2013 Peace Essay Contest Middle School Winners

First Place, Mikaela Benway, gr. 6, Homeschooled, Powhatan

Second Place Megan Minor, gr. 6,  St. Edward Epiphany School

Third Place, Idoia Dizon, gr. 7, Moody Middle School, Henrico County Public Schools




Honorable Mentions
Amina Hasan, gr. 7, Stone Hill Middle School, Loudon County Public Schools

Kendall Kalber, gr. 7, Liberty Middle School, Hanover County Public Schools

Evan Phaup, gr. 7, Liberty Middle School, Hanover County Public Schools

Katy Rose Price, gr. 6,  St. Edward Epiphany School

Robin Schwartzkopf, gr. 8, Moody Middle School, Henrico County Public Schools



First Place:  Mikaela Benway, Homeschooled, Powhatan County

Learning to Live in Peace


Peace has played a significant role in my life. It all started back when I got adopted when I was two years old. Ever since then, I’ve been raised in a family that has emphasized learning about peace, and how to be a peacemaker. We have done this in many ways such as reading and discussing books, learning about different wars, and meeting and getting to know people from a variety of different cultures. As a result, I’ve learned throughout the years that understanding everyone’s differences is an important part of bringing about peace.

I know first-hand about the terrible consequences of war because my native country, Cambodia, experienced one of the most violent genocides of the 20th Century. At that time, a communist named Pol Pot rose to power. During his reign of terror, he killed most of the educated Cambodians and forced everyone else to move from the cities to the countryside. He made them grow rice and do other hard labor that they didn’t know how to do. This caused many of them to starve and die from exhaustion. By the time Pol Pot fell from power, one third of the population of Cambodia was dead. The rest of the country was in shambles and Cambodia’s government had collapsed because no one was educated enough to run it. People starved to death, while others were too poor to take care of themselves or their families. To this day, most of Cambodia still lives below the poverty line, and they are struggling to rebuild their country. As a lasting result of the war, families were destroyed and there were many orphans–I being one of them. Fortunately, I was adopted and now I live in America with a family who loves and cares for me.

My family does a lot to ensure that I grow up understanding the importance of peace. For example, I am homeschooled and character development is an essential part of my education.  Part of that involves learning about peace, justice and modern social issues such as human trafficking, terrorism, and war. I’ve studied about the horrors of war and have visited the Richmond Holocaust Museum, Gettysburg, Antietam and several other battlefields. I’ve read numerous books about historical conflicts, and I also met and spoke with veterans from the war in Vietnam. Additionally, I have learned about important peacemakers such as Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and the Dalai Lama. We also read and discussed a lot of character strengthening books such as Spinning Tales, Weaving Hope: Stories, Storytelling and Activities for Peace, Justice and the Environment, The Family Virtues Guide, and Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion against Low Expectations. Later this month I am going to attend the Richmond Youth Peace Summit for the first time, which will hopefully help me further develop my peacemaking skills.

My family also tries to expose me to people from different cultures, religions, ethnicities, and more. These experiences have had a positive impact on my life. One of the many ways we learn about different people is by following current events. It helps me learn about events in other nations as well as my own, and being aware of what’s going on in the world is an important thing that I believe everyone should know. Another way my family learns about different ethnicities is by volunteering in a Kindergarten class in one of Richmond’s inner-city schools. Every other week, my mother, brother and I go to Woodville Elementary School and help teach the students how to read and write. It’s a great experience to be around children that grow up differently than I do, and in reality they have taught me to appreciate how lucky I am. My family has also sponsored a refugee from Honduras. We helped her settle in America, find a job, apply for scholarships, and my mother even taught her how to drive. It was interesting to learn about her culture too. My family has had international students from VCU come for dinner in the past, and eventually we are going to take it one step further and have a foreign exchange student come live with us, which will be very exciting. As a result of all these opportunities, I’ve learned to accept people for who they are, and really when it’s all said and done, I realize that we are more alike than we are different.

