2015 Peace Essay Contest: Middle School Winners

1st Place:  Grace Powers, gr.8, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools

2nd Place (tie): 
           Caroline DiFrango, gr. 8, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools;
           Maggie McKenna, gr. 7, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools;
           Katie Taguchi, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools
Honorable Mentions:
         Beverley Arbogast, gr. 7, King George MS, King George Co. Public Schools;
         Sarah Bender, gr. 7, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools;
         Megha Nair, gr. 8, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools
         Audrey Kate Taylor, gr. 6,  Chickahominy MS, Hanover Co. Public Schools;
         Yashodhara Varma, gr. 8, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools


First Place: Grace Powers, gr.8, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools

Listen to Grace’s recording from WRIR

Throughout history there have been numerous individuals who inspire people with their passion to make this world a better place. Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her work with poor communities and established the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. Nelson Mandela spent twenty-five years in prison for his passive resistant protesting, but his passion led him to win a Nobel Peace Prize and the role of president of South Africa after his release. Jody Williams, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, used her one million dollar reward to fund the International Campaign to Ban Landmines which persuaded countries to support a treaty to ban landmines. It is unselfish people like this that inspire me to follow the tune of my own heart.

Looking up to these people as role models, I try to learn from their experiences to figure out how I can help others. One particular trait that inspires me is the level of selflessness and nobility these people possess. Ron Kovic, for example, was a Vietnam War veteran who was paralyzed from the neck down and neglected by American veteran hospitals. Instead of letting his physical state hold him back, Kovic became an advocate for peace and an influential voice in improving the conditions of American veteran hospitals.

Another trait that I admire is the simplicity of these peacemakers’ messages. One story that moved me was that of Samantha Smith, a ten-year-old peacemaker. In 1983, Samantha wrote a letter to the Soviet leader asking for peace. In response, the Soviet Union invited her for a tour of the country. At the age of eleven, she wrote a book called Journey to the Soviet Union where she summarized her trip and dedicated it to the children of the world who “know that peace is always possible.” What I find truly remarkable about Samantha is that she took the simplicity of her ten-year-old spirit and combined it with her passion for peace. This truly inspires me because it shows that no matter how old someone is, they can always make a difference.

However, it is not just these amazing public figures who inspire me. At my church, St. Bridget’s, there is a woman named Anne Marie Condlin. She has two kids in high school and leads a busy life, but there is one thing that separate her from other good Samaritans. Mrs. Condlin coordinates all of the service projects and events at our church. I have to say from watching her first hand that she is the most committed and passionate person I know. In coordinating these events, she does not get paid or receive any kind of award; she simply does it out of the goodness of her heart. Though I have mentioned many people that inspire me, she is the one person who gives me the energy to make our community and world better. Anne Marie works in small projects to help the community, and as a result has shown me that I do not need to change the world to make a difference. In this way, her actions fuel me to help my community.

As the Dalai Lama said, “…each of us must do something that makes our hearts sing, because no one will want to do it with us if we are not passionate and inspired.” I believe all of the people I have talked about, global or local figures, follow this advice. Their selflessness, nobility, and simple-mindedness give me the energy to make the world a better place. With all of these examples set before me, I know that change is possible; our world can get better. All I have to do is listen to my heart because now it is truly singing.




Second Place (3-way tie)

Caroline DiFrango, gr. 8, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools;

Dance may make me feel like I’m flying and competition may draw a whole new person out of my usual humble demeanor, but my passion lies where injustice reigns. Just the thought of it makes my fists clench and my blood boil, and I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. I’m not claiming to be a saint who has never wronged, but I have always felt compelled to protect others from unfair treatment.

We are all entitled to the same basic rights, meaning that one is not allowed to take those rights from another, so when I see someone trying to do this I feel the need to step in. We as humans are not going to be perfect and I respect and relish in the idea that every individual is different, but difference does not mean differences in power and social class unless these contrasts are the fault of the person who faces the consequences.

It does not matter if you have all the money in the world, nor does it matter if you are in a slightly higher position than one of your coworkers or fellow classmates. Even the president of the United States of America cannot act unjustly so why should everyday people, who are doing less for the country, be entitled to treat other people in an unfair manner?

