2013 Peace Essay Contest High School Winners

Winners

Honorable Mentions


First Place
Zion Buxton, gr. 11, Open High School, Richmond Public Schools

The matter of peace is not a personal one but one that finds its roots within the immediate family unit. Regardless of whether an individual agrees or rebels, his or her actions stem from the values that were taught within their household. One common value that is upheld and taught within families is the “You hit me and I hit you back” rule, better known as the “Eye for an eye” rule. Across many socio-economical back grounds, within many different cultures and people, parents are teaching their children, directly or indirectly, this rule. Local conflict and even wars have begun over this golden universal decree.Gandhi said “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” and I believe that in order for peace to be an attainable goal, a reasonable goal, the principle of forgiveness needs to be taught within households so that children may become adults that can make the world a safer, happier, and more secure place.

Life in a ghetto, or a socially and economically debilitated area (to be politically correct), isn’t easy, and it was particularly hard for my siblings and I when we first moved into the neighborhood. With the neighborhood brawls, gang rivalries, and drive-bys, it was clear there was only one way to settle matters: violence. We knew that we had to be tough to survive and were ready to handle situations, in the way the neighborhood saw fit. Thankfully we had a mother who, having grown up in a hostile environment also, taught us that the best comebacks were love and forgiveness. We had a parent over us that believed letting go and moving on was the best way to fight an enemy. Even though my siblings and I had different personalities, me being the quiet studious one, my brother the tough fighter, and my sister the sassy hothead, we all found the capacity for compassion within ourselves and agreed to let it be a deciding factor in our decisions. If more children of troubled areas were taught and shown the power of absolution in their early stages, within their home and by their loved ones, a peaceful community would soon follow.

Because of the values I have and follow, I hope to change the world with love and tolerance. I believe that if the youth are taught the right instructions and shown the right examples, there can be more Martin Luther King Jr.s, more Nelson Mandelas, more Mahatma Ghandis, even more Bob Marleys. Even though tried and tried again, Martin Luther King Jr. is a great example of how family values can shape a person and influence them in their adult life. King’s parents taught him the wrongs of the violent world at that time and raised him in a warm, loving environment. He grew up to take racism by storm;and his most powerful weapons were forgiveness and nonviolence. He grew to become one of the most influential people of all time by not harming his opponents, but loving them. Mahatma Gandhi also had peaceful parents; his father had a job as a mediator, so he was enshrouded in a tranquil environment. His mother taught him tolerance and nonviolence. Gandhi upliftedthe principles he grew up on, altered a colonial system and founded a nation with peace, not violence. He taught his followers to forgive their oppressors instead of seeking vengeance.

Martin Luther King said that “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”Spreading this attitude is the major step to spreading peace. Teaching the youth mercy over malice is the only way to make the future of the Earth promising. There is nothing wrong with teaching against passivity and it is fine to show strength and courage. What is at fault is eluding the assimilation of forgiveness within family values.

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Second Place
Daijah Chaplin, gr. 10,  Meadowbrook High School, Chesterfield County Public Schools

Where is the Peace?

In a world with so much violence, where is the peace? Nowadays, there is so much unbelievable violence occurring that it is ridiculous. In the past couple of years, there have been many senseless killings of innocent people such as the recent bombing in Boston, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the Virginia Tech shooting. As the years go on, it seems that the world is getting more and more violent. There needs to be a change right now and families have the power to encourage peaceful behaviors by teaching it to their children and others. They play important roles in teaching peace; they affect the beliefs and behaviors of us and the community through their teachings.

As mentioned before, families play a tremendous role in encouraging peace in our lives. We need them in order to change the world so it will become more peaceful. They are the people who influence our ideas and teach us what is right from wrong. If we may feel like fighting a person, they are the ones who tell us not to do it because it will not make the situation any better. Furthermore, they teach us how to work issues out without the use of violence by telling us to just talk it out with the person. Without them, we would not know how to handle situations without the use of violence. If I did not have my family, I would have probably been more violent than I am now.