In conclusion, the concept of peace has always been a major part of my life ever since the beginning. The war in Cambodia had many negative consequences and contributed to me becoming an orphan. However, my adoptive family is very loving and has taught me about the importance of peace. I think that family is the most critical component when it comes to teaching everyone about peace. For example, my education has focused on learning about the horrors of conflict, the positive impact that peacemakers can have, as well as character development. Learning about it through my education has been a great way for me to understand. My family has also exposed me to people from many different cultures, and I now know more about those who think and do things differently than I do. If people understood each other better, then we could all get along. In my opinion, conflict is like a dove with broken wings; but once we all work together as peacemakers, we can mend it, and help it fly again.

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Second Place:  Megan Minor,  gr. 6,  St. Edward Epiphany School

 “Peace Begins With a Smile”


Peace is a word that instantaneously brings a sense of calmness and tranquility to me.  I often wonder what the world would be like if there were no wars, no countries fighting over political boundaries or religious issues, cities without crime, and families who never disagree. When God created the world this was His plan, but sadly, this hope was selfishly destroyed by humans. My family helps me discover the meaning of peace which has affected my beliefs and behaviors towards peace, and they encourage me to spread peace in my community and world.

Children first learn about the importance of peace from their family.  My family taught me that peace comes from within and is a quality that I should always strive to carry with me and to share with those I meet.  I have learned that respect is a building block for peace, because it develops stronger and lasting friendships. Arguing is not the solution to solving problems, but peacefully talking your problems out is a better method.  Lastly, my family has taught me to be kind to others, and often I have found that most people will return kindness back to me. My family has played a vital role in helping me discover the meaning of peace.

What my family has taught me about peace has affected both my beliefs and behaviors towards peace. Peace does not often come easy, but it takes work to demonstrate a peaceful attitude. An example is when a friend does something to hurt my feelings and instead of getting angry and holding a grudge, God teaches us to forgive.  By forgiving, I can discover inner peace, and this brings me closer to God. Nobody can make me peaceful. Sometimes I have to slow down to enjoy the simple things such as the beauty of a flower. Going too fast can make me feel stressed and rushed, and that takes away my inner peace. In conclusion, without the influence of my family, I would know very little about peace.

As I learn more about peace, I realize that we all have the capability to spread peace to one another and work to make the world a better place. When I was in fifth grade and went to St. Francis Home, my class and I played bingo with the residents. Seeing the smiles on their faces was an example of how I was helping them to have a happier day which probably made them feel more peaceful. Playing softball gives me the chance to demonstrate good sportsmanship and have peace and not anger or resentment with my team or my opponent. Saints are probably one of the best examples of modern peacemakers. They spread God’s word which brings many people closer to God, helping them find peace on Earth and hope for everlasting peace with God in heaven. Finally, our new Pope Francis washed the feet of juveniles in a detention center on Holy Thursday. This act of kindness was the ultimate showing of God’s love and peace to those in need. As I grow older, people around me are role models for me to learn about peace and my role in sharing peace with others.

My family has taught me about peace, affected my beliefs in peace, and has inspired me to spread peace in my community and world.  Thanks to what my family taught me about peace, I have learned that peace can start with a single act of goodness. As Mother Teresa once said, “Peace begins with a smile.” I try to remember this in everyday life.

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Third Place:  Idoia Dizon, Moody Middle School, Henrico County Public Schools

John F. Kennedy once said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” This quote is a perfect example of how the lessons parents teach to their children are imperative to creating a peaceful world. If teachers simply taught their pupils from textbooks, and did not give them any experience interacting with the world outside the classroom, every graduate would be naïve and unprepared for the problems we must tackle for our society to move forward. Therefore, my family plays an important role in teaching me about peace, my beliefs and behaviors about peace are affected by my family, and these lessons taught to me by my family greatly affect my actions in my community and the world.

