2015/2016 Concept Writing Competition Winners
Concept Schools’ annual writing competition continues to grow and evolve each year. This year we had a record number of submissions; students in grades 3-12 wrote on a variety of topics and in a variety of genres. For the first time we linked the competition with our new writing assessments in the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) Journeys and Collections texts that our schools have purchased. This achieved two goals – allow teachers and students to focus on writing in the classroom as laid out in our curriculum and focus on the enduring understanding and essential questions that connect classroom learning to the real world. It was successful as we saw improved entries and depth of thinking. This year’s winners are:
3-5th Grade Band
1st Place – Gabby Jolei Munoz, 5th Grade HSA Lorain, Fictional Narrative: No Title, 2nd Place – Lilianna Vaughn, 3rd Grade HSA Lorain, Personal Narrative: My Community and How It Helps Me, 3rd Place – Hamdi Rashid, 3rd Grade HSA Columbus Elementary, Personal Narrative: No Title
6-8th Grade Band
1st Place – Lily Bell, 8th Grade GSA Fyler St. Louis, Personal Narrative: No Title, 2nd Place – Amya Washington, 7th Grade HSA Belmont Chicago, Opinion Essay: The Time Is Now… Stop!, 3rd Place – Jylan Webster, 7th Grade IMSA South Indianapolis, Opinion Essay: Is Seeing Really Believing?
9-12th Grade Band
1st Place – Justin Wilton, 10th Grade MMSA Michigan, Speech: Nutritious and Delicious? Or Wasting Lunches in Bunches? Are Schools Foods Really Healthy?, 2ndPlace – Rowan Elliot, 9th Grade GSA Fyler St. Louis, Argument: Freedom, 3rd Place – Shagufta Khan, 10th Grade CMSA Chicago, Speech: Citizenship = Equality
Winners received their prizes at the Speech and Spoken Word Competition award ceremony in Indianapolis on March 19th.
The following student works has been revised, re-editing, and in some cases changes made prior to publication.
Writing – 1st Place 3-5th Grade
Gabby Jolei Munoz
Grade 5, HSA Lorain
On August 6, 2014, my grandmother was labeled with stage three cancer. The nurses taking care of my grandmother told her that if treated correctly, she could live longer than what the doctor thought, which was 6 months. Before they left the room, the nurse told us that they were going to try their hardest to help. She also told us not to be too sad, because these kinds of things happen all of the time. I didn’t hear what else she said, because my face was buried deep into my mom’s shirt, tears spilling over my face.
My mom and I left two hours later; my grandmother had to stay at the hospital for the night. When we got home my father was just pulling in, he had not yet heard the news. When we go inside, he took one glance at my face and stood up.
“What’s wrong,” he asked.
My mom told him, and the look on his face showed pure sadness. He grabbed his jacket, while shedding tears, grabbed the car keys, and ran out the door. He came back an hour later and went straight for the kitchen. He grabbed his plate dinner and went to his bedroom. Instead of turning the TV on like usual, he ate his dinner in silence. I was so sad, but not too sad.
“Well, go to bed Lily,” my mom said. “You have school tomorrow.”
That reminded me of the fun yet to come at school tomorrow. I just couldn’t wait to see my friends and to go to the ice-cream party with them.
When I got to school and got out of the care and into the school, there was a new boy that sat in the desk next to me. My teacher, Mrs. Kaskline, told us all to say hi to the new boy. She said to tell him all about ourselves. I found out his name was Daniel Hampson and that he was born in Western Virginia. No one in the class wanted to be friends with Daniel besides me.
I told Daniel about my grandma, the way my dad acted after he got back from the hospital, and how I carry these problems with me, everywhere I go. He told me not to worry, not to be sad, and that all he has left is his mother, because his father, grandmother, grandfather, and his baby brother died in a car accident.
“I’ll try,” I said. “Oh, and Daniel, thanks.”
“You’re welcome” was all he said.
