Category Archives: 2017 Essay Contest

Eight Words & One Chance, by Stephanie R.

As I stood behind the blocks, my heart was racing. I could feel my stomach churning in excitement. I had never been so ready to swim in my entire life. This was my first chance in high school swimming to compete in a conference championship meet. Right as I was about to step up to race, my coach pulled me aside. I waited with hope to hear words of encouragement, positive comments, and the usual “you’re going to do great” speech.

The words he said to me have forever been stuck in my head.

“Don’t mess up. This is your only chance,” my coach stated.

Oh and how those words jinxed me. I froze in fear behind the blocks. My shoulders tensed. My legs suddenly felt like jello, and my jitters became apparent throughout my body. What if I don’t place or get a best time? What does Coach expect? Maybe he thinks I am not ready for this race after all.

All of a sudden the whistle blew and my mind went blank. It was time to get up on the blocks and race.

“Don’t mess up.” Those words were like a broken record playing over and over in my head.

I felt sluggish in the water, my timing was off, and my turns were bad. I felt as though I was swimming through quicksand, slowly making my way towards the finish. The race was finally over and I knew without looking at the scoreboard that I had fulfilled my destiny. Not the destiny of a best time that I had been dreaming about all season; but, rather a destiny set for me 5 minutes before the race of “don’t mess up.” Those long hard weeks I spent training were for nothing. With my shoulders hunched over, I shuffled over to my coach’s stern face looking down upon my tear-welled goggles. He didn’t say anything; after all, what was there to say.

In that one race, and with those eight words, my coach made me question my goals and abilities, and shook my self confidence. Nevertheless, the next day I went back to club swimming. Rather than taking the normal 6-8 week break like I had in my previous years, I was back in the water. I channeled my frustration into my practices. I worked harder, I felt stronger, and I felt faster. Then it was time to compete again at winter regionals. Instead of excitement, I felt fear. As I stood, waiting for my race, one of the younger swimmers came up and asked me, “Why do you swim?”

All of sudden, it hit me—the answer that is. I swim for myself. I swim to be healthy, to show respect and friendship to my teammates, and to coaches and officials, to be gracious in defeat, humble in success, and to be proud of small achievements as well as big ones. Winning a race, or even swimming the fastest time was not a more important goal than giving 100% effort to do my best.

Every day, I wake up early in order to make morning swim practices, I push through pain to make myself stronger, and I never fail to make the goals I set for myself. This sport has taught me discipline and dedication; instilling in me a work ethic I would not otherwise have. Without disappointments in life, successes would not be treasured memories. The hours of practice and years of hard work have made me a champion, and never would I let my self-worth be judged by one race or one performance again.

Turning obstacles into opportunity, by Justin T.

When faced with adversity or encountering a major obstacle in my life, I think of a famous quote from Dr. Martin Luther King. The saying states,”The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”Growing up, I’ve experienced many setbacks throughout my childhood. Whether it be moving from place to place or me adjusting to high school. I spent, on average, two or three years at every school I went to during my elementary school years. My experiences taught me to not take certain relationships for granted and get to know more people. They also gave me some perspective on people from different places and different cultures.

For me, moving was a great learning experience and taught me to not take my relationships for granted. I had close friends whom I had never said goodbye to. Every time I moved, I never really got to say a proper goodbye to some of my close friends. It’s always felt like something was missing, sort of empty. Preparing to move to Hinsdale, thoughts of old friends and some family members left behind filled my head. Thinking of my friends, I wondered if I would ever see them again. Knowing that I’ll be in a different state in a different region for the next four years made the feeling even more intense. While on the road from Arizona to Illinois, we experienced many different types of weather. It was during the Summer. So we went through dry heat, humid heat, and windy climates. The ride was pretty long, so it gave me lots of time to reflect.

When I had first arrived at my new home, the days leading up to the beginning of my freshman school year became seemingly endless. The minutes felt like hours, and the days felt like weeks. I woke up the morning of my first day of high school and wondered how different the people at Hinsdale would be than my old school. On my first day here at Hinsdale Central, I didn’t know anyone. But, I did know that I was going to stay here for all four years, which made me more comfortable in my own skin. The move made me wonder,”What’s next?” There were still adjustments for me to make coming to a new school on a new level and higher curriculum. I had some major adjustments that had to be made. Freshman year, I struggled and felt that I needed to catch up with the more advanced curriculum. But, as the years went by I have seen a gradual improvement throughout my four years of high school and have adjusted pretty well to the environment. During the first week of school, I realized that it wasn’t that much of a difference between the people that went to my old school and Hinsdale.

