By Ashley Winterstein
The Laws of Life are the values and ideals that guide the decisions people make every day. These leading principles may vary for each person based on the individuals and experiences that influence their life.
The Annual Laws of Life Essay Contest asks middle and high school students across the Eastern Shore to write about the principles that are most important to them. Using the Six Pillars of Character (Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring, and Citizenship) as a guide, each student is asked to share personal accounts of the experiences that have shaped their young life.
Over 1,100 essays were submitted this year from Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties. One essay was chosen from each participating school and both the student author and teacher of that student received recognition for their time and talent.
Many parents, teachers, and community members gathered at the Awards Celebration at Chesapeake College on March 24, 2010 to honor these 19 winning essays. Also in the audience to show their support were Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Carol Fordonski, Superintendent Dr. Carol Williamson, Assistant Superintendent Roy Skiles, Queen Anne’s County Character Counts! Coordinator Jacki Carter, Stevensville Middle School Principal Sean Kenna, and Stevensville Middle School Teacher Kelly Sell.
Four deserving students from Queen Anne’s County accepted their awards that evening, including Alexander Newgent from Centreville Middle School, Max Miller from Matapeake Middle School, Natasha Rose from Stevensville Middle School, and Jenell Eck from Sudlersville Middle School.
In previous years, an overall middle and an overall high school winner were chosen for their excellent work. This year, however, the judges could not decide between the top middle school essays and awarded two Queen Anne’s County students – Natasha Rose and Jenell Eck – with the Overall Middle School Award!
Both Rose and Eck focused their essays around the Character Counts! Pillar of Responsiblitiy, but approached from different angles. Rose shared a story of a family friend who made some bad decisions that affected the entire family. Through his mistakes she learned that, “… every decision you make in your life has to be thought about. That you need to be responsible not only for yourself, but for the ones you love. That everything you do does have an effect on you and your loved ones’ future.” Rose revealed her maturity and courage by sharing such a powerful and personal lesson.
In her essay, Eck described her experiences growing up on a farm. She shares many responsibilities with her parents and siblings from feeding animals to cleaning the house to taking care of payroll. Eck shared a saying that is used in there household often – “It is ‘make a difference’. My mom has changed this for us. If you make a ‘negative’ difference, you have a mess to clean up. If you make a ‘positive’ difference, you are a good example to others.” Eck explained that, “These responsibilities have helped me by giving me the power to make a positive difference.”
Kenner Bautista from North Caroline High School was recognized as the Overall High School Winner at the Awards Celebration. In addition, a $2,500 scholarship was awarded to Samson Matthews from South Dorchester School as the overall contest winner, in honor of Albert Kennerly and his life-long support of good character. All four winners shared their essays aloud with much confidence and poise.
Jacki Carter, Coordinator of the Queen Anne’s County Character Counts! Program, believes that, “Our youth’s words and thoughts are so very important. I commend our schools in supporting this essay contest and encouragement of their students to share their thoughts and beliefs on character building. I commend the students on sharing their core values and beliefs in this contest. These essays are very personal and show the strength of character in our youth which is encouraging for our community’s future. Congratulations to all students who participated in this year’s contest and our winners.”
The Character Counts! Advisory Council would like to thank the essay readers from Queen Anne’s County: Kathy Wright, Trudy Lee, Mary Ruth Meredith, Jeff Straight, Victoria Homan, Hazen Arnold, Cara Gossard, Chris Grupenhoff, Winkie Wilson, Joan Brooks, Nancy Roe, Steve Scott, Bonnie Larrimore, Kathy Sells, and Demetrio Beach 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 four winning essays from Queen Anne’s County, please visit www.peopleofcharacter.org for the link!
For more information about the Laws of Life Essay Contest contact Susan Luby at 410-819-0386. For the Character Counts! program in Queen Anne’s County, please contact Jacki Carter at 410-758-6677 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Queen Anne’s County Character Counts! is a part of QAC Community Partnerships for Children and Families, our local management board.