When I got home, I found that my grandma had died at 11:02pm, during the surgery. I decided to actually try to do what Daniel had told me to do. I told mom all about Daniel, the new boy, and how he told me to try not to be sad and over-emotional.
“Well, you do that sweetie,” she said with a cheery smile on her bright face.
I went to my room, and soon I feel asleep, falling into a deep dream.
The next day as I went to school, all I could think about what what I would tell Daniel. What would he say? I thought. Will he try to comfort me like he did yesterday?
When I got to the cafeteria, I saw Daniel waiting for me me. I wish he wouldn’t do that! I thought.
Instead of going with him to breakfast, I went straight to class. All day I ignored Daniel and all day I ignored his comforting comments, because every time that he talked to me I just felt all those depressing moments start to flow up my throat. Later, he cornered me. Now I can’t run, I thought.
“Get away,” I told him. “I don’t have time for it.”
“You don’t have time?” he asked. “Don’t have time for what?”
I told him about yesterday, that grandma died and what I think about his pathetic sayings, how they don’t comfort me, and that all they do is make me feel worse.
“Well you could have told me before,” Daniel said. “How was I supposed to know?”
I didn’t answer him back. I just kept walking to class.
When I got picked up, my mom handed me a black dress and drove to my grandma’s funeral. When we got there, I had to help set up the chairs for the guests that were coming. After I was done setting up the chairs my mom told me to stand by the door and welcome the guests when they arrived. My Aunt Rosa and Uncle Sam came, as well as my Aunt Deanna and Uncle John, and my cousins Rosalie, Clarrisse, and Kiera.
After the funeral, I understood that it wasn’t my fault that my grandmother had been labeled with stage three caner or that my grandmother had died. I also decided to try harder than ever to overcome that challenge, knowing that instead of running away from it, I could just get over it. I know that if I hadn’t gotten over it, that it would be hard for me to go places that reminded me of her. If not for Daniel, I wouldn’t have learned.
Writing 1st Place 6-8th Grade
8th Grade, GSA St. Louis
When you’re in the second grade, the things that seem important really aren’t: being the teacher’s pet, being line-leader. Those things don’t really count in the long run. When I was in second grade, those things mattered to me, but what mattered most was having my very own book so I could read along with the teacher.
At this particular point in time, we were reading The Magic Tree House (probably the most impressive chapter books to read when you are eight). The teacher would sit back in her purple chair, that sometimes, if you were lucky enough, a student would get to lounge in. Her hair was always tied tightly in a bun, pencils stuck inside, giving her almost-antennae while also giving her the look of every teacher stereotype there was. She was strict, her face covered in frown lines. She towered over me, and all the other tiny, not-fully-developed second graders. Naturally, she was my favorite teacher. She impressed me, showed her tough side, almost as if there wasn’t another side to her at all. She was the epitome of an adult in my adolescent eyes. I wanted to show that kind of adulthood.
Chase was one of my classmates. He was the tallest kid in the class, holding that title well above our (much closer to the ground) heads, just in case he needed to use it against us. He was my rival in the classroom: quiet, collected, always go the classroom jobs I so yearned for. He wanted that sense of sophistication that only came from knowing that you were the teacher’s favorite. Only, contrary to myself, he was not only the teacher’s pet, he was also the tallest kid in the class. Giving him two great, honorary titles, to my one. Chase had an advantage, one thing that I didn’t have, that put him ahead in the polls. And it all came back to The Magic Tree House.
English class rolled around. Back then we didn’t switch classes so we all stayed sitting while the teacher switched subjects. I loved reading, but more than that I loved reading with the teacher. Listing to her voice as my eyes traced the black inked words. It was my favorite thing. At the time, I was spending the beginning of class fretting when it would be time to read. I didn’t have a book. As desperately as I wanted to be able to see the words not just hear them, I couldn’t. A few students had one, students that I probably would’ve been better off choosing in this particular situation. Students that didn’t have anything of mine they could take away. They all sat happily at their desks, thumbing through the pages to find the one we had left off on. I watched them, a strong sense of jealousy building up. I looked around the room, watching, scoping, searching in a way. That’s when I saw it.
