrong.

As nine o’clock rolled on by that Friday night, the wind was a tease and the rain was mild; nothing to fuss over.  Then, as if some preprogrammed switch turned on, the wind speeds roared to 76 mph and the rain storm became a monsoon.  In a matter of minutes, the electricity had gone out, leaving our sump pump dead and useless in our basement.  The sudden blackout became the start to the most unforgettable night of my life.

With no backup generator to power to the sump pump, my father and I knew that we were at the mercy of the storm.  Within minutes of the blackout, the flooding began.  Triggered by a sense of emergency, my father and I grabbed as many buckets as we could find and began to fill them with water.  The process was simple; fill the bucket with water, carry it upstairs, and dump it outside.  Repeating this process for two hours seemed impossible, yet we were determined to get the job done.  We were not going to be beaten by the rain, no matter how tired we were or how stressed our bodies would become.  Knowing that our basement was at risk of permanent damage, we persevered, commanded only by our determination to beat the rain.  As the third hour rolled by, I was freezing and numb.  Focusing on the goal became harder than performing it.  Mentally, I was dead.  What started as two hours developed into eleven hours…eleven hours of unending physical labor.   

By the time the rain calmed down the next morning, we estimated that we filled and dumped over 800 gallons of water.  It was a task I had previously thought impossible.  It was a task that perfected some of my imperfections, becoming flawless in the act of perseverance and strength of mind.  I never knew the feeling of true determination before that night.  It was something that I knew I had, but never actually applied to my life.  When the flooding ceased, and I looked back at what we had accomplished, I knew that I had triggered the feeling of true determination.  I knew that I was ready to tackle any other undertaking that blew my way.


 

Time Is a Measurable Value - Danielle Mander, English 15 paper, Dr. Reynolds

I believe that family and love are more important than anything. I believe that the people we love are taken away from us too soon. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that God gives us what we can handle, even if we think it is too much sometimes. I believe in “See you later,” not “Goodbye.” Above all, I believe that time is the most valuable factor in the world, and it should not be taken for granted. We never know when we might lose somebody, and we may never have the chance to tell them how much we loved them. Luckily, I had the chance to tell my pop everything that I needed to before I lost him forever.

January 2nd, 2006 replays in my head day after day. The New Year came, but not how I could have ever imagined it. My pop was diagnosed with cancer five years before he died, but he never showed any signs of having this terrible disease. He did not want to see his grandchildren upset, so his illness remained quiet in our family in the beginning stages. We all realized what was going on when he could no longer hide it.

I was in the bath tub on a Monday morning when my mom left to go to my grandparent’s house. When I got out, my dad told me where my mom went and that we were going to meet her there. When we arrived, most of the family was already there. I had no idea what was going on. I was only twelve years old. I did not know that this was going to be the day I would lose my pop.

One after one, each of my family members went in my pop’s room individually to talk to him. I still did not know that this was going to be my last words to him that he would actually hear. I told him how strong he was, how much he meant to me, and how much I loved him. I spent most of my time in his room, but the moment he died, I was sitting on the reclining chair that he always sat on. It was like he did not want me to see him take his final breath because he knew I could not handle it.

When my family and I went into his room the song “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion was on the radio. I believe that was a sign from God. My pop lives in me and every single one of my family members. We would not be who we are today without the guidance, love, and support he gave us.

I can picture in my head everything that happened that day; it was the worst day of my life. They say the passage of time makes things better, but unfortunately, I disagree.  It has been almost six years since the last time I saw my pop, and I still miss him more than anything. I do believe in time because I know my pop stayed strong and held on to his life until Christmas passed. Christmas was his favorite holiday, and it meant so much to all of us. I wish my pop was still with me today so he could watch me grow, and become into the woman he would be proud of. However, I know that we all have to take our last breath one day, so I am happy that my pop was able to be with the ones he loved, and that he got to spend his final Christmas with us all. I believe in angels, and that mine is watching over me. I believe that time is precious, and that time allowed my pop to be with his whole family before he passed away.

 


 

I believe that cat chow must taste really, really good - Lori S. Elias, Instructor in Marketing, Penn State Brandywine

I believe that cat chow must taste really, really good. I also believe that living life simply, unlike making breakfast for my cat, is hard. In fact, I’m beginning to believe it’s an urban legend, the likes of Bigfoot and Old Nessy. Getting rid of the chaos and focusing on the moment has been a challenge for me for decades. In the 90’s, I bought into Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching: “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” And I do so relish simple and joyful moments: A wisp of a butterfly that stops me in my tracks as I rush across campus. A familiar ringtone that interrupts the whirring of my vacuum cleaner on a Sunday afternoon. A long and somewhat disgusted “Aunt Looorrriii” from my 7-year-old niece as she notices in smiling disbelief that I have yet again stolen one of her socks from her foot—an exchange we started when she was just a baby. Those simple moments remind me to breathe and make me smile.  I love to smile. So, Thich Nhat Hanh was right, right?