Learning from my family affects my beliefs and behavior tremendously. My family is not violent, so they have always taught me how to handle situations nonviolently. This has resulted in me becoming a peacemaker. When I see all the violence that occurs, I believe that it is unnecessary. In my opinion, it is better to talk things out rather than resulting to violence because it does not solve anything. If anything, resulting to violence makes things even worse. I have always grown up to learn that violence is not the answer.  What I have learned from my family causes me to behave in certain ways, too. In fact, when I am in a predicament that might cause me to want to act violently, I just remind myself about my family and walk away. Moreover, whenever my friends may get into an argument, I always feel the need to break up the argument because I do not want it to lead to a violent situation and I also want to keep the peace.

Along with affecting my beliefs and behaviors, learning from my family also affects the community, too. Learning that violence is not the answer has made me a nonviolent person. As a result, I have become a positive person in the community. When I go outside with the other kids in my community, I try to ensure that everything is peaceful by avoiding violent acts. If there are two kids arguing about something, I try to end the arguing between them to avoid the situation from becoming violent. Even more, with me being the peacemaker, I also try to inform my friends in the school community that violence is not the answer in the hopes that they will change the constant cycle of violence that occurs. If they feel the need to act violently, I tell them it is not worth it and walk away, which is a lesson I learned from my family.

In conclusion, the world needs change because of all the violence and families have the power to do it. Their teaching of peace has caused me to believe that violence is not necessary and has led me to behave as a peacemaker. Also, since I am a peacemaker, it makes the community a better place. There is one more peaceful person  and I am able to teach others that violence is unnecessary. I just want to change the community into a peaceful place because any type of violence is not worth it.

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Third Place
Ann Audrey Eliades, gr. 11, Appomattox Regional Governor’s School

Peace can be translated into many diverse connotations. If you look up the definition of peace today, you will find that Webster says that peace is “a state of tranquility or quiet, freedom from civil disturbance.” But does the word peace mean more than just that? When I think of the word peace I think of a place where there is no violence, fears,where there is saftey, and love. Most importantly we can find peace in our own loving and caring attitudes. More than anything our attitudes will determine our destiny.

My own home can at times be described as anything but peace-filled, considering I have three younger brothers. At times voices can be raised and there is not a quiet or peaceful room in the house. Through this, I have learned that peace is not about the amount of noise but the amount of love and care that is shown to one another.

Being kind and friendly to neighbors and friends is something that my parents have taught us. The slightest kind things that we do for neighbors can make the world of difference to them. When large storms hit our neighborhood my brothers and I go around and help the elderly clean up their yards. These actions show them the kindness of our hearts and shine a light on our parents for how they have raised us.

One of the many things my parents have done is that they have taken us to Sunday school and church every week. By doing this they are teaching us God’s meaning of peace. Now that I am older I am able to teach Sunday school to an elementary age group. Every Sunday I teach them about Jesus and his teachings about peace. I want to impart to them how we can live more loving and caring lives like He did. I believe that Jesus wants us all to be loving and caring human beings, and to empart that to others.

After graduating from high school, I plan to major in elementary education. My goal as a teacher is to be a positive role model to young children who need to learn this life lesson of peace. I strongly believe that children should be learning these values not only at home but in school too. Seeing love and kindness modeled by a teacher can lead them in the right direction.

Historically, there have been tensions among races, within communities and countries. To live in a world free from war, oppression, fear, and terrorism would be a place of peace. The men and women in our military put their lives on the line for us everyday in an attempt to give us a safe world. Sadly they do not always succeed.

The only true peace is what is in our hearts. The example that we all should follow is the one that Jesus set for us. It requires us to be loving and caring to all of mankind. The teaching of peace starts at home with parents. Children also learn from examples set by teachers, and we must not forget that it is important to support our miliarty. Ultimately the simplest way to bring peace is by being a caring and loving person.

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 Honorable Mentions
Kristina Balducci,gr. 12, Hanover High School, Hanover County Public Schools

To a nation, peace is a term associated with an absence of aggression, violence or hostility. To me, peace isn’t the absence of violence, but rather the presence of justice. To a society, peace is associated with differing desires in an agreement.  Peace is based on many things: culture, education, family values, experience, and history, but the basis is the same. Peace is to co-exist without war, killing, and overpowering fellow being. To me, peace is the feeling that all’s right with the world. When everyone around me in my family, my friend circle and my neighborhood is happy, eager to love, accepting and relatable, I feel at peace. I also feel that it means following what my heart says and sharing mutual trust and respect for people around me.