During this time in which people are getting books out, adjusting to the change in subject not scenery, students were allowed to get pillows. Why that was, I do not know. It was reading time. Quiet, cozy, reading time. I suppose some students just wanted it to feel more like they were t home under blankets on their second-grade-sized ben that at schools with their legs tucked uncomfortably under a wooden desk. Chase, was, unfortunately for both of use, one of those students. He had gotten up, walked over to the area covered in pillows to choose from, when my eyes landed on the shining, soft-covered book laying on his desk. It seemed to be calling my name. It sat, waiting to be opened, read, and carefully handled. It lay there, gleaming, begging for me to come and take it. And that’s exactly what I did.
Taking a book from a desk in the front of the classroom, with the owner only seconds away from returning to it, and the teacher watching the commotion of the room under a haw’s eye was no easy job. It took strategy. But, instead of strategy, I walked up, glanced around, and took the book right off the desk. No one saw. Of course, in my young mind, that’s all I had to do. I didn’t think about what would happen once we really started reading, once Chase returned to his seat, once the annoying girl next to him decided to snitch. I didn’t think ahead.
All of a student, all the kids in the room were told to stand up. I watched the room rise, everyone standing, only I was wobbling on shaky legs. I had, on a last escape, thrown it to the back of my desk. But, it wasn’t hidden from my teacher. As she pulled it from my desk, I felt that crown slowly fall from my head. That hard work of always getting the best classroom jobs, gone. I knew Chase was standing smug at the head of the class. It wasn’t worth it, taking his book. It wasn’t worth his smug face as the crown rose to his head. And now, he was the tallest kid in the class and the teacher’s pet. And all I was, was embarrassed.
Writing 1st Place 9-12th Grade
10th Grade, MMSA Michigan
Nutritious and Delicious? Or Wasting Lunches in Bunches
It is simply amazing to hear about how many positive programs the United States government is implementing into American’s lives. One example of this is the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (or HHFKA), which was dedicated to ensuring that students have healthy and nutritious meals while they are in school. This program changed school lunches, and student diets, from the day it was introduced. There is a very vocal majority of students who are grateful for the new, healthy lunches because it gives them something to complain about to anyone who will listen along with allowing them to throw more food away in the garbage cans due to it’s quality. It’s true, students across America are throwing away many meals provided by the schools under the government’s standards. These meals are so healthy that a childhood obesity might actually see a drop (that was the plan right?) due to most students having nothing desirable to eat at school. We see this trend in public, private, and charter schools across America, where students are throwing away food for their appealing aspects. It should surprise no one that ever since HHFKA was started in 2010 students learned a new social skill and application, complaining about school lunches.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services, the HHFKA was founded by Michele Obama and other supporters who saw a problem of a high and rising childhood obesity levels among students in America’s education system. HHFKA changed school food guidelines so that nutritious foods were provided by schools in order to benefit childhood health and lower childhood obesity levels. It makes sense that this program was an excellent solution to combat the problem of obesity, because it “involuntarily” is starting a number of students. HHFKA must be considered a success since it seems as if obesity levels are on track to start falling. If the goal of HHFKA is to have students healthier, how is it doing its job if students do not want to eat the food that they program provides? Thumbs up to Washington!
Studies show that students are wasting food due to the lack of appealing and appetizing quality. This must surprise HHFKA, who provide foods that were supposed to benefit students. The Washington Post reports that 60% of vegetables and 40% of fruits are being wasted by students. This obviously should raise red flags in Washington, but we hear nothing of it. It is obviously not healthy if students do not eat their school lunches, especially when they go to school depending on their lunches to get them through the day. Furthermore, a news station from Cleveland, Ohio found that 81% of schools have seen an increase in food waste in the last two years of serving food by HHFKA rules and guidelines. This cannot be a good indication that the program is positively impacting student health since more food is being wasted each year.