Yet, living simply is for me a challenge.  How does anyone juggle the work she loves, a partner she adores, a family that warms her heart, friends with whom she breaks bread, and colleagues she yearns to know better?

I find it nearly impossible to make time for those meaningful moments in the middle of days that are already filled with two-hour commutes, household chores, grocery shopping, banking, doctors’ appointments and what-not.  Where do I, then, squeeze in the gym (I’m not getting any younger you know!), time on my boat, walks on the river, and memory-making at concerts, sporting events, and shows? If Mr. Thich had time to savor every moment and action—even doing dishes or peeling an orange—did he also have a way to bend time so that he could do everything on his wish list?

For me, the facts are in. Living simply is hard. Some people have a knack for it. Thich Nhat Hanh certainly does. I don’t. I repeatedly subject myself to an overcommitted life and scold myself for not making better strides toward “living in the moment.”

Yet, perhaps I am better at it than it appears.

I believe that this hustle and bustle is, for some of us, the “stuff of life.” That which others believe distracts me from life’s treasured moments is my rough-and-tumble way of gobbling up chances for stolen smiles. I gulp them down like my cat wolfs down the chow she gets every morning as if it is the first time she has ever tasted anything quite so delicious. As I prepare to run out of the house with three bags of school-day paraphernalia on my shoulder, I watch her perform her after-meal cleaning ritual. She oozes with what can only be described as utter “catly” satisfaction.

So, of course I believe that cat chow tastes really, really good. And that makes me smile.

 


 

I Believe in Progress - Lauren Orner, senior, English major, Schreyer Honors Scholar, Penn State Brandywine

 My first assignment in middle school was a book report on Black Beauty, and when I got it back with a big “C” in red at the top, I was crushed. My teacher said I wrote it like I was still in elementary school. I remember thinking, “How can I write like I’m in middle school if I have only been in middle school for a week? You didn’t teach me how yet!”

After this first introduction to middle school writing, my fellow classmates and I were brainwashed with the Shurley Method. This language arts program involved learning organization and every use for a semicolon, conjunction, or preposition through workbook exercises and recordings of a very Southern voice on cassette tape. I would be very wrong to say that the only good use for a Shurley Method workbook was discovered when one of my friends threw it across the room and managed to hit a tiny bee on the ceiling. I know it actually worked because grammar rules have been ingrained in my mind forever, and I can still say many of the jingles: “This little noun, floating around, names a person, place, or thing. With a knick knack paddywack these are English rules, isn’t language fun and cool?” My foundation for writing was built by saying these words over and over to cheesy tunes along with Shurley and her signature accent.

After Shurley and I parted ways, I went on to high school, and research papers and essays replaced jingles. However, I did not truly learn to write well until I had classes with Mr. Walton. No one had ever expected as much from me or made me work as hard as he did. He graded our weekly papers on a fifty-point scale, and I always fell short of the fifty-point grade. My papers usually came back to me with some number in the forties written on the top, but I was determined and corrected everything he told me to so I could get my fifty points. A few frustrating weeks brought forty-eights and forty-nines, but then, I handed in an essay I had written at the last minute late at night. I was not looking forward to getting this paper back because I expected my worst grade yet, but then I looked at the red mark at the top that said “50” and underneath a little “good job.” I almost jumped out of my seat because I was so happy to get that grade, finally.

I know how the worst feels, and I know how accomplishment feels. I know how it feels to blank out and stare at a computer screen for hours. I also know how it feels to turn in a paper I thought was amazing only to find a professor did not feel the same. My journey is proof that others can get past the Black Beauty moments and have their own fifty-point, jump out- of- the- seat moments too.

 


 

Adapted from Brandywine Convocation Speech, Fall 2011 - Matthew Shupp, Director of Student Affairs, Penn State Brandywine

So what do I believe? I believe in three very simple principles: (1) I believe that one person can make a difference (2) I believe in a positive attitude, glass is half-full kind of attitude and (3) I believe in keeping an optimistic perspective.

