2011 Youth 9th-12th Grade Writing Contest Winners

We have included the winners who agreed to have their winning entries published on the blog.  The following are not published because permission was not granted:

The Jonathan Davis First Place Award for Youth 9th-12th Grade Short Story
The Ella Payton Horne Third Place Award for Youth 9th-12th Grade Short story

The remaining winners gave permission and are published as follows:

The Bob Mustin Second Place Award for 9th-12th Grade Short Story

“The Missing Roommate”

by Olivia Peebles

I watched my roommate pace around our living room. She had been doing that ever since our last class.
“Are you sure you didn’t just lose your Chemistry book?” I asked.
“It’s not possible,” she said quietly.
“How is it not possible again?” I asked.
She turned and I saw the frustration on her face. Skylar Henderson and I have been roommates here at Pennington University for a year. She was a tall, skinny girl with long brown hair and green sparkling eyes. She had bizarre habits which is why she usually couldn’t keep a roommate for more than a month.
She sometimes wouldn’t eat or sleep for days, just study or lie on the couch and think. Sometimes in the middle of the night I would hear her playing her keyboard loudly. She was addicted to hot chocolate and always had weird ‘errands’ for me. She was strange but I didn’t care. Sometimes is did get annoying but it was either her or the druggie down the hall.
“I’ll tell you how it’s not possible, Claire,” she said, her green eyes shining. “I never fail to put my Chemistry book on my night stand. NEVER.” She took her camera out of her pocket. “I took this picture of Baker last night. Look, my Chemistry book is right there.” Sure enough, behind Skylar’s Labrador retriever, was the book right where it should be. “And my rug was messed up this morning,” she added taking the camera back.
“Your rug?” I asked curiously.
“Yes,” she said. “It gets bunched up every time I open the door.”
“Hmm,” I mumbled.
“Oh well,” she said, “at least I found it.” I sat upright in my chair. She was smiling at me now.
“What do you mean you found it?” I asked.
“You didn’t know I was on to you, did you?” she asked. “My Chemistry book went missing. I checked around my room just in case I had knocked it off my night stand. I was going to check to see if the doors were still locked when I noticed my rug. I knew that I hadn’t left my room since I had fallen asleep so that only left you. I remembered you mentioned you lost your Chemistry book but you didn’t ask to use mine. So, I snuck into your room this morning and found my Chemistry book on the floor. Case solved!”
With that last exclamation she plopped onto the couch.
“And you know you. . .” Skylar was interrupted by a knock on the door. We get a lot of visitors and they all usually come to see Skylar. She has kind of made a name for herself. People come to employ her to do things for them, whether it be finding a Chemistry book, or finding out who cheated on an exam. She’s a smart girl, and I’m starting to wonder if she will make that a job someday.
“Who is it?” I shouted and walked over to the door.
“Cadman Jenner,” Skylar said. Just as she said that a voice on the other side of the door answered.
“It’s Cad Jenner,” it said. “I’m looking for an S.H.? Does she live here?” I wondered how Skylar knew who it was. I opened the door and a man stood there; sweat pouring down his face, his long black hair sticking to his forehead.
“Are you S.H.?” he asked me.
“No,” Skylar said standing up. “I am Skylar Henderson, the S.H. you are looking for. What can I do for you?” He walked in and sat down on our couch, breathing hard.
“Claire,” Skylar said. “Get Cadman some water, he’s sprinted almost a mile to get here.” Cad stared at Skylar in disbelief.
“How did you know that?” he asked as I handed him a glass.
“The mud on your shoes,” she said, “is full of pine needles. The only pine trees around here are in the little patch of forest separating the North and South campuses. There wouldn’t be any pine needles if you hadn’t come from the South side. Judging by the note in your shirt pocket, I’m sure you’re not here to discuss dirt.”
Cad looked shocked but went onto explain.
“My roommate left this note. . .”
“Start from the beginning,” Skylar interrupted. “I have to know everything that happened up until you found that note this morning.”
“How do you know it was this morning?” he inadvertently asked.
“If it was last night you would have been here then,” Skylar pointed out.
