Winning essays revealed

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The following essays are part of a collection of This I Believe essays from Homestead composition classes. The students completed blind reads to choose several essays as finalists and then the faculty voted to choose the top four essays. This I Believe is an organization encouraging people in writing and sharing essays to describe the core values that guide their daily lives. Over 125,000 of these essays can be found on the This I Believe website, heard on pubic radio and featured in weekly podcasts. The project is based on the popular 1950’s radio series of the same name hosted by Edward R. Murrow.

Below are several recordings from the top essays and below those are the top four winning essays.


Michael Shimkus – More Than a Second Chance

Vincent Scavo -Thinking Different

Caroline Kriegel – The Significance of an Experience

Erin Moore  – Forgiveness

Hailey Galvan – Change

Gabe Koch  This I Believe

Heidi Hicks– Love is What Matters

Passion Through Pain

by Grant Hopkins


I believe that the pain and torment each person holds within him or herself is the greatest thing to bond over when it comes to establishing a connection that will lead to a relationship. Most people can’t even imagine letting people know what is going in their lives, let alone what is the source of that torment. To this day, I hide my own demons from everyone; even those who know me do not know the extent of what plagues me on a daily basis. However, there are those tormented souls whom I see on a daily basis and I feel obligated to connect with; the quiet kids in the hallways, glassy eyed and not a single wandering glance, or the individuals who have the look of absolute loathing etched into every angry crease in their expressions. In their eyes, I see their pain; and it is both their pain, and mine, that I wish to alleviate. These are people, not festering mutants who wish to pervade and pollute your very existence. They are human beings with dreams and ambitions and the desire to be accepted very much akin to ours. It is these hurting people whom I actively seek out.

I have an uncanny knack of finding all the “diamonds in the rough”; people whom the entirety of the school deems unworthy of friendship or even acknowledgment; but when you get to know them, they can be the most vibrant, interesting, and unique individuals you will ever meet. I march up to those who try to conceal their pain from the rest of the world and say hello. Many times, they respond with a glowing smile that cracks their facades of emotional stagnancy and begins to shed light on who they really are. But I don’t continue with general salutations, dull conversation topics that only seek to keep a person at arm’s reach. I dig deep; I’ll ask questions about why they are crying or why they can’t keep their feet still. Looking for any sign of emotional distress has become an acute talent of mine. Normally, they quietly try to dismiss my presence, saying things like, “It’s not important” or “I’m fine.” Normally, most people would recoil from such a response. I’m too stubborn and, quite frankly, too callous to be deterred. When people are hurting, I want to make sure they know that if they can’t think of anyone talk to about how they are feeling, I will always be open to them.

In this world of insensitivity and blatant emotional disregard, simply speaking about vulnerable feelings is often frowned upon; you are labeled weak for feeling the way that you do. It paints a label that you can’t handle what life throws at you. So society conditions its youth to bury their pains and shut up their trauma and their turmoil of self-torture so as to look strong. It eats away at the soul; bottling up such pain will only lead to more, even greater suffering. I’ve seen it in the friends who are husks of the people they were, and I remember it in the eyes of people who were consumed by it.

I knew an individual who carried a pain unlike any I had ever seen. His name was Killian Doyle, and we had been neighbors for about four months. In that period, I invited him over once; I saw that he was hurting, and I wanted to reach out. We got  to know each other by playing Pokémon on the couch after school. It was great, and I thought I had helped where I could.

But what I didn’t know was that Killian was depressed. So depressed, in fact, that not two months before graduating eighth grade, Killian committed suicide.

It was like a silent detonation; it roared through the hearts of all of the people whose lives Killian had touched. Many of his good friends cried at the calling. Some, who barely knew him, simply stood awkwardly at the entry. I, being the uniquely emotionally disconnected individual that I was, cried for the first time since my grandfather had died seven years prior. I cried because I lost a friend; more than that, I failed what I believed to be my purpose in life. At the age of 14, after witnessing horrors too terrible to speak, I thought it was my job to push people out of the dark hole called depression. Since no one I had known had been more depressed than I was, I had to do everything that I could to help those who were falling to get back up and continue to live their lives.

