By Ashley Winterstein
Out of 1,962 entries from across the Eastern Shore, 27 students were recognized for their outstanding Laws of Life essays in front of a standing room only crowd at the Avalon Theatre in Easton. The award ceremony began at 6:30pm on March 25th with the pledge of allegiance, a round of applause for the teachers, staff, and parents present, and a much deserved “woo-hoo” for the talented students whose essays stood out from the rest.
The Laws of Life can be described as a set of rules, ideals, and principles by which one should live. The Laws of Life Essay Contest presented by Character Counts Mid Shore asked students to write about one or two Laws of Life they feel are the most important, using the Six Pillars of Character (Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship) as a guide. One essay was chosen from each participating school and a cash prize of $100 was awarded to each of the students with the winning essays. The teachers of the students who won were awarded a cash prize of $100 for their time, support, and materials. The sponsors for Queen Anne’s County’s monetary awards were PNC Bank, VFW Grasonville, Kent Island Elks, and Jim Roy.
An overall middle and an overall high school winner were also chosen and presented with $300 for their accomplishments. This year Gabriela Biddle from Sts. Peter & Paul Middle School and Katie Callahan from Easton High School were awarded these high honors, respectively. In addition, a $2,500 scholarship was awarded to Nathan Einhorn from St. Michaels High School as the overall contest winner, in honor of Albert Kennerly and his life-long support of good character.
Six deserving students from Queen Anne’s County also accepted their awards that evening. Melissa Anderson from Centreville Middle School, Austin Heath from Matapeake Middle School, Tabitha Lundstrom from Stevensville Middle School, Morgan Huffer from Sudlersville Middle School, Andrew Fischer from Kent Island High School, and Ankit Khanna from Queen Anne’s County High School were recognized for their impressive essays. Although the students wrote about a variety of topics from fairness in sports, to learning to drive, to respecting cultural differences, each essay was written from the life experiences of that student and their laws can serve as a model for the entire community.
The winners seem remarkably wise for their age, as Lundstrom has already realized that the labels in school rarely follow you into adulthood and there is really no reason for them to exist at all. She understands that it is important to respect everyone “whether you like that person or not.” Khanna also understands unfair labeling and explains that since he moved here from India eight months ago, it has been a difficult transition. “We live in a society that sometimes does not accept differences well,” he explains in his essay. To Khanna, respect “is the ability to look at your fellow man and see him as your equal.” Fischer, whose essay recognized his parents for the lessons of respect and responsibility they have taught him, noticed that all the essay winners at the ceremony were representatives of good character. He also acknowledged that the Character Counts! program helps expose students to character education even if they aren’t receiving these lessons at home. All six students agreed that it is important to teach character in school because they understand the importance of the Six Pillars of Character.
In addition to the parents, grandparents, and teachers present, there were also many members of the community in attendance to show their support. Dr. Carol Williamson, Queen Anne’s County Public Schools’ Superintendent, Roy Skiles, Queen Anne’s County Public Schools’ Assistant Superintendent, Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Carol Fordonski, Bonnie Dixon, Centreville Middle’s principal, Leigh Veditz, Matapeake Middle principal, Jacki Carter, Queen Anne’s County CC! Coordinator, Mike Clark, Director of Community Partnerships for Children and Families, and Mary Ruth Meredith, Queen Anne’s County CC! coach and co-chair of the Advisory Council attended the ceremony to acknowledge the accomplishments of the students.
Patricia Mueller from Centreville Middle School, John Dewey from Matapeake Middle School, Michelle Dewey from Sudlersville Middle School, and Nicole Venuto from Stevensville Middle School were also present to receive their cash prizes as the teachers who encouraged this year’s winners throughout the contest.
The Character Counts! Advisory Council would like to thank six special judges from Queen Anne’s County, Joan Brooks, Kelly Bunch, Jinny Guy, Jeff Straight, Winkie Wilson, and Mary Ruth Meredith, for taking the time to read and evaluate a portion of the entries. They would also like to thank the teachers for their support of the contest and congratulate this year’s essay winners for their hard work and fantastic essays. If you would like to read the six winning essays from Queen Anne’s County, please visit www.peopleofcharacter.org for the link! The essays will also be published on a weekly basis in upcoming issues of the Bay Times.
If you would like more information about the Laws of Life Essay Contest or the Character Counts! program, please contact Jacki Carter at 410-758-6677 or firstname.lastname@example.org.