“Oh,” Cad continued. “My roommate, Ruben, came back after his last class looking pretty shaken up. I asked him what was wrong but he just told me he wasn’t feeling well. We ordered dinner in because he said he didn’t feel like going out. After dinner he went to bed, which was really weird because he’s usually up till eleven or twelve studying. And he never locks his bedroom door, but he did last night. And this morning I found this note on our coffee table.” He handed it to Skylar and she read it quickly. Then she handed it to me.
“Read it out loud,” she told me.
“OK,” I said, a little unsure. “It says: Cad, I’ll be back in a few hours. I should be back right after class, cover for me. Ruben. P.S. If I’m not back, go see S.H. She lives in Dorm 221B.”
“Can we visit your dorm?” Skylar asked.
—-
“Why did I have to come?” I asked Skylar while she was looking around Ruben’s room. It was like any other man’s dorm room; messy. It looked like a clothes volcano erupted, leaving a mass of debris. Drawers were open, books were on the floor. I wondered how anyone could sleep with their room so disorganized.
“Because I may need your help,” she said as she picked up a shirt off the floor. “Ruben may have run into a little trouble.”
“Then shouldn’t we call the police?” I asked.
“What do you mean trouble?” Cad asked from behind me. He stepped over a pair of shoes and came into step beside me.
“Because his room has been searched,” Skylar said.
“What do you mean searched?” I asked.
“You haven’t been in this room, right Cadman?” Skylar asked.
“No, I haven’t,” he answered. “But Ruben’s room has always been this way.”
“No, not THIS way,” Skylar pointed out. “Take a step back and look.” We all walked backwards till we were standing in the doorway.
“Look at where everything is,” she said. “It’s all in piles on and around the bed. But notice the other side of the room, there are no clothes or anything else on the floor. It’s as if things moved themselves away from that side. They couldn’t have done that by themselves. Now, from what you can see, what is the only clean thing in the room?” Cad didn’t seem to have an answer for that, but I saw what she was talking about.
“The desk,” I said. There was absolutely nothing on the desk; the lamp was even on the
floor beside it.
“You’re catching on,” Skylar said smiling. She walked over to the desk and started looking in the drawers. Then she crawled under the desk and started poking at the bottom. Something fell to the floor.
“They must not have found what they were looking for,” she said as she picked it up.
“Why?” Cad asked.
“Because it’s right here,” Skylar said and stood up. She was holding a small notebook. She opened it quickly while Cad and I tripped over things to get to her. Only when we did, she ran out of the room leaving us in the dust.
—-
We caught up with Skylar at the edge of the forest close to the University’s flagpole. I didn’t know what had led her here, but it must’ve been important because her eyes were shining like stars.
“What are we doing here?” I finally asked.
“Go into the forest, Cadman,” Skylar said, “and tell me what you see.”
“What else would be in there besides trees and bushes?” he asked stupidly.
“You see but you don’t observe, Cadman!” Skylar protested and walked into the forest herself. It wasn’t half a minute before she came out with a piece of paper in her hands.
“He left this here,” she said.
“Who?” I asked.
“Ruben,” Skylar said. “In this notebook he wrote down a time and place for today. Look.” She showed us the notebook where something was scribbled down. I could make out the date and time, but the place was a bit harder. I looked at it closely and it seemed to say, ‘stripes, pine, sap’.
“Stripes, pine, sap?” Cadman inquired. “How did you. . .?”
“That’s not important!” Skylar shouted. “Look at what was stuck to the pine tree.” She held out the little piece of paper. Scrawled on it was another time and place. Library 3:00pm.
“But what does that mean?” I asked.
“It means,” Skylar replied as she started running, “if we don’t get to the library right now, it may be too late!”
—-
When we got to the library Skylar ran inside, pushing everyone out of her way. A couple people said some means things, but she never noticed. I apologized for her as I followed her up and down the aisles.
“Where is he?” Skylar asked herself.
“Where is who?” I asked.
“Ruben,” she said. “He should be here. . . Oh!” With that, she turned and grabbed me by my shoulders.