Regarding the differences in pace, it was noticeable. Keep in mind that this was pretty much the biggest move of my life. At my previous schools on the west coast (Arizona), they never really rushed things. Here in Illinois, I noticed that it’s much more fast-paced. That being said, I had to change how I do things overall.

As Winter approached, the difference in weather between Arizona and Illinois was extremely evident. I had never really experienced snow beside when I visited my family in Chicago. There is a big difference between visiting and actually living here. The first winter was the harshest, and the weather got the best of me. Temperatures were sub-zero, which I had never experienced.
Reflecting upon the adverse times in my life, I think that I’ve adjusted quite well to the environment, speed, and curriculum. With these experiences, adjusting to the campus in a new city should be an easier transition and I will utilize my ability to adapt.

A Girl in a Boy World by Olivia O.

Throughout my life I have had various setbacks, challenges, and failures. They have all taught me very valuable lessons and I often refer back to them when doubting myself.  An important setback in my life was when I wanted to play baseball with the boys. It is a very special experience to me because I overcame it and it had a tremendous impact on who I am today.  

   Growing up I have always had a passion for the sport baseball. I loved to watch baseball but I loved playing baseball with my dad even more. I decided that I wanted to pursue baseball more than just watching it and playing with my dad. I wanted to play on a team. However because I am a girl, I was “supposed” to play softball rather than baseball; so I reluctantly played softball for one season. Playing softball made me want to play baseball even more than before; it made me extremely determined to work hard and be able to compete with the boys. I knew that being a girl was a major disadvantage in the sport of baseball. I knew if I wanted to get a tryout I had to work harder than the boys. During that offseason I worked hard and practiced every chance I got. The next season the league administrators saw my hard work and gave me a chance to tryout. At the tryouts I was given many strange looks. Although this was distracting I ignored everything and focused on putting my hard work to work. My hard work paid off and a week later I received a call telling me that I made the baseball team! Throughout the season I had to continue to work hard at home because although I was on the team I had to compete for playing time against the boys. I went home after practice and practiced more on my own. I practiced after games and any day we did not have a game or practice I was practicing for hours on my own. Not only did I practice on the field but I also researched and watched videos on how to improve my game. My coach saw my determination and hard work and I was rewarded with an extensive amount of playing time. My team later went on to win 1st place in the league.

   This experience had a tremendous impact on who I am today. It taught me that you can do anything you set your mind to. I have grown into a stronger, more determined, and more confident individual because I know I can do anything I set my mind to. I continue to look back at this experience throughout my life whenever I doubt myself. I know this experience will continue to positively impact my life.


Failure and Success, by Jeremiah B., age 20, Flint, MI

Here I’m going to talk about a failure/challenge that I’ve overcome at a point of time in my life.  I also will be describing how I showed resilience, persistence and determination.

First, I’m going to talk about a challenge I overcome.  At least two or three years ago I was attending Academy West, I had got expelled towards the middle of the school year.  I had ended up going back to the street life of flint trying to find my way, but of course that didn’t work out, during that duration of that year till the end.  I ended up getting locked up for 90 days.  After I completed my time, it was time for school again.  It was going on 2016 of course I wasn’t feeling it, I already was angry and mad.  I just made it back home.  But my first day of school was good but down the road I couldn’t give up the streets, it’s like they were calling me on a cell phone.  My mom used to tell me the streets will always be there, school won’t.  Well, I disobeyed because the streets was making me money, not school.  Eventually I was just going to school like once a week, then so on down the road a few times a month.  It was something about the money and streets, I just thought money was better than school because I can buy anything I want and never worried about nothing no more.  I was even getting more females off my recognition.  I felt loved and cared cause I was getting money and females.

Secondly, I’m going to talk about my resilience.  How I maintained and become a better person.  Well it’s 2017 and its time for school again.  I didn’t want to attend because I was 20 and it didn’t feel right.  But one person come back in my life and it was shocking because I never thought about him because he was never around.  But, my dad came back and I don’t know what it was but my dad just made me want to go harder.  It was like a burst of speed and now I’m in open field on my way to score the winning touchdown.  My determination was increased even my grannie gave me more confidence.  I eventually started to get myself together/straight, I was going shopping more and was making money the right way and not the illegal/wrong way.  I stacked up on a lot of Jordans, I even had a lot of my favorite jeans, but overall I just was coming up and I knew instantly I was doing something productive and smart cause I was getting rewarded with certain things.

In conclusion, I’m currently completing class and attending school full-time with no absences.  I also feel very determined on graduation and making my mom and dad proud of me.  Thank you for reading my story on how I overcame a challenge and showed resilience.

How to create, modify, find, and rank Essay Contest posts.

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