I’d like to read you a poem, first introduced to me by a colleague, who attended a professional leadership conference. “The Lost Generation” is a poem written by Jonathan Reed, originally appearing as an entrant in AARP's U@50 Video Contest. Jonathan Reed is a student at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Lost Generation
Jonathan Reed

I am part of a lost generation.
And I refuse to believe that
I can change the world.
I realize this may be a shock, but
"Happiness comes from within"
Is a lie, and
"Money will make me happy"
So in thirty years, I will tell my children
They are not the most important thing in my life.
My employer will know that
I have my priorities straight because
Work
Is more important than
Family
I tell you this:
Once upon a time
Families stayed together
But this will not be true in my era.
This is a quick fix society
Experts tell me
Thirty years from now, I will be celebrating the tenth anniversary of my divorce.
I do not concede that
I will live in a country of my own making.
In the future,
Environmental destruction will be the norm.
No longer can it be said that
My peers and I care about this Earth.
It will be evident that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic.
It is foolish to presume that
There is hope.

And all of this will come true unless we reverse it.

When I first read this, the poem seemed to be a pessimistic monologue of the current generation, YOUR generation, an echo of sentiments often found when watching the 6 o’clock news. The last line of the poem, and the presentation of the poem in the original video, suggests reading it in reverse. When read backwards, the poem paints a polarizing view, showing a brighter interpretation of the future.

There is hope.
It is foolish to presume that
My generation is apathetic and lethargic.
It will be evident that my peers and I care about this earth.
No longer can it be said that environmental destruction will be the norm.
In the future, I will live in a country of my own making.
I do not concede that 30 years from now, I will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of my divorce.
Experts tell me this is a quick fix society, but this will not be true in my era.
Families stayed together. Once upon a time I tell you this family is more important than work.
I have my priorities straight because my employer will know that they are not the most important thing in my life.
So in 30 years I will tell my children money will make me happy is a lie, and happiness comes from within.
I realize this may be a shock, but I can change the world, and I refuse to believe that I am part of a lost generation.

To conclude, Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head. That’s assault not leadership.”  We live in challenging times. People are going to continue to look to strong leaders to help solve these problems. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  You need to blaze your own trail during those times when the well-worn path seems safer and more inviting. Leaders don’t wait. They shape their own frontiers. Never be less than what you can become. The bigger the challenge, the greater the opportunity.

What do I believe? I believe that you CAN be that one person to make a difference. I believe you can accomplish this by keeping an optimistic perspective and a positive attitude - a glass is half-full kind of attitude.

I am. We are. And now YOU are Penn State Brandywine. This I believe.

 


  

I Believe in a Philosophy of Life - Helene Bludman, Director of Marketing and University Relations, Penn State Brandywine

There are many things that inspire me: the beauty in nature, the athletic prowess in a five-set tennis match or a basketball game in double overtime, a wonderful sense of humor, a perfectly turned phrase. But many years ago I stumbled upon a quote that spoke so meaningfully to me that I adopted it as my own personal philosophy. "The three grand essentials to happiness are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for." I have seen the quote attributed to both Joseph Addison and Allan Chalmers, so I can't attest to its true origin. To me, it is brilliant in its simplicity about what is really important in life.

Something to do isn't just the job you perform during the day or the errands you run on the weekends. It's having a purpose, making a difference, maybe not making the world a better place, but trying to make both yourself AND your little corner of the universe better. It's having an agenda that matters. What do I do? I eat vegetables, I volunteer at a homeless program, I weed my garden, I donate pretty decent clothing to Purple Heart, I wear sunscreen, I say thank you excessively, I support animal rights, I cheer on the home team, I take long walks with my dog. 

Something to love, well, I interpret that very broadly. I am lucky to have a family and a circle of friends to love. What else do I love? Broadway, animals, the smell of salt air and suntan lotion at the beach, old photos, movies accompanied by popcorn, Thanksgiving, reading hard-to-put-down books, the aroma of bread baking in my kitchen, high school reunions, singing along with the radio, speaking French, yes, I love all those things and so much more.

Something to hope for: in times of distress, I tell myself that things will get better, and they do. Getting through a rough patch is tolerable because I know it won't last forever. Hoping for things is not to say that I'm dissatisfied with what I have, but what do I aspire to? And what do I wish for humanity? What do I hope for? World peace, a cure for terrible diseases, a strong leader for our country, my children's fulfillment in whatever they do, a pair of jeans that fits well, my unwritten novel will someday be written, health and happiness and many years of life for everyone I love, and the opportunity to keep learning and keep giving back as long as I can.