“Claire,” she said sternly. “You have to get everyone out of here. They’re in danger.”
“What?” I asked. “What do you mean? How would I. . .?”
“I don’t care how you do it!” she said. “Just do what I say or a lot of people will die! OK?” I nodded and she took off upstairs. I took out my cell phone and did the only thing I could think of. I called the campus police.
“What’s this about?” the police officer asked me when he came.
“We have to get everyone out of this building,” I said quickly.
“Why?” he asked folding his arms, obviously not believing me. I folded my arms in return.
“Everyone is in danger,” I said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but if we don’t get everyone out of here a lot of people are going to die.” I just repeated what Skylar had told me. The police officer looked at me like I was crazy. Then the shout set him off.
“BOMB!” someone screamed and it set everyone’s legs into motion. Everyone rushed for the door, pushing me down in the process. I hit the floor hard, making me dizzy. I tried to stand up, but someone stepped on my hand, making me sink to the floor again. I held my hand close to my chest and huddled into a ball until the wave of people finally seemed to stop. I stood up slowly. The room was completely empty and silent.
“Skylar!” I shouted but no one answered. “Skylar!” I looked around, beginning to panic. Suddenly someone grabbed my arms and pulled me outside. We were twenty feet from the building when an explosion shook the ground. Whoever was pulling me must have fallen because we both ended up in the dirt. The person covered my face as burning wood flew past us. I pushed the arm away and looked back at the building.
“Are you OK?” I recognized Cad’s voice immediately but I couldn’t take my eyes off the library. The whole second floor was up flames. I closed my eyes as tears blurred my vision. I hadn’t seen Skylar come out.
—-
Knowing that Skylar wouldn’t be coming home was killing me. The firemen had searched the Library and didn’t find anything. Except Ruben behind it huddled on the ground crying (the paramedics took him to the hospital and wrapped my hand even though it wasn’t broken).
Back at our room, I put the key in the lock and turned it slowly. I put my hand on the doorknob, and leaned against the door. I couldn’t do it. Coming back to an empty room was too much. I felt like I was going to cry again, but I didn’t want to do that in the hallway. So I turned the knob and stepped inside. Baker met me with his smile, as he always does. I walked past him, my body completely numb. In my room, I kicked off my shoes and fell on my bed, burying my face in a pillow.
—-
I didn’t know when I had fallen asleep but I looked at my clock and it was almost eight. I wasn’t hungry and didn’t want to get up so I sunk down to my pillow. But then I heard it, the small beeping of the microwave. I got up and walked into the kitchen, my legs turning to jelly and I thought I was seeing a ghost stir hot chocolate.
“So you finally woke up?” Skylar asked me as she sat down at our small table.
“Wha. . .?” I said idiotically. “How. . .?”
“Sit down before you pass out,” she said. I did what I was told. “I was out of the building before the bomb went off, if you wanted to know.”
“Of course I wanted to know!” I shouted. “I thought you were dead!”
“Well, I’m not, so you shouldn’t worry,” she said with a slight smile.
“How did you know there was a bomb?” I asked.
“In Ruben’s notebook,” she explained, “were the plans for a small bomb. Ruben was in Chemistry, so it wouldn’t be hard for him to get materials for a bomb. I deduced that Ruben was rethinking his decision because Cadman told us he was acting strangely. That’s why he didn’t come back. His partner in crime was going to make Ruben a human firework. Now Ruben didn’t have a choice, so he left us a clue knowing I would find it.”
“Wow,” not knowing what to say I sank down in my chair. “I really wonder how your brain works, Skylar.” Skylar looked like she was about to explain but I stopped her. “It was rhetorical.” Skylar nonchalantly took a sip of her hot chocolate.
“How did you know it was Cad?” I asked and she looked puzzled. “When Cad first came, you knew it was him before I opened the door. How?” Skylar just smiled and I could tell she wasn’t going to answer. I relaxed a little bit. But then there was a knock on the door and I realized I couldn’t relax while I was rooming with Skylar. I got up and walked over to the door and said, “S.H Detective Agency, how can we help?”


