Untitled-1We may have some budding novelist here at Grace Place!  We want to congratulate our AP Leaders Patricia and Anissa.  These promising young ladies recently accepted their awards for first and second place at the local level of the 2013-2014 Optimist International Essay Contest.  Our AP Leadership Program Coordinator, Mary LeVine, was informed of the contest by one of our outstanding Friday Food Pantry volunteers, Tom Rauschenberger, a member of the local Optimist Club.  The girls were asked to write a 700 – 800 word essay on the topic “How Dreams Lead to Success.”  Their submissions will continue to the next level of the competition where they will have an opportunity to win additional scholarship money towards their college of choice.

Here is Patricia’s prize winning essay:

“How Dreams Lead to Success”

774 Words

              I feel the light but heavy weight of the envelope in my hands. As I slip my index finger beneath the edge, sliding it from end to end, I open it. Within such a thin envelope lies the letter informing me of my acceptance or rejection. With a loud thudding in my ears, vibrating throughout my alert body, I begin to read the beginning of my acceptance letter to the school of my dreams. A dream- exactly what this was. Dreams are worlds that we escape into, where we allow ourselves to think of the impossible. A dream is a world that is full of possibilities and it feels so real that we often convince ourselves that it is. But a dream is more than that. It is a goal, a mark that we set up for ourselves to achieve and to bring ultimate happiness within us. Dreams are keys to success. This infinite world, this goal, is an intangible part of a future we know nothing about but work to be able to touch, embrace, and live in it as a present and not a future.

            When you start with a goal in mind, a final destination that you want to work towards, it keeps you focused. When presented with challenges and obstacles, your dreams are a force that pushes you to overcome adversity.  Dreams are a symbol of hope, of greater opportunity, and most of all success because when you reach that goal, when you make that dream into reality, it means that you accomplished and succeeded. When you sacrifice, you know it will be worth it in the long run when you reach your endpoint. Throughout high school, I have learned that I need to work and sacrifice to reach the goals that I have set up for myself. The high school graduation I have been dreaming about for a long time is finally within a few months reach. However, I have had to work late into the night, sacrifice a few social nights out, and overcome language barriers at home to achieve this dream. Regardless of present circumstances and difficulties, it is that beacon of a dream that keeps me moving forward. I am a moth that is attracted to that beacon of light.

             As you make your way to reach the light, the final destination, your focus highly influences the choices you make. You have to work your way up to your dream and on the way take the right steps that will bring you success. If you want to have a 4.0 GPA, you must do all your work and take some time outside of school to work on your education. If you want to become the next drum major in the marching band, you have to take the steps to become a leader and role model. My dream of going to the college of my dreams to pursue engineering has influenced my decisions thus far of doing my best in school, building character over the years in high school, and trying my best in everything I do. My concentration has paved a way towards my dream that has allowed me to make decisions I am most happy and proud of and know will lead me to success.

            Just as a dream has the hint of impossibility and blurs the lines between these impossibilities and reality, it gives you the power to explore and allows you the opportunity to take chances. It helps you develop an imagination that will help you solve problems and give you an optimism that will help you persevere through hardships in your life. With this developed acceptance of risk, one can have a much more open mind and embrace the novelty of life. Dreaming can often take you on a journey that allows you to do things you would have never thought you would do. Eventually, you’ll see your dreams coming true, and you’ll see success.

            With the acceptance letter in my hand, I realize that this is a dream. I can still feel the vibration within my body, the natural rhythm of life. I soon have another realization. This isn’t a dream, but a reality, or better yet, a dream that turned into reality. My dream has led me to having success in school, in the community, and as a person. It has been there to change and influence me for the better. This is just one dream that I have accomplished. One does not dream once in their lifetime but multiple times and I have many dreams waiting to be accomplished. These waiting dreams are enlaced with the sweetness of success.

Here is Anissa’s prize winning essay:

“How Dreams Lead to Success”

723 words

            When many people think of success, they often think of money, status or privilege, conjuring images of famous entertainers or Fortune 500 CEOs. But Jack Welch, one of those CEOs, believes that “before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”  Success to me, however, is being the kind of person I choose to be.  It is the struggle of climbing our own particular stairway of dreams that leads to such success. I took my first step on my own unique stairway of dreams while I was still in middle school.

At eleven, I thought my dream was to be popular.  Who doesn’t want people to like them? To achieve popularity, I spent a lot of time socializing. I focused on wearing trendy clothes. Many of my peers did seem to like me, but they didn’t like my being too smart and academically successful. They called me a nerd or teacher’s pet. Also, since they did not pay too much attention to what their parents wanted, when I paid attention to mine, I was a “suck up.” When my grades begin to slip and I saw disappointment in my mother’s eyes, I knew popularity was not my dream because I wanted to make my parents proud; I wanted to be academically successful. To step up to those dreams, I had to learn to define myself, to refuse to be defined by others. When I did, I was ready to mount the second stair on my stairway of dreams, and high school marching band gave me a great opportunity to do so.

Freshman year I dreamed of becoming a leader. How could I become the kind of person others would willingly choose to follow? In marching band, I was surrounded by a crowd of such people, the leaders of various sections of our band.  These juniors and seniors were interested in success for the musicians in their sections. They encouraged skill and discipline rather than popularity. They voluntarily took on huge extra-curricular tasks and devoted tremendous amounts of time to accomplish them while maintaining high grade point averages and taking challenging academic courses. They were optimistic and determined. Because I wanted to be like these leaders, I emulated their winning strategies: I focused on my academics, volunteered many hours in extra-curricular activities and became more confident. I began to see results: I was chosen not as a section leader, but as the first sophomore drum major in the history of my school! I was ready to push up to the third stair on my stairway of dreams, and cross country competition gave me that chance.

I believe my experience in marching band resembled what many runners call a “runner’s high,” where energy and emotions are astronomical. When I signed up for cross country, little did I know I was in for another kind of experience altogether, one I call “runner’s low.” While I dreamed of winning meets, many times I did well just to cross the finish line.  Often exhausted and convinced I could not run one step farther, I thought of just giving up. My muscles screamed. Sweat soaked my clothing and ran down my face. Every movement took tremendous effort. But time and time again, I made myself put one foot in front of the other and persevere. I pushed myself harder than I ever imagined possible. Yes, I won races, but in doing so, I won so much more: I broke the barriers of my own pre-determined limitations.

When you are willing to accept the challenge of climbing your own particular stairway of dreams, you will be changed by the climb.  Instead of conforming to someone else’s definition of success, you will determine your own and be on your way to becoming the person you choose to be. I’ve only taken a few steps up my stairway of dreams, but already I see the results. I am a confident and self-defined young woman who chooses to honor her parents and achieve a high level of academic success. I am a strong and encouraging leader who works hard with great optimism and determination. Furthermore, I am confident I can push beyond whatever limits seek to contain or restrain me from taking the next step up my stairway of dreams.