 


 

I believe in a glass of wine - Michelle Johnson, Director of Development, Penn State Brandywine

I’m a huge fan of the simple things in life.  A quiet moment to yourself after a long day, the hug from a friend you haven’t seen in a while, an uplifting conversation with a total stranger. In my opinion, these are little things that day after day make up a life.  It is sometimes hard to capture these simple things; they are short-lived minutes that go by quickly.  The best way to savor them is to recognize and enjoy each thing as it’s happening. 

I believe in a glass of wine.  There is a sort of traditional process that goes into choosing, opening, and enjoying a glass of wine.  There is time spent on picking each bottle, examining the type, being sold by the pretty picture on the label.  I buy wine when summer arrives, when there is something to celebrate, to try something new, or just to have on hand for an unexpected guest. 

Choosing the glass, popping the cork, and pouring the vino – I am preparing for a simple moment.   There is something about a glass of wine that makes people sit down.  In taking the first sip, there are seconds of relaxation in smelling and tasting the wine.  In the act of sitting, I take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief, enjoy a quiet conversation with myself, or chat with family and friends.  Some of my favorite things in life happened over a glass of wine: A picnic lunch with my family in Sonoma, as we celebrated my mom’s win against cancer.  The tradition of wine weekends, a yearly three-day long informal therapy session with my dearest friends from college.  Those the-week’s-almost-over Thursday nights with a glass of wine, my husband, and our dog on our couch.  A glass of god-awful champagne to toast the life of my grandmother.  

The great thing about a glass of wine is I can go back and relive the time over again.  My husband and I save the corks to our favorite wines.  I wonder now if it is the wine we like or if in keeping the cork we’re holding onto a memory.  Years later I’ll purchase a favorite wine and pour another glass, and immediately I’m back in that moment.  I believe a glass of wine helps me to enjoy and savor the simple things in life.

 


 

The Road - Paul deGategno, Director of Academic Affairs, Penn State Brandywine

Recently, I returned to the small hill town in western Massachusetts where I grew up, and in particular to a stretch of dirt road leading from a small bridge to our farm house four miles away. When I was 12 years old, this road and I became inseparably connected during a blizzard night of blowing snow and wind.

My father and I were headed home from school, a twelve-mile trip, and with each mile the going became rougher, more difficult as the Jeep seemed to nearly float off the unplowed road.  My confidence in his driving skills and his ability for keeping a positive attitude never wavered, and we nearly made it to our house where my mother was nervously waiting for us.  Not so much because she had any doubts about my father’s getting home, but she had an appointment at the local college—this was the night she would take her doctoral exams.

Those who have been to graduate school will understand: each step in this process becomes more critical than the next.  We all were disciplined to believe in the power of education to change our lives and watching my mother prepare herself night after night had captured my imagination.  Both my parents were teachers and the years of learning, the records of our accomplishments, and each discussion at the dinner table concentrated my mind on how to excel.

Despite my father’s  instinctive sense of where the fast-disappearing road actually lay, the bridge had trapped drifting snow making it impassable.  We slammed into the snow drift, and this was the end of travel.  I have some memory that my father said you must reach your mother, and he would stay at the bridge warning the plow truck against hitting our car and going into the brook.  Really, no questions occurred to me, I was determined to reach our house, no matter the snow, cold, or the dark expanse of state forest bordering the road.  After hiking 50 yards from the bridge, I turned around to wave and assure myself that all was right behind me, but I could see only the snow.

So, often that’s how it turns out.  You have only a vague remembrance of what you’ve left behind and the path forward seems equally unclear.  But I had walked and biked on this road many times, practicing on the hills and turns, learning the poetry of this natural space so well that I could read it in my own mind’s eye.  The forest and the animals that might appear suddenly and threaten worried me for a moment, but I realized no animal, only humankind, would be so foolhardy as to challenge the environment on this night.  Instead of this becoming a hateful struggle, I embraced the beauty of this snowy night and the miles disappeared under my feet.  You work hard and use all your talents, when most people don’t.  You achieve.

The light was shining out from our house, as I knew it would be, and my mother hugged me at the door wiping the frozen snow from my face.  “We’re stuck,“ I said.  “You will fail.”  My mother tried not to smile. “Don’t worry,” she said, “the exams are postponed.  But tell me all about your walk—I want to know everything.”  How could I explain to her the pride I felt in reaching the house and the joy I was beginning to feel that learning and knowledge had timeless value and could be tested later.  And so, I believe that my family’s pursuit of excellence was mapped out for me on that lonely, uncertain, but beautiful road as well.