However, in today ‘s world, peace and harmony face various threats. Terrorism, regional imbalance, economic disparity, and social inequality are some of the factors that threaten peace today. We all are so engrossed in our busy lifestyles and yet want our lives to be peaceful. We expect that peace to be omnipresent but what we need to realize is the fact that if we want peace, we have to live peacefully, love everyone, forgive, forget, etc.

It’s not enough to stand around asking if world peace will ever happen because that won’t do anything.  Actions speak louder than any words. If everyone starts living the peaceful, loving way, things will change. But someone has to start and lead by example.  Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” We can’t rely on anyone else to do this. We have to do these ourselves.

Acceptance, compassion, and tolerance are the foundation of peace. Mahatma Gandhi showed that peace ends suffering and oppression, not by warring against an enemy but by bearing witness to wrongs and allowing sympathy and common humanity to do their patient work.  Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa lived different aspects of peace, which was proven to

be a viable way to achieve great things. This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. The way of peace is the way of love. Love is the greatest power on earth.  It conquers all things. This is how I learned the true meaning of peace. My entire life, I ‘ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by people that love me, with the fore runners being m y parents. They taught me to love unconditionally, and that through that, peace can be established and maintained. For that, I am eternally grateful, and can only hope that I can instill the lessons that I learned through them to others, so that peace may be spread to every corner of the Earth.

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Honorable Mention
Paige Downing, gr. 10, Meadowbrook High School, Chesterfield County Public Schools

Learning to Live in Peace

“Breaking news! I am here standing in front of the World Trade Center in New York City where it appears that the Twin Towers have just been struck by an airplane.” As the screams of thousands of people fill the streets in Lower Manhattan and as the footage is shown on the television screens of so many people across the world, everyone begins to think “What has caused such a devastating action to occur?” September 11, 2001, this is a day that would forever be remembered all across the United States where so many people lost their loved ones and the lives of so many people were changed forever in an action that will always be hard to explain. As my history classes have spoken about this over the years, there is one word that constantly flows through my head: Peace. When many individuals think about “peace” they think about nonviolence in the world and different countries getting along. That thought is correct but peace can exist not only across the world, but it can also exist throughout our neighborhood, school, and even our family.

While we are young, our families are given the responsibility of teaching us about peace and how much better life can be if we live how we are supposed to live. The one thing that most of the individuals in our families tell us that they want is for us to be happy in life and be as successful as possible. In order to prepare us for this while we are young, they start teaching us different things that we can do in order to have peace in our lives. One role that they play in teaching us about peace is by basically telling us the right things to do from the wrong things. By avoiding the wrong things in life, we are given the opportunity to go through life without being involved in different altercations that may cause violence to occur; and by following the right path, we are able to progress and get closer to living a life of peace. Another way that our families help us learn about living in peace is by showing us how to handle certain situations correctly. There will always be a point in our lives where we come across an obstacle that stands in our path and tries to prevent us from continuing on, whether it is a person or just a specific situation. The way we handle that one situation can completely affect how our future turns out. For example, when students have arguments with one another and constantly result to fighting rather than talking, fighting and violence become a habit that will be very hard for them to break. Lastly, another role our families play in teaching us about peace is by setting a good example and living the best way they can so that we can understand what it is like to have a peaceful life.

Now that I have grown up a little bit and gathered a lot of advice and teaching from my family, I can really say that my attitude and actions are a lot better than what they could have been if I didn’t have the support of my family. Hearing about having peace and seeing my family live in peace has really made me want to experience it for myself so I do all that I can to make sure I have a life like them now and potentially be able to live the same in the future. What I’ve learned from my family has also encouraged me to not get involved in activities that may result to violence like arguments and fights. These actions are very unnecessary and in the end they just cause a lot of stress and it also causes many people to look at you in different way than how you want them to look at you. Having to deal with these views and stress isn’t really a good example of a life of peace. This is why I choose to separate myself from situations that cause these issues and certain people who associate with these types of situations in their lives.

