Spring 2016: "What We Fear" Literary Gems

We received many outstanding essays for the Spring 2016 Writing Competition. Though not every participant can win the contest, we'd like to share some excerpts that caught our eye.


The worst fear and the worst punishment is knowing that what you are doing is wrong, but feeling like it is so much a part of you that you just can’t stop.
—Conner Rickert, Odyssey Multiage Program, Bainbridge Island, Wash.


I am afraid to help people because I can’t help myself.

—Selma C. DePaula, Mercy Learning Center, Stratford, Conn.

I can’t predict the future, but I have painted a picture of it. It is beautiful, and in it, people are no longer just surviving, they are living, free from fear. Grab your brushes. There is a lot left to paint.

—Gus Bluejay, grade 11, Hallbacka High School, Mulino, Ore.

I’m surrounded by a thick canopy of green, smudged, like somebody rubbed their thumb against a scribble of colored pencil.

—Zelda Guthrie-Silbert, grade 6, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Bronx, N.Y.


I would like to lend her those $400 like money isn’t anything to me. Just like, “Here you go Mom. Pay the rent so you can have somewhere to live till the next month. Pay me back whenever you can.”

Jimenna Flores, grade 8, Goodnight Middle School, San Marcos, Tex.


There comes a point in life where you have to acknowledge that sometimes you get in the way of yourself.

—Hunter Summers, Tarrant County College, Fort Worth, Tex.


Sometimes you can look fear right in the eye, all of its ugliness and horror, and worst of all, the reality that you can’t fix it. I am one of many who has seen what real fear is. Not the monster under your bed, or being scared of the dark. No, I’ve faced the horror of losing a parent.

—John Ronel, grade 7, Santa Fe School for the Arts and Science, Santa Fe, N.M.


Trapped in the depths of a competitive capitalist society, my greatest fear is that I will lose my own voice in a world where success is measured in dollar bills.

—Cameron Dunbar, grade 11, The Ursuline School, Tarrytown, N.Y.


No bloodthirsty warlock or chainsaw-wielding serial killer of any sort can get to me as long as I am protected by my forcefield: a thin sheet of polyester and cotton. I feel as safe as a turtle huddled in its shell.

—James Broderick, grade 7, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Bronx, N.Y.


Now things like death or pain are very serious topics, and I’m not saying that it’s best to be carefree about yourself and others, it’s just that life’s too short and sweet to be super paranoid about things.

—Alberto Fernando Vara, grade 8, Goodnight Middle School, San Marcos, Tex.

Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.

—Sorana Bucseneanu, grade 9, Colegiul National, Satu Mare, Romania

Everything that I lived for would be swept under the carpet as fast as the bullets flying at my black brothers and sisters.

—Kaliyah Hawkins, grade 8, Columbus City Preparatory School for Girls, Columbus, Ohio

Do not consider fear as a mountain, instead look at it as a hill.

—ShaSha Su, grade 10, Shanghai International Studies, Shanghai, China


I’m an eighth grade girl whose hair is shorter than her ears, wears clothes most people would consider guys’ clothes on most days, and is pretty athletic. Because of this, a lot of people have a hard time telling whether I’m a boy or a girl, which I’m okay with if they ask me politely and genuinely.

—Sylvi Imrem, grade 8, Nichols Middle School, Evanston, Ill.

I am strong because I know my weaknesses, I am beautiful because I’m aware of my flaws, I am fearless because I have learned the difference between an illusion and the real picture, I am wise because I learned from my mistakes, I can laugh because I have been through sadness.

—Olivia Bailey, grade 8, Columbus City Preparatory School for Girls, Columbus, Ohio


For a long time now, my life has been bouncing back and forth between homes, between selves. I’m on a conveyor belt that runs in a circle, waiting for my life to just happen to me. I’m not in control of where it goes. I’m just along for the ride.

—Noah Veranga, grade 12, Tallwood High School, Virginia Beach, Va.

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