The problem with this government program, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, is that the food being provided for the students through the government into the schools is not appealing, appetizing, or even good tasting. Some of the food is not even identifiable. HHFKA was intended to give students healthy to each, which they have, but they also limited other types of food schools can serve, and then limited students’ diets. If students aren’t eating food provided to them by the government, how is it healthy? How is it nutritious? It must be having some sort of positive impact on childhood obesity, because students are definitely not eating as much as they used to, but is this the way we want to fight the problem, by starving our kids? I propose that the government back off schools and the varieties of foods they provide, in order to allow for students to get foods that can really fuel their bodies. However, I do encourage the government to provided optional but promoted resources for students, so they can learn to make healthy decisions in their everyday lives themselves rather than having the government do it. Additionally, optional public programs, targeted to families, could be introduced that encourage parents to teach kids to stay healthy and provide nutritious, delicious food in homes and schools. That way, healthy lifestyles are encouraged, not forced, leading to healthy, happy students and families. Because we all know food is only healthy when you eat it.
Writing – 2nd Place 3-5th Grade
Grade 3, HSA Lorain
My Community and How It Helps Me
I live in the wonderful city of Lorain, Ohio. Lorain, Ohio is such a great place because it has so many great people, so many great things to do, and so many great places. Some of these places are; Horizon Science Academy, hospitals in my community, The Lorain Police Department, The Lorain Fire Department, and St. Peter’s. I love all of these places. I love my community.
Horizon Science Academy does not only protect me, but it teaches me. HSA Lorain prepares me for a better future and a better life. Everyone there makes me want to learn, and they all make me feel safe, and like I belong. HSA Lorain provides me with food, water, milk, and fruit. It provides me with clean restrooms and clean classrooms. My school is a very important place for me, not to mention my teachers and friends!
Hospitals in my community are very important to me because, they are always there in case of emergency. They don’t just take care of me when something is out of the ordinary or wrong, but they help and take care of everyone in my community. They make other people happy and healthy, which makes me happy and healthy. All hospitals around the world are important because they help the people in their community, and make another kids just like me happy and healthy.
I am very thankful for St. Peter’s because it is my school’s safe house. In case of emergency, I would evacuate to St. Peter’s to keep safe. It is very welcoming and warm, so if it were cold outside, I would stay warm. It doesn’t just keep ME safe, but it keeps the rest of my school safe. St. Peter’s is a place I respect and am always toing to be a part of. I am grateful for St. Peter’s very much, for I depend on it to keep me safe.
Lorain Police Department, I have many things about their special services. The officers who work there protect all fellow citizens from harm. I look up to the officers who are part of the Lorain Police Department. They are always there when needed and I respect that. The Lorain Police Department is now, and will always be, a great reminded of how to be a good citizen, and that makes me a good citizen, which helps me help other people… and that makes me feel good.
Can’t forget The Lorain Fire Department! The Lorain Fire Department is a very special, important, respect place. In our community there are fires that start in houses, parks, hotels, anywhere really. The Lorain firemen are always there risking their lives to stop any fire, big or small, they’re there… no matter what. I respect the Lorain firemen, and the Lorain Fire Department, because they will always be there to protect me from a devastating fire.
I respect, encourage, and trust Horizon Science Academy of Lorain, the hospitals in my community, St. Peter’s, The Lorain Police department, and the Lorain Fire department. They will always be there by my side. These places will also be a great part of my life, my hopes, and my dreams. I respect these places very much and will always trust and encourage them.
2nd Place 6-8th Grade
Grade 7, HSA Belmont
The Time Is Now…Stop!