Possessing all these good qualities in having a peaceful life hasn’t just affected my life, but it has also affected the community and the world around me. Some of the people around me haven’t exactly had the opportunity of having a supportive family to teach them about the right things to do in order to get them closer to living a life of a peace. In order to help out my community, I have chosen to make peace amongst my friends and share some of the teachings that I have learned from my family with them. For example, when I hear that some of my friends are in the process of getting into a fight, I go and try to change their mind and get them to think about the better options to handling the situation rather than participating in such violent acts. Being one person, it is not really possible to change the world by myself and teach everyone ways to live peacefully; but, I am able to make a change amongst my friends and eventually that has the potential of growing and eventually affecting the community around me. If everyone in the community begins to work in the same way they have the opportunity to change other communities as well and even possibly the world.

In conclusion, by changing the individual lives of the different people throughout our neighborhoods, schools, and family, we will be able to bring a lot more peace to the world. Having this peace in the world will help prevent a lot of the different violent acts from occurring like shootings and terrorist attacks that keep the world from getting closer to becoming a better society in which violence isn’t one of the main issues.

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Honorable Mention
Damon A. Hayes, Jr., gr. 11, Open High School, Richmond Public Schools

Gandhi’s passion for peace drove him to rebel against the British powers. Martin Luther King showed his desire for peace by leading his people and breaking through the burdens that we still experience. Rosa Parks even disputed against social injustice by refusing to give up her seat to a Caucasian. Just like these activists that we admire today, the aspiration for peace is a common goal that our society actively seeks. Unfortunately, the desire for peace doesn’t always seem as tangible as we tend to hope. In my experience, the word “peace” is not a common word that is used to describe my neighborhood. I believe that in order to achieve peace in my community, the values of justice, hope, and family- the same values our advocates of amity taught- will lay the groundwork for a peaceful future.

Over time, many successful leaders used their astonishing abilities to drastically influence the lives of our society. Extraordinary leaders, like the previous mentioned activists, played a crucial role in achieving peace by influencing mankind to broaden their horizons and not be subject to the violence that surrounds them. This is an example of peace talks: my grandparents expect the best of me, and with the violence that surrounds my neighborhood, they required I attend church services in order to teach me about peace. My grandparents place a high value on what is taught at church, and I have always respected that and attribute much of my even temperament and aspirations for holistic betterment to their influence. I believe that without leadership, our society, especially teenagers, would negatively react to the dangers that occur today.

Just like the aforementioned activists believe, the need for peace seems more a resource for survival than a simplistic desire. Teenagers in my neighborhood are subject to various acts of violence simply because they are influenced into performing mischievous actions. However, I believe that parents and other caregivers should demonstrate to youth in my neighborhood that there are other options available, regardless of the negative activities that attempt to grasp their attention. As an African American male who lives in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia, I feel that I am stereotypically cast as hopeless, or forgotten, and that my future may lie in the hands of a warden rather than in the dreams my family and I dare to have for my future. It’s hard to aspire for peace when it is not a common factor that is seen. Although I believe that nothing determines your future but yourself, many have yet to come to that realization.

Personality and character are first developed in the home. My beliefs and behaviors have been influenced by the actions of my parents. For example, my grandparents were recently robbed of many valuable possessions. Personally, I was miffed due to the fact that this was the second time that my family and I have been violated of our property. However, my grandparents were not upset simply because they knew that anger and worry would not solve the situation. Instead, they stayed at peace throughout the predicament, and I truly respect them, because they help me to realize that in order for you to succeed and overcome the obstacles that may come in your direction, you must be humble and calm in order to achieve them. My family’s aspirations have greatly contributed to many decisions that I currently make today. For instance, I would like to pursue my career as a lawyer, so that I may help others who are in need of assistance of achieving the justice that America has been fighting for ever since the Revolutionary War. As a result, I believe that I would be a prodigious inspiration not only to teenagers in my neighborhood, but also to those who currently face social injustice.  In summation, I believe that people, including myself, that have a strong desire for peace can inspire others to strive for higher opportunities.

