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Winter 2013 Writing Competition Winning Essays

Winter 2013 Writing Competition Essay Winners who read and responded to Akaya Windwood's YES! article, "What Can Change When We Learn to See Each Other."

The YES! National Student Writing Competition gives students the chance to write for a real audience and be published by an award-winning magazine. Each quarter, students have the opportunity to read and respond to a selected YES! Magazine article.

For Winter 2013, participants read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, "What  Can Change When We Learn to See Each Other," by Akaya Windwood, a story about a story about what it might feel like to live in a world where people don't acknowledge your existence. The writing prompt was “Imagine you accept Akaya Windwood's invitation to intentionally notice people you would normally ignore. Who would you notice? What would change for you and for that person?"

Congratulations to our essay winners: Middle School—Sumaiyah Mustaphalli; High School—Nizhone Hickman; College–Chris Harrell; and Powerful Voice—Reyna Flores.

And, thank you to all writers who submitted essays.

 


Winter 2013 Writing Competition Literary Gems

 

We received many powerful essays. Though not every participant can win the contest, we'd like to share some excerpts that caught our eye.

 

When we are around certain people for a long time, we tend to stop appreciating the hundreds of acts of kindness they have done for us, and only see the few qualities about them that irritate us.

—Arianna Boren, Sonoran Science Academy, Tucson, Arizona

 

To see a person you need two people. It requires one to see and one to be seen. We watch people as a natural act of defense, while we should be seeing people as an act of friendship.

—Nathan Lang, Seaholm High School, Birmingham, MI

 

My father said, “I do not care how much money you earn or how many things you have done to make me proud. The only thing I care about is that you are happy when you do all things.”

After he said this, I realized that when try to see everyone in our life and make them happy, we should also see our families, our lovers, or others we love. We always ignore the people we love in our life.

—Sihui Song, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

 

I felt so ashamed that I wanted to run from these people; these were war veterans, teachers, someone’s grandparents, not monsters to be afraid of. I was taught by my grandmother to always look someone in the eye. “The eyes are the window to the soul”—that’s some famous saying that was her favorite—and these souls were hurting.

—Deborah Parnell, Aiken Technical College, Warrensville, South Carolina

 

I am that person you rarely notice; I sit in the back of the class. I am just another face in the world we call middle school. It’s like I’m not even there, but I am. Do you know me? Well, if I were you, I would. I’d have better things to do. But, I’m hoping this will help you realize how it feels, and you’ll do something to change it. Just saying hi or even a smile can make someone’s day, but you have to start the change.

—Adrianna Cordoves, Orlando Science School, Ocoee, Florida

 

Honor the existence, honor the existence! Honor people for just being themselves and for taking on that grand task of being exactly who they are because no one else can be that for them. Honor the fact that everyone is special because they have a heart that beats and a brain that can think.

—Kate LeBlanc, Metro Montessori Middle School, Portland, Ore.

 

Do you think if someone were to warm his frozen eyes with acknowledgment, it could’ve changed the scenario that played out on that doomed day? Maybe if someone had helped sew the patches of rags he had for a heart that massacre would’ve never happened. I’d bet that the majority of students had barely glanced his way, or not seen him at all before the tragedy.

—Chase Liddon, Tallwood High School, Virginia Beach, Virginia, speaking about Seung-Hui Cho, the man who committed the massacre at Virginia Tech


Winter 2013 Middle School Winner Sumaiyah Mustaphalli Winter 2013 Middle School Winner Sumaiyah Mustaphalli
Sumaiyah Mustaphalli is a sixth-grade student of Blakeney Miller at Orlando Science Middle School in Orlando, Florida. She read and responded to the YES! Magazine article "What Can Change When We Learn to See Each Other?" by Akaya Windwood. Read Sumaiyah's essay about how the smile of the young grocery bagger gave her hope for her soon-to-be-born sibling.
Winter 2013 High School Winner Nizhone Hickman Winter 2013 High School Winner Nizhone Hickman
Nizhone Hickman is a student of Lisa Watson at Sonoran Science Academy in Tucson, Arizona. He read and responded to the YES! Magazine article "What Can Change When We Learn to See Each Other," by Akaya Windwood. Read Nizhone's essay about his challenge of opening up to strangers and his commitment to keep trying.
Winter 2013 College Winner Adam Dales Winter 2013 College Winner Adam Dales
Adam Dales is a United States Army Veteran and student at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania. He read and responded to YES! Magazine article "What Can Change When We Learn to See Each Other," by Akaya Windwood. Read Adam's essay about how he was humbled by the kindness of someone he would normally ignore in a depressing area of town.
Winter 2013 Powerful Voice Winner Reyna Flores Winter 2013 Powerful Voice Winner Reyna Flores
Reyna Flores is a student of Stephanie Agnew at West Valley City School in Spokane, Washington. She read and responded to the YES! Magazine article "What Can Change When We Learn to See Each Other," by Akaya Windwood. Read Reyna's poem about a misunderstood young girl and a lonely old woman who find each other.
Akaya Windwood Response to Winter 2013 Essay Winners Akaya Windwood Response to Winter 2013 Essay Winners
Akaya Windwood, president of the Rockwood Leadership Institute and author of "What Can Change When We Learn to See Each Other," responds to essay winners of the Winter 2013 writing competition
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