Fall 2017: “Standing Up for Our Neighbors” Literary Gems

We received many outstanding essays for the Fall 2017 Writing Competition. Though not every participant can win the contest, we'd like to share some excerpts that caught our eye.

We are consumed by our own grief of childhood left behind and a future shrouded in a mist of endless responsibilities.
—Lily Lashmet, grade 8, Odyssey Multiage Program, Bainbridge Island, Wash.

I didn’t stand for myself, but secretly, I wished someone else would.
—Elessar Beverly, grade 9, Chief Sealth International High School, Seattle, Wash.

He didn’t attempt suicide for attention. He just knows he doesn’t belong in his body, so how could he possibly belong in this world?
—Annie O’Brien, grade 11, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

Men refer to their cars and boats with a female pronoun, making things they own female. So maybe this is part of why many men, strangers on the street, have felt this ownership of women’s bodies leading to this gross justification to follow, touch, and call at women and girls.
—Fiona Burgess, grade 10, Mount Madonna School, Watsonville, Calif.

To recognize injustice is to recognize vulnerability, and to recognize vulnerability is to do so from a place of security. As Carrie Heinze-Musgrove once stated, “What you allow you encourage.”
— Hannah Kennedy, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio

Each of these murders tended to be seen as coincidental moments. The silence from many members of the Black community was unexpected to me, though. There were small murmurs of outrage instead of roars of discontent.
—Madison Marsh, grade 10, Atlanta Girls School, Atlanta, Geo.

I thought I was too broken to help someone else, but it’s helping others that makes me brave and willing.
—Ireland Weaver, grade 8, Doris Miller Middle School, San Marcos, Texas

Walking the proverbial “mile in someone else’s shoes” is impossible, but walking a mile with someone is indispensable.
—Fraye Beyene, grade 11, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

Whether said in jest or in blind hate, telling someone to shut up is an offense among the highest of insults … It says that their breath would be better used in their lungs than spoken to the air. It says, “My ears are closed, and your mouth should be too.”
—Joanna Griffin, Cascadia College, Bothell, Wash.

Because of his dementia, he keeps thinking he’s gonna go back to his old house. So, whenever I go to see him, he always has all of his clothes and belongings packed up in a suitcase. He’s always ready to go.
—Matthew Fish, grade 9, Marysville Charter Academy of the Arts, Marysville, Calif.

Sometimes what my teacher says comes in my mind and then flows out. My mind feels like a river; fish are swimming in the river and there’s a fisherman trying to catch them. The information comes in my head, but something keeps taking the information out over and over again.
—Yousef Shobokshi, grade 8, American International School of Jeddah, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

We have to protect ourselves from ourselves. Nobody else can do it for us. We’re all in an awkward, vulnerable place right now. We need to band together. We need to listen to that conservative guy, understand him, and we need to understand what drives the audience to leave when they hear him.
—Jared Goudsmit, grade 11, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, MO

I’d like to be positive that if I was alive back when the Japanese were being taken away I would have done something. But I can’t be sure of that because I have not screamed at our president for his racist acts, and I have not gone against the boy’s pleas and called the cops on his father, and I have not changed the school system to invoke less anxiety.
—Sirma Hoffman, grade 9, Chief Sealth High School, Seattle, Wash.

I’m trying to live a fearless life, and I’m continually imploring everyone too, as well. Not because a particular deity is suggesting it, and not because we’re such altruistic, philanthropic people, but because our human responsibility demands being accountable for all our fellow humans. Accountability, meaning complete ownership of our kindness, support, as well as our ambivalence. I starkly believe that this is all it will take to produce an instantaneous paradigm shift.
—Scott Livingston Krause, Hartnell College, Soledad, Calif.

On the outside of the social pecking order at school, I could observe social life with ease. I did it a lot while contemplating the world. It was the only good thing about being an outsider.
—Abe Cole, grade 7, Woodward Middle School, Bainbridge Island, Wash.

How do we make a dent in such deep-seated contempt? How do we stand up against, in all honesty, ourselves? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have a first step: we must acknowledge the humanity and vulnerability of those we disagree with.
—Seth Wiseheart, grade 11, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

Falak is living the average college student life: she binge watches Netflix, finishes assignments an hour before they’re due, wakes up late, and rushes to class in an overspilling cup of coffee; she’s normal. Or so it seems.
—Mehnaz Halima, Cascadia College, Snohomish, Wash.

My brothers deserve to be in a home, not a house. A home is somewhere you feel comfortable and you are loved and treated like a human. They don’t deserve to be in a house where they get used as pawns in a game.
—Jaydon Corpus, grade 9, San Marcos High School, San Marcos, Texas

I am the only child of Paul and Jessica Westbrook who has dark skin. At home, my mom and dad explain the facts of racial injustice and I can witness them anytime my dad and I walk into a store that sells anything worth stealing.
—Morgan Westbook, grade 9, Mount Madonna School, Watsonville, Calif.

I’m not brave. I’m afraid of spiders, rejection, and failure. I’m also afraid of being hated and afraid of dying. I’m especially afraid of judgment.
—Cameron Henry, grade 11, Kirkwood High School, Kirkwood, Mo.

Leonardo da Vinci once said,”Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.” But how do I use my voice without taking away someone else’s?
—Charlie Hazel Pon, grade 8, Lake Washington Girls Middle School, Seattle, Wash.

Inspiration in Your Inbox

Get the free daily newsletter from YES! Magazine:
Stories of people creating a better world to inspire you and your students.

Sign Up