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Honorable Mention
Shivan Shah, gr. 10, Meadowbrook High School, Chesterfield County Public Schools

The Spread and Influence of Peace in the Community

Peace is defined as the normal, nonwarring condition of people, nations, and the world; however peace is much more than that, it is the key to happiness. Such a simple idea yet so difficult to achieve, peace is the eternal solution to all the problems of the world. The human race has been in existence for thousands of years, so why hasn’t anyone invented a guide or key to attaining it? It isn’t because of human arrogance or ignorance, rather it is because it ceases to be spread and inherited throughout communities and through generations. People often view peace as common sense, things we should know without having a formal education, because of the popular phrases that are associated with it such as: don’t physically or mentally harm someone, don’t steal, and don’t lie. In a way peace is common sense, but if it lacks proper endorsement by the right authoritative figures, it no longer becomes common sense. The fight for peace doesn’t start on the universal level, national level, or the state level. It begins in individual communities and within the confines of one’s home. This is where family and caregivers have to take the responsibility of teaching children and adolescents the importance of peace.

Ideas spread around schools and public places like wildfires, but how many children and teens take the time and evaluate whether the information is fact or opinion, biased or unbiased? The one place children and teens will always get truthful and unbiased information is in their homes, specifically from their parents or caregivers. This builds trust amongst the children and teens, so it is likely they will believe and take into account what their parents and caregivers say. This is why it is important for caregivers to inform the young about important topics like peace. Parents and caregivers must set proper examples to support the idea of peace within the household. In order for this to happen peaceful lifestyles have to be adapted by the parents and caregivers so the children and teens can adapt one as well. It has to be on a daily level, oppose to arguments and violence on two days of the week and peace on the other five days. This is the only way a peaceful mentality will stick with the young. Finally, it is the duty of the parents and caregivers to tell them right from wrong. With the persuasion power of media and the influences in school, it may sometimes be hard to make sure children and teens only learn peaceful traits, but caregivers should try to eliminate negative influences or thoughts to the best of their abilities. It is evident that the role of parents and caregivers is major in developing peaceful mentalities, but there are no bigger influences in the lives of the youth.

In modern media, there are always articles, reports, or videos of people being involved in violence. The more and more cases I see like this, the more prone I become to thinking that there isn’t anything wrong with violence. However, over the course of my life, my parents have continuously obstructed the mere thought of violence as being okay. They also support the non-violence theme by simply not partaking in violence in my presence or at all. This is how my parents have played a role in me learning about peace and living peacefully.

One’s beliefs and behaviors as they grow up are directly related to how much effort is put in by the parents and caregivers to teach peace.  The more one is taught about peace growing up, the more informed he or she’s decisions and actions will be. Someone who is taught peace by his caregivers growing up will spend more time trying to do the right thing, because that is what they are accustomed opposed to somebody who hasn’t been taught about peace. The second person would likely make a poor decision not thinking of the consequences or of how it would affect others negatively. This is where the void is with passing peace on, if parents and caregivers don’t teach peach to the youth, then they will grow up making essentially uninformed decisions.

How much time is taken by the parents and caregivers to teach the youth about peace is also directly related to how much a student is involved in the community. If parents set the correct examples by actively taking part in the community and the world, then it will likely pass on to the youth as well. Students who are informed about peace and how to attain it will pass it on to the community through community service projects, informational meetings, and media. This will help spread the knowledge of peace throughout communities and on the bigger scale, the world. However, this won’t happen unless the parents and caregivers take the time to inform students and youth about peace.

One may say that a single person cannot influence so many lives as I have projected. This is because they probably have not heard the story of Mohandas Gandhi and his efforts to freeing his country from British rule. Mohandas Gandhi was a knowledgeable man who was well-versed in the idea and practice of peace. When Britain ruled India during the 1900’s there were often violent revolts to overcome the rule, but to no avail. Then Gandhi began preaching of peaceful interactions and non-violent protests. He inspired all of his country to join this new movement and eventually he and his country gained freedom from British rule. The effect one informed person can have in his community can be just as impactful as Gandhi’s promotion of peaceful interactions in India.

A family or caregiver plays an essential role in the future of an adolescent. If the family takes the time to endorse peace as the child is growing up, then it will likely pay off in the future with his or her decisions to give back to the community and teach their children about peace.

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