“Chasing Optimism in the Face of Challenges”
Life is Like a Rose
Word Count: 740
Life is like a rose. We start out as small, helpless seeds, and as we grow, we run into thorns in our life. Our branches may bend and snap, but these complications, while they may seem challenging at the time, ultimately add to our beauty, because we grow back stronger. Finally, when we reach our full potential we blossom into a unique, exquisite rose. Challenges bombard Americans every day, everyday Americans bombard challenges.
Growing up, my elementary school teachers never failed to document the fact that I was always smiling. My smile never seemed to falter; I always found a reason to show my small, immaculate teeth. During fifth grade, my strongest branch had snapped, my family had fallen apart. My step-dad had become physically abusive to my mom and me. In response, my mom moved my brother and me out of our childhood home and started anew. Amidst my middle school years, I started in a new school, with new people. My smile became my form of camouflage and helped me blend in.
We were doing fine on our own, in our small two room apartment, until in the beginning of seventh grade, my mom lost her job. Consequently, we lost our apartment. Another snap. We stayed with a family friend for a while, but when that didn’t work out we were on our own again. After that, we were in and out of hotels for five months, during which my mom started abusing drugs. In March of seventh grade, my step-dad was released from prison and obtained custody of my brother. He was seven years younger than me, and because of my mom's lack of presence, I had taken on a mothering role in his life, and this loss ultimately had a major impact on me. Another snap. The next month on April 23rd, my birthday, we were being extruded from our hotel, and my mom was going to be arrested for the inadequacy of payment. My uncle ended up stepping in and paid our tab, but in return, felt that my living with him was the best option. The people closest to me had been weeded out, one by one. For two months I jumped between my uncle and an old neighbor, who let me stay with her in exchange for watching her three girls when she went to work.
When summer came, I started living with a close friend and her dad. About that same time, my mom had gotten arrested for possession of a controlled substance. Living with my friend was great, at first, but I slowly fell into a depression and started cutting. A part of me felt that all was lost, but the part of me that remembered the faith my Nana had engraved in me, continued to smile and remembered that God had plans for my life. “Plans to prosper [me] and not to harm [me], plans to give [me] hope and a future” (The Holy Bible Old and New Testaments in the King James Version. Jer. 29. 11.). In the course of the winter of my thirteenth year, God moved in my grandparents’ heart, for them to come get me. I have called many places home, but that 48-year-old property was where I was raised and fostered my love of learning. Coming back to my roots, to somewhere I could call home, and being able to have confidence in its stability, had a life-changing effect on me.
Throughout that year and a half rollercoaster ride that was my life, I stayed focused in my school work and kept straight A’s. I've been living with my grandparents for two years now, and in that short amount of time, I have managed to capture second in my class of 816 students, with a GPA of 4.733, find Jesus in my life, and become a well-rounded person. I threw myself into my school work as an escape, and I excelled. I had bloomed.
It’s not the experience that defines you, it’s how you define the experience. Many people use the saying “second home” loosely, but school did become my second home, because of its constant stability. I could always rely on having to go to school, and my success gave me optimism that I could do something better with my life, that I was meant for a greater purpose, as opposed to being doomed to a similar path as my mother’s. This same optimism drives me, and in the face of any challenge, “I am more than a conqueror” (The Holy Bible Old and New Testaments in the King James Version. Rom. 8. 37.).
The Holy Bible Old and New Testaments in the King James Version. Nashville, Tn, Thomas
Nelson, Inc., 1976.
Deerfield Optimists Essay Contest
The Deerfield Optimists have been running an essay contests for NSSED (North Shore Special Education District) middle school students for almost 30 years. It give these students a chance to win an academic award, something that most of them have never done.
Sometimes in January we meet with an NSSED supervisor and chose a topic for the essay. NSSED sends an invitation to the middle school teachers to participate, and by March they submit the essays to us. Fifteen (in five teams of three) of us volunteer to judge the essays. We choose one student from every class for a “best of class” award.
The judges meet again and choose three winners (1st, 2nd and 3d place)
Invitations are sent out to all the families of the students inviting the student and immediate family to an awards dinner (first Tuesday in May) at the Deerfield High School cafeteria.
We give all students a certificate of participation. We give all “best of class” students a plaque. We give the three top winners a plaque and gift cards to Barnes and Noble. ($100, $50 and $25) We give all teachers $15 gift cards.
Some topics that we used for past essay contest are:
If I could be any famous person, who would it be and why
How I touched the life of another person and how the experience changed me.
Pick a place in the world and describe what your life might be like living in that location
I’m Unique Because …
Describe the most important lesson you have learned in your life so far. How did you learn the lesson, and how has it changed the way you think, feel, or act?
Last year we had students from Deerfield, Highland Park, Highwood, Northbrook and Glenview. There were 18 classes and 140 students. We had 240 people at the dinner.
Contact us about the Essay Contest!