The Tazewell County Historical Society First Place Award for 9th-12th Grade Essay

“Imagination in Writing”

by Olivia Peebles

Chris walked with his coffee and donut in one hand and his briefcase in the other. He never liked to walk and eat so he looked for a bench. He came up on one and saw a girl there. She was maybe fifteen and should have been in school. She was on her knees, rubbing her hands back and forth on the bench. She stood up as Chris approached.

 “It’s all yours,” the girl said and walked away. Chris sighed and sat down. Teenagers are so out of line these days, he thought and sat his coffee beside him. He took a bite of his donut as he pulled out his phone. There was a text from his partner at work. ‘Where are you?’ it said. ‘runnin late, b there soon’, he texted back. He wasn’t really running late, he was lollygagging because he didn’t want to go to work. Chris picked up his briefcase and was about to stand up when he discovered he couldn’t move.  

 “What the . . .?” he said to himself as he tried again. His butt was stuck to the bench, really stuck. Chris realized what happened. That girl must’ve done something. Chris tried to pick his coffee up. It was stuck too. He pulled hard and it eventually came free with something clear and stretchy hanging from it. Chris sniffed it and it smelled like glue. He sighed. He sent a text to his partner, ‘I don’t think I’ll be at work today.’           

Imagination in writing is very important. If you had no imagination, this would be a very short, boring story about a man sitting on a bench all day. Nothing would happen, he would just sit there. It wouldn’t be very interesting, would it? Without imagination, the story isn’t interesting enough to read. But if you used your imagination and made that man get his butt glued to the bench, it would be a little more interesting. If that man became an alien who was afraid of every material on Earth except wood, it would be even more interesting. See? Wouldn’t you read that?

Using your imagination adds interesting twists on your story. Think of a road. If you drove on a very straight road with nothing to look at for miles, your eyes might glue themselves to it and the drive would be very boring.  Imagine driving through Indiana or Illinois. It’s straight and flat, and the only thing to keep you entertained is the radio. Some writers might get on a road that they are comfortable with and keep to it. They just put the cruise on and enjoy the ride, but all their novels would sound the same, the same storyline, the same type of characters, etc. That’s when the writer needs to take a different route. The road they should take needs to be full of twists and turns. Make a ‘deer’ run in front of the car at some point; it keeps the story interesting and unpredictable.

Making a book predictable never pleases anyone. I personally like to be wrong when I make predictions. I love to read something unexpected and exciting. It keeps my attention and makes me want to read it again. For example, if I read something like this: Ray was walking home from school when it happened. A car came screeching around the corner and jumped the sidewalk, heading straight for him. The car would be the ‘deer’ in this instance, grabbing the reader’s attention, making them alert.

Besides the unpredictable, I like it especially if the characters are interesting. Characters need to be nice and fat. That doesn’t mean that all the characters are obese, it means they have personality. Characters need to have a body, not just a head, or the feet. They need to have a name, a personality, and even little quirks. Take this for example: Rose started to bite her nails as she always did when something went wrong. That’s the part of a character that makes them fascinating.

Think of a blank piece of paper. It’s flat and dull. Wouldn’t that piece of paper look better with something written on it? Or you could fold it into a paper airplane and send it across the room. Anything is better than a blank piece of paper. An un-rounded character is like that paper, uninteresting, boring, and forgettable. I once read a book with a character that never took off a certain necklace. It was precious to her and reminded her of something she didn’t have anymore. What would have happened if she never took the necklace off because it was just her favorite necklace? I wouldn’t have remembered that.

Using your imagination also makes things memorable. Just think of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. It was written in 1865, but a movie based on that novel was made just last year in 2010. How is that for memorable? What about Beauty and the Beast? The Wonderful Wizard of Oz? Peter Pan? Do you not recognize any of those titles? If you write a truly imaginative book, it could be remembered for hundreds of years.