I am advocating for the bullied, degraded, and broken. Everyone deserves what they are willing to work for, their own individual goals, not what another person negatively wishes upon them. I cannot stand the sight of someone being disrespected for no reason, it just isn’t right. Unfortunately while I attend school and watch the daily news, I witness exactly that.

My sixth period at school is teeming with sixth and seventh graders, and one in particular always seems to grab my attention. He is outspoken and not afraid to question what we are learning, but he also has a tendency to be a victim of bullying. Though sometimes he aggravates me as well, I hear boys speaking harshly about him and see them saying cutting words to his face all the time without reason. Often I try to stop them, explaining that it is isn’t right and is very immature of them, but rarely do they listen. Sadly, he is not the sole target of bullying I have dealt with.

Through the last three years of elementary school, I had class with an Autistic student. Similar to the boy I spoke of before; he was a very clear target of cruel bullying. Again I always stepped in, trying to protect him from all of the people that teased him because of his disability, but I could not handle this alone.

This also occurs on a much larger scale with terrorists and leaders with too much power. For example, in my Individuals and Societies class, I got the opportunity to study the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Reading article after article about what they have been doing to harmless people made me grit my teeth and feel completely helpless. Though I could hardly do anything to stop these larger scale injustices, I would if the opportunity were to present itself.

Now as I grow as a person and transition into high school, I have begun to develop a stronger voice. Lately I have felt inspired to change my community by participating in the fight against everyday injustices even more. It seems that every direction I turn, someone is being bullied or demeaned. I have witnessed this with both adults and children alike, and have joined the campaign against these issues both at school and in my after school activities. Not only have I been trying to stop others treating people unfairly, I have also been extra careful of leading by example. No one is entitled to degrade another human in the way I see it happen everyday, and I will do anything in my power to stop it.



2nd Place: Maggie McKenna, gr. 7, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools

Listen to Maggie’s recording from WRIR

Ever since I read an article on the Dalai Lama, he has been somewhat of a role model. He says that, in order to create a better world, “…each of us must do something that makes our heart sing, because no one will want to do it with us if we are not passionate and inspired.” I have long felt a drive to make the world a better place. Sure, it’s a cliché term, but it’s exactly how I’ve always felt. For me, service comes easy, because I’ve been passionate about helping others. But I’ve never really stopped and wondered what inspired me to help my community. It is somewhat of a mystery to me, but I know that when I look in the faces of the people I have served, my heart is warmed. Perhaps it is this satisfaction of knowing that I made a difference in their lives that makes service so joyful for me.

Over the summer, I got the chance to go to Peru for a two week service trip. Up in the mountains, all your cares seem to melt away. But the people up there hardly have it easy – they’re often poor, and the children suffer from malnutrition. When we have the chance to help them – whether it be in the clinic, in the schools, or helping build greenhouses to provide fresh food – they make sure to thank us. Everyone up there is so gracious, and the way I get to interact with the people I help, as only a 12 year old girl, is mind-blowing. So, maybe it’s satisfaction that drives me to serve my community. A quote by Francis of Assisi says that “For it is in giving that we receive.” He was a religious figure who gave up a life of luxury to rebuild his church and serve his community. His quote represents the way that I feel about service: by giving back to the community, I receive the joy of satisfaction.

For me, service is not a “have to”, but rather a “get to”. I think service is fun, especially when I get to do it with friends and family. Whether I’m helping my mom cook pasta for the homeless, staying after school to assist a teacher, or volunteering at the asthma camp my dad helps with, I can always find a way to be happy while helping those around me. My dad has a similar drive that makes him enjoy service. In Peru, he would wake up each day, early, with a smile on his face. He serves without skipping a beat, and he enjoys it, even amidst his busy schedule. Sometimes, if we can, we go and help out at the SPCA, and being there with him makes service a blast. My love of service makes it easy to help those around me.

Last year, I did a project on Clara Barton. She was a person who dedicated her life to serving those around her, by helping out as a battlefield nurse. She inspired me to pursue different ways I can help through medicine, which is something I love. In a few years, I hope to start looking at volunteer opportunities at my dad’s hospital. She died in 1912, so I never got a chance to meet her. However, I can guess that she had a similar internal feeling that service is what’s right. I can’t quite put a finger on it, but I know that deep in my heart is something giving me the energy to help those around me.

