- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The following essays were winners in the 20th annual Celebration of Youth essay contest for elementary and junior high students in District public schools. The theme this year was how one’s actions and attitudes make a difference and either contribute to goodness in the world or take away from it. The submissions were the best in the history of the contest, said nonprofit sponsor Global Harmony Through Personal Excellence Inc. The complete list of winners is on the sponsor’s Web site: www.globalharmonythroughpersonalexcellence.org.

Lisa Femia

Ninth-grader

Alice Deal Junior High School

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I didn’t want to be there on that hot sticky bus, just busting full with annoying, screaming little kids. No, I would have much rather been like the rest of my friends who got their parents to give them rides up to Barry Camp, where I worked as a CCIT (Camp Counselor in Training). I had been going to Barrie for a few years as a camper, but this was my first year “working” there. I decided to tune out the noise by turning my iPod up full volume and by reading my summer reading book. Just as I began to get comfortable, a little girl in a basketball shirt took the seat next to me.

“Hi! My name’s Elena,” she stated proudly. “What your name?” I let out an annoyed sigh and responded with my name before turning back to my book. “What are you reading?” she questioned as she grabbed my book out of my hands.

“You’re gonna lose my page!” I snapped and grabbed the book back. I couldn’t help but notice the hurt in her eyes, but I figured she would get over it soon enough. Each day on the bus that first week I had a similar occurrence. I was miserable and so were the kids.

However, after completing that first week as a CCIT and gaining more experience working with little kids, I decided I should change my attitude. That following Monday, as I got onto the bus, I said hello to all the kids that had tried to befriend me before. They seemed so happy to have an older kid talking to them. I didn’t take out my iPod or book that day or any of the days to follow. I found I actually enjoyed talking with them, and they certainly loved talking to me. I discovered that many of them went to elementary schools that fed into my school and learned that they knew or remembered some of my friends.

Unfortunately, the next week, which I had been looking forward to because that was the week my brother and his friends were going to take the bus with me, I dislocated my kneecap. I was bedridden for that entire week and I was devastated. I loved going to camp! To my surprise, that Monday, my brother came home with an ice cream that little Elena had gotten me. This touched me. He also told me that everyone had been asking for me. I felt so glad that I had changed my attitude for the better and thus the people and world around me gained a much better feeling toward me and I had gained a much better feeling for them as well.

When it was finally my last week of camp, almost everyone on the bus came and gave me a hug. I smiled. I was going to miss every single one of them. As I was lost in thought, I felt someone hug me from behind. I turned and discovered it was Elena.

“I’m gunna miss you!” she told me.

“I’ll miss you too,” I responded. At that moment I was so glad that little kids didn’t hold grudges because otherwise I would have been hated. I realized that by changing my attitude everyone around me, including myself, was much happier. If everyone could just have a good and caring attitude, then maybe, just maybe, we could all get along.

Susan Lin

Sixth-grader

Thomson Elementary School

“Summer School, Bad Attitude”

Well, hi there! My name is Susan, and I’m a sixth-grader at Thomson Elementary. I am 12 years old. I love getting in trouble once in a while. I really don’t want to be a bad person, but sometimes I am. Most of the time, I’m a very good student with a very great attitude, but I do have this other side.

I showed this bad-attitude side when I was in summer school last year, and I would talk back to the teacher. She was always asking me, “What’s wrong?” I would say, “Nothing you need to know.” I used to get in trouble every day at lunch. I didn’t know what got into me though.

Then, one day we went on this blueberry picking trip, and I enjoyed it. So after that, I didn’t really get into trouble. I don’t know why I stopped getting [into] trouble, but it seemed like someone turned off my “trouble button.” I would get along with everyone. I would do my homework. I would even pay attention in class!

After the first three weeks, I was as good as a trained tiger. I got good test scores. I would cooperate with things like doing tests, acting things out, doing what I was told, and helping out my fellow classmates. As the summer went by slowly, I got a little bad again. I had no idea why. I would ask myself every day after school, “Why am I making so much trouble?! Why?” The next day I knew why! I wanted the attention. So I said to myself, “I’m going to stop. I promise.”

After that, I stopped. I became the fifth best kid in my class. I had a certificate saying “Best Behaved.” Now every time I look at it, I think about all the bad and good things I did that summer. I learned that if you take a minute to think about your bad attitude, you might be able to fix it. So if you feel that you did something wrong, just sit down and think about it for a minute — or two. Everyone has a “bad attitude” button. The important lesson to learn in life is that with a little thinking, we can all learn to turn it off.

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