Using your imagination to make up words when you write is a lot of fun. You could use a word like wizzilnoff and have it mean something has gone horribly wrong. Like this: Wizzilnoff! What have you done?! It could be a word the character would use throughout the book. I’ve said words that aren’t actually words before and people have looked at me like ‘what did you just say?’, but then I had the chance to explain where I read it. I’m not saying you have to make up a whole other language for your novel, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Using unusual words for names is a good idea too. I once named a character Scorch. He had a fiery spirit and his hair was red with blonde streaks (he says the sun dyed it that way but I’m not so sure. . .). I don’t even remember the story, but I remember him because he had to be one of the weirdest characters I have ever invented.

When you’re writing you can do anything you want. Don’t stick to the norm. Something like this: The dog turned to look at me and I realized something was wrong. Its eyes were more human than animal. But the hardest part in doing that is making it sound realistic. It needs to make a little sense. Some novels make no sense and all you think about afterward is about how confusing it was. You eventually forget about it. So let it make sense. There are some questions you can leave unanswered, but not all of them.

Let your imagination carry a story on. Sometimes when I’m writing, I just type whatever comes to mind and it forms itself. I’m sure that’s true of most people, but that’s how most ideas take shape and turn themselves into a good story, one thing leads to another.

If you don’t like your story, use your imagination to spice it up. If I don’t like something I’m writing, then I won’t want to finish it. However, if I think of something that I can add to make it better, maybe change a character’s words, or change the way something looks, I usually end up finishing it and it sounds better to me.

Writing a novel can take a long time. With your imagination fueling it, you think this can go on forever. But then something happens and your imagination suddenly stops working. Like this: He walked up to the girl and . . . and what? . . . AND WHAT?! UGH! *slam head on table repeatedly*. This is called Writer’s Block. All writers have it eventually. Don’t worry, there is a cure. It’s called inspiration. To get inspiration you need to jumpstart your imagination. Go on a walk, do something out of the ordinary, and maybe something would come to mind. Stare at the clouds and you may see a shape that strikes you as odd. You may start to wonder about it and a little seed of inspiration is planted. It can grow very quickly. Also, don’t forget about asking other people what they think. I rely on my sister’s comments about my writing. She’s my lifeline when I can’t think of anything to write about. Don’t be afraid of what people will say either, try to accept constructive criticism. It really does help.

Just remember, you can write about anything. Don’t let people say ‘that’s impossible’ and accept it can’t be written. Find a way to make it possible by using your imagination in writing.  That’s what makes a good writer, and a good novel.

The Len and Annette Kogut Second Place Award for 9th-12th Grade Essay

“Interactions with Planet X”

by Hari Srinivasan

(So you want to help, but have no clue)

My fellow Teens,

You all probably know some people with disabilities. After all, it’s fairly commonplace now. Words like Autism, Downs Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy abound in the news. You probably even feel sorry for them. But honestly, even a truckload of pity is not much use.

You probably are also “initially freaked out” at meeting people with disabilities. (This is a direct quote from a high school volunteer I know.) Maybe you want to help, but have no idea how and what.

Consider –  Once upon a time, we were all babies. Our life track was defined – preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, job etc.

A UCSD  sophomore was speaking of his college experiences to our class last week. Many of his classmates are with him in college, so his social circle remained somewhat homogeneous.  That had greatly aided his transition from the small school setting to life on an enormous college campus. I imagine it will be the same for most of you. Most of you probably have friends you’ve known all your life and who will be with you in college.

Some of those babies however, ended up on a path that wandered off into the wilderness of disability. Years of therapy helped some recover, especially if the right treatment was done at the right time in the early toddler years. But there is no set formula and not everyone made a full or even partial recovery. But biologically, the bodies kept growing and voila, they became Teens with Disabilities!

I speak not just for myself, but for all the others I’ve observed over the years.

The therapy years are behind most teens, parents are exhausted and most therapists are giving up. Not an attractive picture!

Many are headed into Homes and “residential facilities” after high school. Some are already in Homes. I had three classmates in 5th grade who came from a Home. The only time they got to go out, was if the school did outings, as the Home did not do that. All that my classmate Johnny ate at every meal, was cheese pizza – how healthy is that? Others, I know – post 18 and Indian – live at home with their parents.