As the years went by, I carried that raw shard of grief and defeat in my heart. But instead of dampening my efforts, it only redoubled them. It’s why I reach out to those who are in pain every day. Those who silently suffer in the corners of the class, glazed stares barely flickering to analyze the way the bricks lined up in the walls. It’s the ones who carry burdens so heavy they could break whom I have to help. I don’t want to lose another friend like I lost Killian. I don’t want to have to watch another family bury their child when I could have done something to save them.

So, to this day, I am the friend on whom others can lean on. I don’t have a heart of stone; in fact, I’d like to go as far as to say that I have a big heart. People who suffer are the ones who need help. Everyone has something that torments him; whether it’s something as small as cramming for a final or as deep and profound as a rend in the family, I try to help them. Even if it’s one person, I feel satisfied knowing that I am helping someone stay hopeful and at least somewhat happy in their dark times. I believe that a person’s pain is the easiest and best way to connect with that person because of this reason: A person’s pain has nothing to do with his or her social class. It overlooks race, gender, sexuality, and all other things that would divide people. Pain afflicts everyone, and, because of that, it is the most profound and sincere similarity people have between each other.


Коммунизм – эффективная экономическая система

by Gavin Schulz

(second place winner)

I believe in taking action.

          My dad is a police officer in the Allen County Police Department. He has been on the department for nearly thirty years. He has to train several times every year despite all of his experience. His training culminated one day when I was in sixth grade. I had already gone to school and my dad had just gotten home from work because he worked night shifts. He was in his bedroom when he heard my dog barking furiously. When he went in the living room to see the reason for the barks, he saw my dog was looking out the door. When he glanced out the door, he saw our neighbor in his driveway with a pool of blood around him. My dad, still in uniform, ran out the door and across the street while alerting the radio workers.

When my dad reached our neighbor, he noticed a bullet hole in his chest, which was where most of the blood was coming from. My dad used the clothes around him to press against the wound and called in a Priority 1 Emergency. Within minutes, dozens of other police officers had arrived and our neighbor was rushed to the emergency room. My dad’s actions that day played a huge role in the survival of our neighbor, but he states that he was just acting on instinct. It was his instinct to immediately rush to help without waiting.

          This story reminds me of my favorite quote. It is from Russian politician, Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev was the last leader of the USSR, a Russian political entity which was the cause of suffering for millions of people in a number of nations. Gorbachev once said, “If not me, who? And if not now, when?” This quote outlines the important message that action should be taken. Gorbachev could have very well not done the right thing and waited for another leader to end the disastrous Soviet Union; however, Gorbachev had the same mentality as my dad: do the right thing and do it now.

In a time when it seems like all we hear about is negativity and destruction, this mentality is how we can make the world a better place. It can be applied to emergency action, politics, sports, social situations, or any other time. When people act quickly and do what is right, they help themselves and everybody around them.

          Throughout my life, people taking action has both inspired and helped me many times.


A Single Moment

by Cole Grayless

      (tied for third with “You’re Not Your Mental Illness”)


The smell of smoke rolling in the cab of my car and the fear that filled me was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. My head pounded as I lifted it up off the steering wheel. Then I caught a glimpse of the carnage that I used to call my car, a twisted mass of metal that now looked like a crushed pop can.

The moment was so slow; everything was quiet, I remember seeing the lights of a passing car at the moment of impact. But nothing else. That single moment turned out to be a life- changing one. The consequences and repercussions of that single moment now define who I am, and I think about how much different things could be if that moment had been different. I could have been seriously hurt or even killed; my airbags did not deploy as I crashed 45 mph into a car. I was lucky and was uninjured physically, but this single moment was a financial burden on me and will be for time to come.

I believe that we should cherish everything we have in life, and not take anything for granted. Nothing can last forever, and a single moment is enough to take away anything. In my case this accident snowballed into a series of events in my life that I will have to deal with for a long time. Technically the accident was my fault, but there was nothing I could do to prevent it. It was a rainy day; the roads were slick. I was probably two car lengths behind the car in front of me when he slams on his brakes, and then I slammed on mine as well. I was going downhill and, when I hit my brakes, I simply skidded until the hitch of the truck in front of me forcefully brought me to a stop.