First of all, my family plays the primary role in teaching me about peace, and how to be a peaceful citizen. Every night, my family and I gather at our dining table and eat dinner while the news is on television. Whenever there is a devastating war battle, or an unnerving terrorist attack, my mother and father repeatedly ask us what could be going on in their minds to want to harm other innocent humans. On a daily basis, my parents persuasively remind my sister and I of what a wonderful, safe life we have, while others may be less fortunate and live in the midst of terror and war. My parents almost always start a train of thought in my mind that leads to the simple conclusion that I want to be a help, not a hindrance when I am older and more qualified to complete community service in other countries.

Other things my family’s teachings affect are my beliefs and behaviors about peace. Personally, I believe that peace is a human necessity. The few people on Earth that believe in peace and are willing to put themselves in danger to create a more peaceful world are the only ones stopping the world from becoming a giant war zone. My parents taught me that there are people in the world who harm or even murder others who they disagree with. This has strengthened my belief that people who believe in peace should come out from under the shadow of war and advocate for a proper, perfectly peaceful world. Whenever my sister and I argue or fight my mother separates us for a few minutes before bringing us back together to ask us to recall our side of the argument. She has taught us how to apologize politely, without sounding sarcastic or brusque. After agreeing on what we both did wrong in the situation, we both apologize for all of our actions and give each other a warm hug.

Lastly, the lessons taught to me by my family greatly affect my actions in my community and the world. My family has always told me that I have an ample amount of useful talents that I should use to help the less fortunate parts of the world. These words have more effect on me coming from them, because they came from the Philippines, and saw firsthand the unsanitary, dangerous conditions that the poor must live in. My parents repeatedly remind me of how lucky I am that we had the opportunity to live in America, and that I should not just take this opportunity for granted; I should use the extra opportunities offered to me in America to help the less fortunate. Even in school, I must complete community service because I am part of the International Baccalaureate program. Basically, the adults that surround me continuously convince me to complete more and more community service. When I am older, I hope to continue my habit of completing at least twenty hours of community service each year by travelling to countries in poverty and aiding the poor there.

In conclusion, my family plays an important role in teaching me about peace, my beliefs and behaviors about peace are affected by my family, and these lessons taught to me by my family greatly affect my actions in my community and the world. Few people in the world ever get remembered after they die, and even after that, few people get remembered for the good things they did. If the people that want to get remembered would just team up for good and battle the evil of the world, they would achieve their wish, and the world would be better. I am confident in others that they will step up to the cause of peace, and that they will save me a spot on their team because I am coming to join them, as fast as I can.

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Honorable Mentions:


Amina Hasan, gr. 7, Stone Hill Middle School, Loudon County Public Schools

I am “Amina” – I am “Peaceful”


Peace is a wish amongst so many people in the world.  As we grow up, peace is promoted by the influences of our family.  Peace is an important aspect to learn about, when growing up.  My thoughts of peace are affected by my upbringing, learning from history like the signing of the Treaty of Paris, and observing daily examples such the use of the peace symbol in fashion.

My name, “Amina” has the literal definition of “peaceful” in Arabic.  The fact that my parents named me Amina, tells me that the concept of peace is very important to them.  People have told me that the definition of my name matches my personality.  My parents have taught me that respecting others is very important. They have shown me that respecting people, animals, plants, and property are basic values.  I think this respect that I have learned from them is the key to peace.  If everyone is taught to respect others, the world would be a very peaceful place.

An important example of peace that took place in the past is the signing of The Treaty of Paris (1783).  When Great Britain was in control of the thirteen colonies, the Americans were taxed excessively; there was no peace in their life because they had to pay an amount of money for every action they preformed. After the United States’ victory in the Revolutionary War, the United States won their freedom, and also had tranquility in their regular routines.  Not only presently, but in the past, peace was not so easy to accomplish.  The Treaty of Paris brought peace to United States citizens because it was an agreement between Great Britain and United States.  We need to learn from history, to achieve peace today.

Today, we find that the peace symbol is what is “in style” for adolescents.  Younger generations have clothes, scarves, necklaces, and even sunglasses that display this symbol.


Peace is promoted everyday by the youth through the use of this symbol.  By using this symbol in everyday life, it publicizes the passion people have towards peace.

