Fall 2017 Essay Contest Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our Fall 2017 Essay Contest!

Our Fall 2017 essay contest focused on Bullying Prevention Month.

We’d like to congratulate Madelynne Barney who is in the 6th Grade at Martin Sortun Elementary School in Kent, WA and Pranita Sannidhi who is in the 9th grade at Biotechnology High School in Freehold, NJ. Read their winning essays below.

Madelynne’s winning essay

This book taught me a lot about bullying and that words can hurt you.

The main characters in the story Posted have a hard time with some of the kids in their classes. I am fortunate enough to not have many problems with kids like this. But when there is a problem, it’s usually just mild teasing that I can overlook. The problem is that this might turn into something bigger. If this happens, I would need to figure out what I would do.

Madelynne Barney, Martin Sortun Elementary School (Kent, WA)

Some of my friends in my grade have been bullied by older “cooler” kids. There are even some kids that bully other kids in my grade. Even though I haven’t been bullied, my friends have told me what it feels like. They say it is embarrassing and makes them feel unsafe sometimes. It makes feel real mad that people do this and I am sad for my friends.

In the book, the group of boys (and one girl) help each other out when they are being bullied. This is what I would have done if any of my friends were having problems with other people. Although sometimes the group of characters weren’t very nice to each other, I feel friends should stick together. One thing I would do differently is that I would talk to an adult when things got out of hand. The characters tried to handle the problems on their own. If I or someone I know was getting bullied or even someone I didn’t know, I would tell an adult that I saw this bullying. I hope that the adult would understand and do something to help the situation.

Next year for 7th grade I will be going off to middle school. I have some concerns about this, though. Since my grade will be the youngest, the older kids might want to be “cool” and bully some of us. There will be lots of things I will need to consider if this happens. There are some things I would do and what I wouldn’t do. If they insulted me or my friends, I would just ignore it and walk away. If it happened again, I would tell them to back off and not talk to me. If it continues to happen, or they tried to hurt me, then it would be time to tell a teacher. I know this sounds easier than it will be. But I will stand strong for myself and my friends because words can help you too.

“One thing I would do differently is that I would talk to an adult when things got out of hand.”

 

Pranita’s winning essay

In Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles, readers experience a flurry of compelling intertwined anecdotes, narrated by nine teenagers and one teacher. These overlapping encounters center around rather negative themes, however, with the main motif being bullying. Each of them has experienced bullying either directly or indirectly.

Pranita Sannidhi, Biotechnology High School (Freehold, NJ)

For instance, Nate Granger, a geeky and extremely unathletic freshman, is often picked on for his subpar physique. Similarly, Claire Harris is excluded by a group of “elite” girls comprised of Sammy, Grace, and Lacy, due to her vexation with their shallow discussions. Dewey, a disinterested nineteen year old working at Little Cindy’s, a fast food restaurant place, is also constantly bothered by young high schoolers who torment him for his lack of money and inadequate job. Furthermore, Jack Messier and his best friends, Cal and Dylan are considered a gang of losers, while Stephen anxiously tries to hide his crush on Ben, the captain of the basketball team, from prejudiced bullies. Lacy Mead, Ben’s sister, is persistently teased for her obesity. Lastly, creative writing teacher Ms. Lindsay endures harassment from her own students because of her role as a dead teacher’s replacement.

All of the aforementioned people have undergone bullying for different reasons. Nevertheless, the characters’ situations are quite similar. These teenagers face a variety of negative feelings, such as insecurity, shyness, depression, etc. Lacy’s attitude and her response to mistreatment illustrates her inferiority complex when she notes, “He is laughing. Pointing. At me. My heart skips an then it dies a little. I feel it shrink. The empty space for Stephen widens. It is a chasm” (255). Lacy’s devastation is glaringly obvious in this quote. I, personally, can understand her feelings. As a young child, I was often very shy and had difficulty making friends. One of the girls from my class reached out to me, and she soon became my best friend. I desperately approached her when I had difficulties, hoping for someone to hear me out, but she would always call me cruel names and shun me. Even then, I clung to her, believing every word she spat out hatefully, and reprimanding myself for upsetting her. My former friend’s harsh words made me feel loathed and often worsened my mood. Lacy experiences this when a male cheerleader, who she had considered as incongruous amongst girls as she was amidst slender people, is insulted by the basketball team. Their similar situation had spurred Lacy to feel a kinship towards him. Her feelings are crushed when she notices the boy secretly laughing about her obesity. The derogatory comments from someone who seemed to be in the same situation made Lacy feel despised and worthless, which is similar to how I felt about my old friend who bullied me.

“He is laughing. Pointing. At me. My heart skips an then it dies a little. I feel it shrink. The empty space for Stephen widens. It is a chasm”

This story also features two characters who have indirectly experienced bullying. To begin with, Keith, Nate Granger’s best friend, supports him to his best ability, but is still unable to protect his companion from the bullies that torment them both. However, he eventually becomes tougher and more resilient. Another high schooler, Grace Lear (aka Miss Perfect) is used to lording over her peers as the “Queen”. She encounters bullying in the form of insulting taunts, usually during basketball matches. Grace is also accustomed to her boyfriend’s, Ben’s, insulting comments about Lacy. Initially, Grace had laughed at these hurtful words, but after befriending Lacy, she reprimands Ben for his harsh language. Her newfound kindness shows her growth as a person. Grace becomes independent enough to think for herself instead of emulating Ben. Even from just watching bullying from a distance, both Keith and Grace learn from the experience. Such strength can be used to build character and can even be useful in fighting against bullying.

The experiences of the teens regarding bullying teach us many lessons. Relating to the characters helps readers understand their feelings, and can teach us how to grow stronger and develop a better character.

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