So, I don’t quite know what pushes me to serve. Perhaps it is for the satisfaction, or maybe because I love it – or perhaps it is a more internal force. Whatever it is, I know I try to follow Dalai Lama’s advice every day, and I hope that the joy I get from service rubs off on others and encourages them too to help others in a way that makes their hearts sing.



2nd Place: Katie Taguchi, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools

Inspiration for a Better World

Listen to Katie’s recording from WRIR

Filmmaking is not only my passion, but my path to making my community and world a better place. I believe that especially in this generation, there are so many opportunities for filmmakers to inspire others to make the world a better place. Individuals in this generation tend to respond to visuals and social media, therefore I am inspired to share my films with the world on YouTube.

Making films gives me the energy to make our world better. There are so many things that can easily come into the light through films, and so many ideas can be inspired this way. Every week, I make a video on a different topic for YouTube. My overall goal in doing this is to help my peers and other individuals be inspired to make their community better. It is so simple to bring new ideas that could help our world through a film. For example, one week I made a video on jealousy. I encouraged others to be thankful for what they have, and to think of happiness like a choice. I hoped to inspire them to not be envious of others, because it is not worth their time. In my opinion, if everyone would choose to be happy, the Earth would be a more preferable place to live in. After I posted the video to YouTube, I got floods of comments. This is what I love about social media: it is so easy to immediately communicate with others across many countries.

Commenters shared their own experiences with me, and they then informed me that my advice inspired them. Some of the viewers messaged me and asked for more advice, which I happily gave. Communicating with my viewers is very important to me; I love inspiring them and helping them though their issues. I feel as though videos like these really make the world a more peaceful place. So many people can be inspired by them, then they can inspire others. Helpful opinions and advice can be so easily shared this way as well.

My friends have also joined me in inspiring others through films. Our fifth grade year, there was a tragic passing in our classroom. We were all in shock that one of our fellow classmates had passed. We decided to make a film surrounding this in honor of him. Our fellow classmate had a form of autism, so we decided to volunteer at an autism 5k and encourage others to do so, too. I directed a music video to the song, “Gone, gone, gone” by Phillip Phillips. My friends acted in the video and helped me tell our story. We expressed that he had passed by going to his grave and each placing a flower. We then showed the ways that we helped the Autism Society. We had visuals of us selling t-shirts, having a bake sale, and running the race in honor of our friend that was gone. My friends and I felt extremely proud of the finished product. This helped us in the grieving process by knowing that he would have been proud. When many individuals were inspired to donate and volunteer at the Autism Society, we felt so accomplished. Many people connected with the video, and we felt that we made a difference in our community. My friends and I go by Dalai Lama’s advice and do what we love, filmmaking/acting, and inspire others by doing so.

Not only do films inspire others, they help others see a different perspective on things and understand new ideas. I have learned on my years of being on YouTube, that there are so many issues in the world that I did not know about. Simply making a video about an issue you feel strongly should be fixed and sharing it can help others tend to the issue as well. I like to share my own opinions on issues with the YouTube world, and I hope to continue to inspire others to help resolve this issue with me. Another thing I love about social media is that once one person has seen a positive video, they can so easily share that video with their friends. This is such an amazing way to better the world, especially with our generation that is always on social media.

Whether it’s a music video, a video blog, or a short film, any form of filmmaking can inspire others. I personally love any type of filmmaking, therefore, I make lots of different types of videos. Doing this can help make my YouTube channel more appealing to a bigger audience. With a variety of videos, more people can become inspired. Telling an effective, inspiring story, whether it’s through just talking to the camera, like my jealousy video, or through a visual story, like my autism music video, is very important to me. I hope that others can connect, identify, be inspired by the story that I tell.

I am inspired by other filmmakers such as Stephen Spielberg. I believe he goes by Dalai Lama’s advice by doing what he is passionate about and inspiring others. He has made so many inspiring movies. He has made movies about things like the Holocaust, which can help others understand what happened and help make a difference in the future.

Filmmaking is my passion. I love sharing my films with the world through social media and inspiring individuals by doing so. My goal is to share new ideas, help people get through tough times in their life, help others understand issues in the world, and inspire others to make the world a more peaceful place by telling a story through filmmaking. Simply sharing advice, a story, or opinions can inspire so many people to better humanity, and filmmaking is such a wonderful way to do so. Filmmaking is my personal path to making the world a better place.