Peace is a common dream around the world; today, in past times and will continue in the future.  Peace is special to me because it is the definition of my name. It is who I am, “Peaceful!”  Also, because of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, peace was brought to United States citizens and peace between the United States and Great Britain.  The symbol of peace in fashion should be promoted as it a good influence on youth.   Life at home is most important, because the way we grow up learning the concept of peace affects our daily lives.  The topic of peace is important to understand.  Peace needs to be taught at home and school if we want a strong future generation who live peaceful lives.

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Kendall Kalber, gr. 7, Liberty Middle School, Hanover County Public Schools

Learning to Live in Peace


Have you ever heard the words keep the peace? I know that in my 13 years of life I have. The definition of peace means a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations. Meaning no disagreements, fighting, or over all unkindness towards others and/ or objects. Over the years I have had to learn how to keep the peace within teams, siblings, and people in general. But lessons I learned from family and friends are what I have learned from to keep the peace. I learned how to keep the peace with my sister, with my Destination Imagination team, and with people around me.

My parents are always telling me how to get along with others, specifically with my older sister. We don’t really get along that entirely well. My sister is 3 ½ years older then me at the age of 16, and we tend to have disagreements especially when having to share spaces such as long vacation, car rides, and in the mornings when we have to get ready for school. My parents always say to compromise, to respect each other, and to leave each other alone when friends are over. Many times we would have arguments about when friends come over; we tend to go and bother the other sibling, and it does go both ways. We never really got along with each other, only occasionally hanging out with each other. That was until the time that we went to Myrtle Beach, SC when my Uncle Tony came and talked to us. He has a younger brother who is 6 years younger. He said that he regrets not being able to really click and keep the peace between his brother and him when they were younger. He said that we need to compromise and talk it out when something is bothering us instead of just getting angry and mad at each other when the other did something you didn’t want them to do or didn’t agree with. We sort of had an epiphany that day that we can keep the peace between each other. Don’t get me wrong we do sometimes fight with each other it’s natural we are siblings after all, but most of the time we do get along.

Another time I had to “Keep the Peace” is when I participate in Destination Imagination.  Destination Imagination is an after school activity that promotes creativity and problem solving techniques. Trying to decide on one solution is difficult by itself but adding 3 or 4 more opinions doesn’t always end well. During Instant Challenges (part of Destination Imagination) we are scored on team work, one time the team disagreed so much we had to whisper the entire time so the judges wouldn’t have to deduct points from our team. Over the years we have created ways to work together. One year we did the human knot team building exercise where you grab another persons hand and then try to unravel each other. We also have a democracy when trying to decide important decisions; we would all put our heads down and then vote. To this day we still make decisions with our heads on our arms and our eyes closed. We also headed out jobs for instant challenges, somebody keeps time, somebody rereads the problem, somebody writes the script, and somebody chooses the person to say their idea. So over the years we have learned to keep the peace within our team pretty well getting along 98% of the time.

Another time I have learned to live in peace is in everyday life when interacting with people around me. Sometimes people don’t always agree with you and you can either blow it out of proportion or you can compromise to keep the peace. I know that situations such as bumping into you can be brushed of in order to keep the peace or a fight could break out. If we didn’t have peace, then over a simple bump in the shoulder could result very badly, or in a world of peace we could ignore it and keep walking after a simple sorry. Most of it is common sense but some is taught through manners, if you full on slam into them you should probably help them up and say you are sorry then keep walking, not just keep walking like it never happened. Situations can be peaceful with a simple sorry or you’re welcome. My parents always told me to be respectful to others so being respectful can keep the peace. Also compromising can keep the peace if you don’t agree with someone compromise in order to please you both that is a simple way to keep the peace within your community.

Learning to keep the peace within your community is easy if you want to keep the peace. If you want to blow situations out of proportion then you can but you’re not helping anybody. By keeping the peace you help yourself and others. I learned to comprise and talk problems out with my sister, I learned to work as a team and vote with my Destination Imagination team, and I learned to compromise, and use my manners with others around me. Knowledge that is in everyday use with some people is not always in use with others. It is better to agree and get along then to disagree and hate one another. It is easy to keep the peace when you try and get along with those around you.