To avoid my insurance rates from doubling, I decided to settle the accident without the insurance company’s help. I got an estimate wrote for the damage to the other person’s car, and we settled with a lump sum that would cover the damage on his car. All my money I spent two summers saving up was gone in a matter of seconds. Now I had to worry about my own car. I was able find a car identical to mine on Craigslist for very cheap, and I used parts from this car to repair my own car. With my dad’s knowledge and help, my two hands, sweat, blood, tears and several explicit words I fixed the mess that I had caused.

Now six months later, I still feel the aftermath of the accident. Every time I step into my car I think about what could happen. On top of all that, my parents do not let me drive anyone else in my car. Still,  I am glad to have had this event happen in my life, because it was a wakeup call from the real world that I needed. I no longer fear for single moments or the “what ifs” in life; rather, I count on them to happen and prepare myself for them.

I believe that we should embrace everything we have in our lives. You never know when things will change or when a single moment will throw a wrench into your life. My life was altered in a single unpredictable moment; it can and will happen to everyone at some point in their life. You never know what the severity of this moment will be. Until that day comes cherish everything in life, big or small appreciate it all. Appreciate everyone and everything close to you and just treasure life in general.


You’re Not Your Mental Illness


      (tied for third with “A Single Moment”)


My grandmother always said I was a sad baby, that it was always very hard to get me to smile and laugh.  As I got older my mother noticed it more.  I was much quieter than other kids were.  I tended to stick to myself; to my family it seemed I was trapped in my own head, perfectly content being on my own and away from everyone else.

At thirteen, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, and right away they put me on medication and trying to set up therapy appointments out of fear of my depression getting worse to the unfortunate point of self-mutilation.  But we had already reached that point. Therapy did not help, and my family did not understand.  My mom, a woman who also faces this unfortunate mental “defect”, she was and is the biggest blessing I could have at that time because she wanted to help me and make things better.  My mom seemed to be the only person who understood how I was feeling, I hated myself in every single little way, I didn’t want to be around people or talk to people, and she especially understood how I questioned every single thing someone said to me.  At this point none of my friends even understood how I was feeling.  Some even would get mad and frustrated with me.  I felt like they’d avoid me and purposely not hangout with me or invite me to things.  That just made things so much worse, because at that time all I needed was people there for me.  Sometimes you just need an honest opinion from someone you trust or you just need a shoulder to cry on from someone who knows what you’re going through and won’t judge you.  Sometimes you just need someone, or anyone.

This is how most people feel when dealing with this disease, they feel alone, and they’ll do anything to make things better.  The medication I was on, to make things better, made me not want to sleep or eat much or at all.  I ended up losing a lot of weight to the point at which people thought I was becoming anorexic.  I was exhausted all the time which made my mom think that the pills were not helping, which resulted in them upping my dosage three times in the span of 5 months.  The medication and my disorder were keeping me from a lot of things in life.  It kept me from my friends and my family.  I didn’t want that anymore.  No one wants to be like that, having this disease you tend to just give up and let it run your life.  But I wouldn’t let it control my life.  I finally gained the courage to tell my mom and the doctor that the pills just were not helping me; in fact, they were hurting me.  I continued with different types of medications for a while, I tried to be more open and talk to my mom about things as well as with my friends.  I wanted to get better, I didn’t want to feel that way anymore.  I wanted to and want to still, be happy.  And I hope that more people can get through this, that more people will fight for their happiness and to regain control of their lives.

It’s been three, almost four, years now and I’m about to turn seventeen.  I’m on one pill now instead of three and it has made a huge difference without any terrible side effects.  I feel more involved with my family and my friend group since I’m able to overcome certain obstacles and interact with people.  I’ve made it past any sort of life expectancy that thirteen-year-old me ever thought I would.  I’m so proud of myself for getting past the bad spots in my life and pushing myself to start molding myself a future and a life I didn’t know I’d ever get to have.  I am not my mental illness; there is so much more I want to do without brain chemicals getting in the way, and I hope other people will feel the same way.


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1 Comment

One Response to “Winning essays revealed”

  1. Erin Tembras on May 25th, 2017 12:43 pm

    We are so proud of our composition students and what they accomplished this semester! These This I Believe essays are only a sampling of the superb writing these over 100 compositions students produced this semester. Great job, ladies and gents!! On behalf of the composition teachers, I’d also like to send a special thank-you to Mrs. Nowak for helping these This I Believe finalists get published in the Spartana. Have a great summer everyone!!


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