Honorable Mentions:


Beverley Arbogast, gr. 7, King George MS, King George Co. Public Schools


The things that inspire me are bullying prevention, recycling and singing. I believe that old saying “treat others how you want to be treated.” I bet if you were a bully you wouldn’t want anyone to treat you like that.

My cousin was bullied for six years straight. She ran around singing, “I’m a banana.” Three days before her seventeenth birthday she committed suicide. It made me determined to make a change. Wasn’t it hard enough me being bullied? Yes, but in made me even more determined.

The next week I went to the counselor to make a committee. An anti-bullying committee. I asked my three best friends to help me. We called it the Bullying Prevention Committee. We did speeches on the morning announcements, a bullying assembly, and lots of posters. The day the students had to meet their teachers, we handed out handouts to the parents about bullying.

Another thing that inspires me is recycling and saving the environment. Last year I joined the Garden Club. We planted plants, cleaned up trash, and also handed out tree saplings to the students. In Garden Club we talked about the environment. We also decided to band the trees to see how they grew.

I bet you want to know what inspired me to do that. Well, the climate change of course. The pollution in the air and the water. I saw all these trees cut down but not enough replaced, so I shot the idea to the instructor of the group.

They thought that was an amazing idea. We went all around looking for the tree saplings. We all stayed after on Saturday to bag them and staple a little note. We need trees for photosynthesis so we can have air to breathe. Our pledge is “I pledge me head to clear thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service, my health to better living. For my club, my community, my country and my world.”

To help the community you could use less water brushing your teeth and taking a shower. Unplugging things you are not using. Turning off the lights when you are not in the room. All these things will help the world.

Or when you cut down a tree, you could replace it. Planting flowers all over the yard to attract animals or insects, like birds, butterflies, ladybugs and bees.

If you like the environment then you could help. Why wouldn’t you like the environment? We need the environment to live. We need our raw materials, like wood and food. The wood gives us habitats. Recycling plastic paper and other materials could help also.

There will be a lot of chances to help the environment. If you choose to take the chance is your choice. I’ve taken my chance and made the best of it.

The last thing that inspires me is singing. Now don’t get confused. I may be inspired to sing but it doesn’t mean I can. When I say that I it doesn’t mean I am good at it.

My music teacher always told me I could. I’ve been in chorus ever since third grade. Now I’m in seventh. In fourth grade I tried out for Select Chorus. I made it. The next year I tried out for district and I made it two years in a row.

When I went into middle school I selected chorus as my elective. The chorus director always said you only have one chance to tell the story and you don’t know how that story will make them feel. It might change their life, might make them happy.

I love hearing her say that the way we sing the song can change how they feel. That is why I sing. It is not how you sing, it’s how you sing the song. Singing is the best therapy to me. When I’m mad, sad or even happy, I sing.

Those are the things that inspire me. It’s okay if I don’t win. It was fun writing this and I hope I inspired you.



Sarah Bender, gr. 7, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools;

Inspiration for a Better World

Today, when ads on TV, radio, and in books promote bettering the world, they feature well-known athletes, singers, actors, actresses, and models contributing community service. In society’s eye, mirroring the actions of desirable, well-known individuals can lead to some of the success they experience. To encourage generous behavior in the general public, the media chooses to shine a light on the service contributed to the role-models of an entertainment-focused civilization. In my opinion, however, the real inspiration for a better world lies in the actions of disabled people, who chose not to let their incapacities hinder them, but instead used them as fuel for a journey focused on helping others.

In my opinion, one of the best ways to help people others is to serve those who have difficulty serving themselves, such as blind and visually impaired people. In order for visually impaired people to be able to read, they must be able to experience words through a sense other than sight. The most common way to do this is through braille writing, an organized series in which certain patterns of raised bumps represent letters. The inventor of this code was Louis Braille, who lived nearly all of his life as a blind man after he accidently stabbed himself in the eye. He later used his impairment to develop the braille system. Today, his system helps over 285 million visually-impaired people around the world read and see, even if they must do so without their eyesight. His work inspired me because he chose to find a way to combat his disability and live life to the fullest, and in the process, he decided to help other people deal with their personal struggles. To extend his lesson into my community, I can use the inspiration Braille gave me to identify the most prominent problem in my life and share my experiences with others who suffer the same thing, through both conversation and creating something that will help to lessen the impact.