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Evan Phaup, gr. 7, Liberty Middle School, Hanover County Public Schools

An Emerging Peace


Peace.  That one word can stir many emotions with a single utterance.  Most people will scoff at it and rely on an almost universal instinct.  That instinct is force.

Humans have relied on force for thousands of years.  Ask yourself, in the past, why not use it?  Imagine you are a caveman and you want to lead your tribe.  Would you reason with your current master?  No.  You have to fight him, as human instincts were evolved beyond intellect at that time.  Now, fast forward 10,000 years, where you are a settler of America.  Your farm is raided by Indians, the ones who you call savages, and you want payment for the damages.  Would you get payment by talking to them?  Absolutely not.  You would attack them without thinking because of your lack of understanding and inability to contain rage.  This behavior has gone on unchecked forever.

Now think about the present day.  You have received a full education and guidance from you family.  You can reason with those around you and walk away unhurt.

Does force and violence seem necessary now?  I doubt it.  With the modern day resources, people no longer need force.  It’s almost entirely useless now and it usually results in more harm than good.

I have been a “peace person” ever since I exited elementary school.  Though I play “violent” video games and I’m fascinated by the history of America, which happens to include many wars, I consider myself a semi-pacifist.  This is because I have been taught not to solve my problems with violence or an ongoing dispute by some extremely nice and generous people.  Some of them were the obvious ones, such as parents and teachers, while others were the hard ones to guess, such as my coaches and neighbors.

My non-violent actions are only outside of me, however.  Inside of myself, I was almost always angry and upset.  This caused me yell and scream as a little child, and sometimes when my anger peaks, now.  I constantly said as a kindergartener “I hate this day!” for I was unable to control my actions and emotions.  I never could get over that until one day my mother told me to say it to the toilet and flush it.  I did as she told me to and ever since then I made I conscience effort to not let something small ruin my day.

In first grade, I had to take anger management classes with my guidance counselor.  I can’t remember what I learned, but I do remember that the fact of me going to anger management classes pursued me to, well, manage my anger.  Being involved in pier mediating in second grade helped me learn to reason with others.  I learned not to voice my displeasure with referees from my coaches, who taught me that raging hurt the team as a whole, not just me.

I started combating my bad feelings by hiding them.  I talked to counter and get along with others.  I have worn a mask to help me in my endeavors until I casted it aside, for it is now worthless to me.  Nowadays when I get pushed or shoved, whether or not if it is on purpose, I either ask for an apology or just simply ignore the person.  Instead of constantly complaining and making excuse about others, I focus on myself so I can focus on others in a positive manner.  This reminds me of Russia, which was once the cruel Soviet Union.  Until its final president, the Soviet Union was always hostile.  It then became friendly enough for its communist regime to collapsed, allowing the newly formed countries to play an active part in world peace.  Now that my anger regime collapsed, I have nothing left to hide, as I will make sure that I will continue to invoke peaceful feelings around me.

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Katy Rose Price, gr. 6, St. Edward Epiphany School

The Vitality of Peace


Peace has always been a subject that has been considered and analyzed.  Kids of my generation have been affected by this and have accepted some of these beliefs and behaviors.  Our families have played a role in teaching us peace, they affect our beliefs and behaviors about peace, and this affects our actions in our community and world.

Our families demonstrate peace because we grow up learning and hearing their opinions and we take in how they treat people.  As we get older, we begin to define these beliefs and make them our own.  My family has taught me to always see the best in other people and the best in bad situations in my life.  This leaves me more open to understanding and more sympathetic to others’ differences.

Throughout all the years as we grow, learn, and expand our insights, our families influence our views and behaviors on peace.  My family teaches me to work out disagreements.  My mother and father try to set good examples for my sister and me.  Even though my parents disagree sometimes, they teach us to work out any disagreements with words, not violence.  I think my family has made my beliefs and behaviors about peace important to me and active in my life.  Once, my mother was having a disagreement with one of the neighbors.  She had the courage to go apologize to the neighbor.  This showed me that peace can be effective no matter what the outcome.