A few may make it to community college or even a university. A fortunate few may even end up doing a job they like and lead independent lives. But there are always additional hurdles at every step.

Expectations are not high at this point.  Job training programs, at most, target low level jobs. How exciting will it be to toss burgers, especially if intellectually you are capable of so much more? Frustration rides high, and this translates into more behavioral issues. As it is, being a Teen is an emotional roller-coaster for most of you. Just add on a whole suitcase of emotional and physical struggles!

Your world will open out as you go into college and beyond, while those of individuals with disabilities, may well narrow down. More doors shut with age. Ironically after age 22, govt. assistance and programs reduce significantly – just when we need it most.

We’re surrounded by adults a lot; but most are paid therapists who last just 1-2 years. There is a high turnover of people, which is very emotionally distressing. Working and assisting teens or adults is not considered a desirable profession, so one cannot expect any intelligent company either, going forward.

Quality of Life however, goes beyond just basic care. It becomes a  ‘Lonely Planet X.’

So what was the point of telling you these depressing scenarios?

It is said that friends influence your character?  This is the area that individuals with disabilities really fall short on. It’s going to be a bigger problem going forward, as more of this growing population of children with disabilities become adults.

It is less your money that is needed, and more your humanity.

And it is not just about playing board games once a month at a center. That gets real boring by the 3rd month. And irritating by the 6th month, because by then the same games start to feel like therapy. And teens (disabled or not) don’t want to be subjected to preschool activities like circle-time! Oh the sheer indignity of having preschool circle-time in some of the Special Ed classrooms, years after our typical peers had stopped doing them. Are you surprised that many adults with disabilities still listen to Barney and Sesame Street?

It is about getting involved in their lives. Being involved does not mean being physically there all the time either. In today’s Internet World, there are many avenues of communication – Facebook, email, text, a phone call etc…

Tell them about your own lives so that through you, they can learn and experience more. You will be surprised at the insights you get into your lives when viewed through their eyes.  Most are surprisingly sensitive and intelligent despite their outward body mannerisms.  A person may have cerebral palsy and be dependent on a wheelchair. They may not even be able to respond. But their minds will eagerly lap up information and conversation.  Don’t expect responses, especially if the person has limited verbal skills – just be there.  They will never cease to amaze you or surprise you.

Get to know a few individuals and continue to be in their lives. The key is to be a constant presence over many years.  Don’t be a therapist who moves onto another client in 1-2 years.

Check in during your school vacations and during your college vacations. Visit if you can.

Include them in some of your physical activities. Are you or your friends in a musical performance, band, team or play? Invite them to these – you will find no better cheerleaders. Do you belong to a group of some sort – you could find ways to include them at least some of the time. What do you do with your typical friends – do you just “hang out and chill.”? You’d be amazed at how many teens with disabilities long to do this but don’t have the opportunity.

Don’t assume they don’t know academics just because they haven’t been formally taught it. Academic subjects are just a matter of perspective sometimes. In light of other challenges, it just seems a lot more straightforward. Tell them about what you do – why you find certain subjects difficult or which teacher is really lousy or good.

It’s pretty hard to abuse drugs, smoke or drink if you are disabled. So you will in fact, be keeping very good company.

Be an advocate for them and watch out for them in their lives. Friends of this disabled adult I know on Facebook, keep tabs on her online activity to watch for online predators and the like. Most individuals will outlast their parents, so friends are important in their lives. As you become an adult, there will be many such opportunities for advocacy. Dealing with bureaucracy is tough for most; imagine the disabled adult who has to face it 24×7.

Do you want to be inspired in your life to achieve and do great things? Look no further that the challenges they face.

Consider – Pity is condescending, while Empathy and Friendship is Humanity.

In the end, it’s a win-win scenario for both. You will fulfill a real need and make a difference – you have done great Service. Your own character blossoms as well. Man is defined by his character, not by his wealth or his social status. You will be amazed at how these interactions will shape your life.

Bring the Forgotten People on Lonely Planet X, back to the Humane Planet Earth.