When the sun goes down each night, we rely on the light produced by light bulbs for illumination. Despite being horrible at mathematics and only completing three months of official schooling, Thomas Edison overcame multiple disabilities to fulfill his desires. Through his love for creating, he went on to invent the light bulb and other household items, such as a motion-picture camera. Edison had difficulty focusing in class and also had many speech impairments and difficulties, and was near deaf from childhood. Nevertheless, he pursued his passion as an inventor, and created several things that would go on to improve the world in countless ways. In my opinion, the most inspiring thing about Edison was how he changed the world despite all that was holding him back and seemingly keeping him from success.

Commonly considered one of the greatest minds in history, Albert Einstein suffered from dyslexia, a learning disorder characterized by deficiency in reading, writing, and memory complications. Einstein was known to have difficulty remembering simple things such as the months of the year and never properly learned how to tie his shoelaces. Today, Einstein’s theories still play a major part in our understanding of math and science. I am inspired by his work not only because of his remarkable capabilities and discoveries, but because of my respect for the way he overcame all of what stood in his way, and created an amazing product to show for it.

Alexander Graham Bell was another celebrated mind who suffered from dyslexia. Bell invented the telephone while trying to cure deafness. As a teen, Bell’s mother became completely deaf, causing him to become sensitive to disabilities and led to his drive for curing disabilities through technology. When bell discovered he had dyslexia, his grades began to drop and stay very low, but he always did extremely well in science and biology due to his interests. Bell inspires me because of his massive passion for helping people with incapacities, even before he knew that he had a disability himself. The way he overcame his dyslexia to become a famed scientist and inventor with the intention of helping others is, to me, the most important thing that Bell did in his life.

Though the media portrays honorable action as celebrities completing community service, for me, the best way to serve the world is through using passion for the benefit for the greater community. The people who I believe embody the drive to help others are those who overcome adversity to combat what is holding them back. My personal inspiration for finding the passion to help my community lies in the contribution of those with disabilities, in particular, those who embraced what limited them, and used their difficulties as drive for changing the world and making it a better place. Their work has inspired me to assist younger kids, as I can help them learn right and wrong, and play a part in teaching them to be kinder and wiser. I sincerely believe that the greatest inspiration comes from breaking from the mold, and using limitations to find the energy to improve the world.



Megha Nair, gr. 8, Moody MS, Henrico Co. Public Schools

There is a certain inspiration behind everyone’s heart that drives them to be the people who they are. This inspiration is found in every corner of the world, from the tallest standing tree to the influential humans of today’s society. Without this inspiration, we, as humans, would never be able to get anything properly done. This argument goes in unison with the Dalai Lama’s quote: “… each of us must do something that makes our hearts sing, because no one will want to do it with us if we are not passionate and inspired.” He speaks the truth, indeed. As for me, this inspiration comes from well-achieved individuals from the past as well as my own family members, and this inspiration fuels my goals for the future. My aspirations consist of becoming a doctor, placing hospitals in countries with a less fortunate health care system, as well as finding cures to uncured diseases; and if achieved, my achievements would have helped people in my community as well as the world.

Doctors are one of the many heroes and heroines of the world today. They selflessly will work their hardest to save a person and help take care of them. They strive for excellence when it comes to their patients and will never let them down. Doctors never give up on their duties, whether it be inside or outside of the hospital. That type of true dedication and passion for the medical arts it what makes them such idols. For me, people such as Hippocrates, Elizabeth Blackwell, and even my own mother inspire me with their medical achievements. And as goes the wise words of Hippocrates, “Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love for humanity.” This is a quote that applies to physicians everywhere. Therefore, part of my inspirations include those in the world who work hard to make sure that everyone’s health is out of harm’s way: doctors.

Is it possible for the average American citizen to imagine having to live in an area with diseases crawling like mosquitoes, attacking and biting at their will? The sad truth is that for some people living in countries such as Angola, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Afghanistan, etc., that kind of nightmare is in fact a reality. For those reasons, one of my goals for the future is to travel around and place proper hospitals in regions like those with poor health care. As I had mentioned before, Elizabeth Blackwell is one of my role models. She was the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States. Blackwell was also the first woman to open a hospital in the United States: the New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Achievements from strong women such as Blackwell drive my passion for sewing the patch on the medical field in countries around the world. It is from her that I learned that my dreams can and will come true as when there is a will, there is a way. Thus, my passions for this cause have been ever-burning due to inspirations from strong women in the medical field.