Peace affects my action s in my community and world because it helps me solve arguments, prompts me to tutor younger children, volunteer at the animal shelter, and be a part of a youth mission group.  Peace can help you do all these things because peace can bring out the best in people.  This happens every day because I have seen examples of it.  Some examples are when a man moved over to give my mother a seat, and when a man did not have enough money for the metro fare so my family and I gave him the money he needed.  That shows even in large crowds people who may not even know each other can show peace.  Perhaps these outreaches are peace in its purest form.

My family has been very vital in teaching me peace.  They teach me to use words and peace, not violence, in a disagreement, or just to reach out to others.  Some people like Hitler did not exercise peace, which led to inhumane disaster.  Peace is needed in the world because it makes people be kind and respect each other, even those who hold different beliefs.  As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”  Reach out to the person next to you and see what blossoms.

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Robin Schwartzkopf, gr. 8, Moody Middle School, Henrico County Public Schools


The Lord of the Rings: a tale all are familiar with, and millions adore. But how often when watching magical orc after orc get killed do we realize what the main message is? The main character, Frodo, is not a soldier. He isn’t a demon slayer or a fighter. He wasn’t raised that way. Bilbo Baggins has told him of adventure, but his sheltered life in the Shire has been all too protected and safe. But when the mysterious wizard with the powers and the big scary staff comes, Frodo’s story changes. He is no longer a simple hobbit, living for breakfast (and then second breakfast and then afternoon tea). This small, peaceful creature is flung into a world ravaged by war and fear.

The peacefulness of Frodo’s homeland, the Shire, may represent my own upbringing. My parents, my siblings, and I lead a relatively normal life in suburban Virginia. We were also raised to believe that peace was desirable, but we were not graced with the façade that it had already been achieved. “Ignorance is never bliss,” my mother would say. And indeed, she was right. If one grows up thinking that there is nothing to fix in the world, then one will have no drive, no enthusiasm to ‘get the job done’.

The influence of my parent’s teachings has affected me all through life, and the same is true throughout history. Could Alexander the Great have conquered so much territory without the teachings of Aristotle? Sure, Alexander’s work wasn’t focused around peace, but his overall conquering was rather effective in the extension of peace afterward. It was his way of bringing peace to the world (and also making him the center of everyone’s world), and he learned this all from his tutor and closest friend. Alexander was taught that peace could be achieved through quick battles and the gaining of new territory. Perhaps this was not the best strategy, but it was the one he grew up with, and it therefore made the most sense to him. Why shouldn’t Macedonia be extended? If he ruled the entire world, would it not be united? Would not all war stop?

History, literature, and contemporary events are riddled with war, and it boils down to one thing: people following in the footsteps of their leaders, caregivers, and guardians. For instance, the Crusades: a venture spearheaded by the Church to convert people to Christianity, to ‘recapture the holy land’. Of course, these were misguided and thoughtless adventures that resulted in the deaths of too many innocent civilians, but they really only took place because the people wanted to make their leaders proud. The church was the most powerful organization in the Ancient World at that time, it taught people everything they knew and basically raised them. True peace, the Church insisted, could only be achieved in a world full of Christians.

Whether it is fantasy or reality, contemporary or historical, misguided and ridiculous or well thought out, the influence of a caregiver or teacher can make all the difference for peace. From something as (ashamedly) real as the Crusades to the wars for Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings, a parent’s influence persuades characters to make every decision. The people who raise us provide our initial outlook on life, but it can be misleading. They can say that peace is the way of the world, and how everything works, but that would be a lie. Peace is desirable, and sought out, but it has not yet been implemented. New generations, learning from the people who brought them up and what they were taught, have to make the difference themselves. They have to work for it, to climb Mount Doom and destroy their own ring of power. And then peace can truly be achieved.

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