You may or may not choose to do something about this issue, or not be able to do so now. But perhaps you will later in your life. All this is Food for Thought.

The Tyler Greene Third Place Award for Youth 9th-12th Grade Essay

“My Generation’s Role in America’s Future”

by Jada Kestner

            Most people’s definition of my generation would be of self-centered, careless, disrespectful teenagers that carry a cell phone in one hand and an iPOD in the other.  For some of them, that’s probably true.  There are lots of teens who care about having the newest and coolest gadgets out there; about having the fashion t-shirts, jeans and shoes their peers are wearing from the coolest shops in the mall.  There are those whose day consists of texting their “BFF’s” hundreds of times, or complaining about school, teachers, or having to do homework.  Yes, I’m sure most people think that is all my generation cares about.

Every generation goes through rebellion in one form or another.  I’ve studied about the 1960’s…how many in that generation protested, disrespected our military, and didn’t want to fight for our country…even leaving it to avoid the draft.  They felt they were doing the right thing, but that time divided our country.  Some of them wanted to do their “own thing”, submerging themselves in drugs, and other immoralities while disregarding our country’s laws and government.  I think for young people, some rebellion is natural, but it can be taken to the extreme.  We must realize that through all our disagreements and beliefs, we are still one nation; and each citizen, young or old, must take responsibility for the future of their country.

So what about my generation, and it’s role in America’s future?  Well, it may seem like we live only for our cell phones and iPODS, but there are young people that care and want to make a difference.  My fellow Girl and Boy Scouts are working to make their communities a better place through Service Projects; church youth groups are helping the needy; young volunteers are working to help flood and tornado victims in our area and in other parts of the country; other young people are volunteering to travel around the world to help those in need through the Peace Corps and other organizations.  And finally, and most importantly, there are young men and women serving and protecting our country in military service…and, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for it.

So does my generation have a role in America’s future?  Yes!  Absolutely, yes!  We are America’s hope – my generation and the generations to come.  We should never take our freedom and our way of life for granted.  It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s well being.  As Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.  We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream.  It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”  My generation has the power and the potential to make America greater.  It is our charge…it is our duty…it is our destiny.

The Mark and Trish Estepp First Place Award for Youth 9th-12th Grade Poetry

“Advent into Year Sixteen”

by Hari Srinivasan

Advent into year sixteen.
Has it been that long already?
I was a mere three yesterday
Burdened with a diagnosis

Mind in thick fog and haze
The way, an intricate maze
Floundering and circling
Blinding darkness all around

Puzzled and perplexed
A stream of therapists
Who am I, who are they?
What is this endless craze

Sunbeams, a thinning fog
Reach out to the hand in the clouds.
Mind begins to contemplate
Body (unfortunately) continues its own way

Thoughts continue to weave and fabricate
The keyboard unlocks communication
Education, now a reality
Though not all solutions are in place

I cross the threshold of year sixteen
Nervous anticipation writ large on my face
But the steps are lighter and surer
The road has sunnier shades of hue

Lost State Writers Guild Second Place Award for Youth 9th-12th Grade Poetry

“Alabaster Cities”

by Kennedi Brown

He walks through alabaster streets
Where no one knows his name,
Where they pelt him with stones
As if they themselves have never sinned
And insist that he is less than human.

And he cries
Oh he cries
For Father to take him home.
But Father,
He knows
That the boy has been home all along.

So sing, son of stone!
Lift your voice to your maker.
You are human—
Perhaps more human
Than them all.

Break the ivory towers
Like a concrete-cracking flower.
Crumble into rubble,
O Jericho,
And let the children pass.
We have waited too long
To be freed from your servitude.
We are children of the future
And not of the past.

Lost State Writers Guild Third Place Award for 9th-12th Grade Poetry

“Peacock Feathers”

by Emily Peebles

                                                                                                  Beautiful on the outside

But within she hides

The real side of her

She knows the blues and greens

She sees the way they preen

On the outside she does the same

But on the inside she thinks:

Do they even know my last name?

She sees that they’ll never know

The real side of her

All they see is the show

The Peacock Feathers.

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