The idea of catching an uncured disease, especially a fatal one, is horrifying to anyone. It are those diseases such as the certain types of uncured cancer or even the recent Ebola pandemic that trap those people in a black-hole of fear. However, it is one of my greatest ambitions to contradict these diseases and find cures for them. The Dalai Lama has once said: “No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose hope, that’s our real disaster.” This quote reassures me and inspires me to take on this particular goal of mine. It is true that I will have to go through pain-staking lengths to reach there, but once I do, not only will it benefit the world, but it shall also benefit me in that I would have known my full potentials and abilities. Therefore, it is not only those of the medical field who inspire me, but those who speak words of wisdom and truth.

To conclude, it is evident that a single person’s inspirations can change the world for the better, whether it be in the sciences, music, technology, etc. With every goal reached, with every step taken, and with every individual armed with their passion, the world shall become a better place on its own as more happiness, truth, justice, as well as inspiration is added. Piece by piece, we can make the world a better place if only we believe we can and take the necessary steps. As mentioned before, my inspirations come from the wise people of the past and those around me today. However, mine are only few of the ones that are to contribute to making the world brighter. The world lives on inspiration, and once we find it, we shall become forever capable.


Audrey Kate Taylor, gr. 6, Chickahominy MS, Hanover Co. Public Schools

Inspiration for a Better World

The Dalai Lama once said “Each of us must do something that makes our hearts sing, because no one will want to do it with us if we are not passionate and inspired.”   I didn’t understand what that meant until a year and a half ago. I entered my first beauty pageant, and I thought it was all about being pretty. I found out I was wrong when I won based on my talent and met Courtney Garrett.

I was crowned Miss State Fair’s Outstanding Preteen, and Courtney was crowned Miss State Fair of Virginia.   I found out quickly that Courtney was very kind and compassionate. She began talking about her platform at special events. It was very personal to her because she talked about her special needs brother and his challenging life. Courtney has a seventeen year-old brother, who is autistic and has cerebral palsy. Her platform as Miss State Fair and now as Miss Virginia is Defying Disabilities. She works to empower the disabled and celebrate their abilities- not their disabilities. Courtney’s goal is to set up a non-profit company, Communication and Respect for Everyone. This company will work to create a caring environment for children with disabilities and their families. It’s something she’s been working towards her whole life. Courtney once said, “Defying Disabilities is not only my platform, but everything I live for.”

Courtney Garrett, Miss Virginia 2014, is my inspiration. She’s inspired me to do so many things in my life. She helped me realize that beauty pageants aren’t about beauty, but finding a way to make the world a better place. I learned to care about others more than my self.   Thanks to Courtney, I’ve been inspired to help people who aren’t as fortunate as I am.   My platform is called Belt Out Sickness. This winter I spent many afternoons going to a recording studio in Charlottesville to record songs to make into a CD. I am giving away my CDs and in exchange I am asking for donations to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. They will be giving the money I raise to a local hospital, the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. I had a CD release party on April 17th at the Atlee Sweet Frog. Ten percent of their yogurt sales that night were contributed to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. In one night, I gave away fifty CDs and raised over $400.

I will be visiting the hospital once a month; delivering donations each time I raise more money by giving away my CDs.   Since I am Miss Piedmont Region’s Teen in Training, I will visit each month in my crown and sash. I will check on the kids and try to make them smile and sing for them. My goal is that the money I raise will help doctors find cures for these kids. I know it might not be possible, but I believe it can happen. I hope together we can Belt Out Sickness!

It’s amazing that one person has inspired me to do so much. Courtney Garrett is the most humble person I have ever met. She cares more about others than herself. That’s what makes her an amazing role model for girls, like me. Maybe Courtney can inspire you, as well, because I know for sure that she will always inspire me.



Richmond Peace Essay: Catalyst for Change

The Dalai Lama is perhaps the best example of a modern catalyst for positive change. He says that we “must do something that makes our heart sing.” He cites inspiration as a starting point from which one can better their community. This especially rings true for me. I’ve always been a good student, and I was lucky enough to live in good neighborhoods and get accepted into good magnet programs and receive a high quality education. Unfortunately, some students don’t. Whether it be the teacher doesn’t cater towards a style of learning or there is some sort of disconnect, many students don’t get the education they deserve. I used my passion for learning to tutor.

Because I am an avid science student and I believe they key to a good scientist is the ability to communicate results, I use tutoring as my favorite way of giving back. I’ve been tutoring since 6th grade, when I worked in a Presbyterian Church with Arabic students. They were very young and spoke little English, but they truly wanted to learn. I was able to work one-on-one with many kindergarten-age students and help them build a strong English and math foundation. One of my best memories was when seemingly disengaged students looked forward to working with me. I also started my own free tutoring program, which was based out of a local library, to reach a wider range of students. Currently, most of my tutoring efforts are centered out of my own school. It may be a tutoring club or an in-class session recommended by a teacher, but I always take pride in helping my classmates understand a topic.

I also thoroughly enjoy the arts. I have dabbled in photography for nearly my whole life. Art is always a class on my schedule, and I’ve won various accolades. Again, my passion is derivative of my educational opportunities: I wanted to take Chorus as my middle school elective, but my fifth grade teacher recognized my potential and encouraged me to pursue art. However, our departmental art budget got cut, and I was led to understand that others aren’t as fortunate as I am in terms of art education. So, I began volunteering at the VMFA. My most recent assignment was working during ChinaFest, in which the museum teaches young students about Ancient Chinese art and architecture through games and activities. I have volunteered at the Richmond Folk Festival for three years as well. This annual program brings together talented, yet unheard of musicians and artists. Some of my best childhood memories involved eating funnel cake with my mother on a picnic blanket, listening to an obscure folk band. I wanted to be a part of this wonderful establishment and help keep it running. I’ve learned various skills from a young age, including retail and advertising. My first year volunteering for the Festival, however, was spent through the Children’s Museum. I helped them make crafts and told them about all the amazing musicians that would be performing. Even if in a small way, I am happy that I sparked interest amongst youth.

Although these experiences are amazing, there was a short volunteering opportunity that truly inspired me. It occurred last year, at a Summer Regional Governor’s School Camp from the Math Science Innovation Center. This two week camp, called “A River Runs through It,” pushed me out of my comfort zone like never before. On the first day, I wore a dress and was terrified when I saw a spider in the classroom. About a week later, I was putting mud from the Chesapeake Bay on my face. The course was about water health around Richmond and how we, as a community, can better it. I learned a lot about various subjects, including chemistry, which I hope to study at a higher level one day. The instructors were incredibly passionate and had a course planned out, but these plans changed when construction workers cut down trees around a nearby pond a few days before the camp was scheduled to begin. Apart from learning, our main goal was water health restoration. The small-scale deforestation led to increased sunlight penetration, which led to increased photosynthetic development, and an algal bloom, threatening the entire ecosystem of the pond.

Our class of about twenty students strategically planted shrubbery, removed algae, took nitrate, phosphate, and pH samples, and performed organism samples to estimate water health in the summer heat. The before and after pictures were stunning. I loved this opportunity so much because I knew nothing going in. I’ve gone into most of my volunteering ventures as a teacher, but being a student to incredibly knowledgeable teachers during a volunteering opportunity was very humbling. There was also a quick turn-around; the pond health drastically increased within two weeks! Not only did we preserve an ecosystem, we preserved an outdoor classroom for generations to come. I remember looking at the trees I planted and thinking, When I have kids, I’ll show this to them. I remember working on a chemical sampling report while eating wild berries and thinking, I wouldn’t mind doing this for the rest of my life. We went on field trips and learned about other ecosystems, which was amazing, but the water restoration project was definitely the highlight of my summer – if not my year.

Opportunities. Some of us are lucky enough to get them. I have and will continue to dedicate my life to give more opportunities, to preserve culture and the Earth. The biggest misconception is that we have to change the world; we don’t. Everyone needs to start small, to do the little things. For example care2.com’s click to donate program is highly under-discussed. All you have to do is click, and care2.com’s sponsors will donate on your behalf. When I don’t have time to do intense river restoration or tutoring, I know that I’m helping the world every day.