“Self-harm –the world will come at you with knives anyway. You do not need to beat them to it.” These are the words of a self-harm veteran. Self-harm is something that affects many teens worldwide. Some think that it’s a good idea…until they really think about what’s happening to them. Self-harm isn’t a good idea because it’s irrelevant to solving an already stressful problem. Self-harm brings on misconceptions, false assurance, and mental disfigurement.
First off, when we think of self-harm, we think of people cutting their arms and leg, in some cases. What we don’t think about is the million other ways to self-harm. Running into walls, purposely hitting yourself with objects, are also way that people display self-harm. Burning and sudden clumsiness too. When you think of the different ways to harm yourself, you realized there are so many. Self-harm is caused by many things. Bullying and sexual abuse are two very big problems. Now I know some people may say that people who do this are crazy or they want to die. Well, let me squash this theory. When people self-harm, they do it to cope with the stressful times that life brings. They try to give themselves the one thing that self-harm can’t give: self-assurance.
Secondly, when someone self-harms, they think that they are coping with their drama. This, unfortunately, is not the case. When self-harm occurs, you are actually hurting an already broken image. If you were being teased for being fat, performing self-harm makes you seem “uglier” in their eyes. Even if you try to hide it, they’ll start calling you a freak. People don’t like to feel this way, but they feel that it is their only escape. If only it was.
Finally, when kids self-harm, have you ever thought about what they were thinking? They are convinced that hurting themselves is the only solution to keep their drama from killing themselves. All the drama running in their minds makes them feel like they’re going to split in two. Everything in their minds just spell “HATE, HATE, HATE” a million times over. All they want is to be left alone.
In conclusion, self-harm brings on misconceptions, false assurance, and mental disfigurement. No one should have to go through this, but we can’t really avoid it. In the United States, 13% of adults and teens admit to committing self-harm. This may not seem like a lot, but when calculated it equals 41,457,000 people. Think twice when you think self-harm is safe.
2nd Place 9-12th Grade
Grade 9, GSA St. Louis
Bloodshed, war, conflicts. These are the words that come to mind when I think of freedom. This sadly makes sense. Every country, race, or really any group has had to demand their freedom, which usually causes violence. We have heard many examples of this too: From the American Revolution in Social Studies to the Arab Spring in English. Freedom has to be demanded, unless what I described sounds like freedom was just given to those people (which I may add, includes us).
First, when I think of giving, I think of getting something for someone without much trouble. If freedom is given, then why is it so troublesome to obtain this “free” gift? When Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech, people were being denied this freedom. Dr. King states: “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.” If freedom is given, then why are people who want it getting injured and prosecuted?
People do not have to die or fight for things that are given to them. In the Iranian Revolution, people’s lives were at stake for taking their freedom back. In “Cairo: My City, Our Revolution,” by Ahdaf Soueif, we learned how an act of rebellion can cost your life. “On 28 January, standing at the momentous crossroads, the Nile behind us, the Arab League building to our left, the old Ministry of Foreign Affairs to our right, seeing nothing up ahead except gas and smoke and fire that stood between us and our capital, we stood our ground and sand and chanted and placed our lives, with all trust and confidence, in each other’s hands. Some of us died.” It’s kind of like getting a gift from someone you trust. They say, “Here have this… but you’ll need to risk your life and kill me first.” Then, you would have to risk your life and do incredibly dangerous things for something that you might not even want. Your may think that, of course, everyone wants freedom. But what if you don’t know what it will look like to obtain it? You may know what you think freedom is like, but what if freedom brings chaos or maybe even worse a dictator or regime? What if you would have to risk your life for even more uncertainty? It might be that a world where freedom is counted as being given is a world where freedom wouldn’t be given at all.
Also, there may be times where, to make everyone happy, freedom cannot be given. If one person is free, it may upset another person or enrage them. This is because the freedom of the person might upset the everyday life of the other, therefore upsetting their freedom. This cycle can continue forever. We know the full extent of this cycle after reading “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. In the story, Atticus is almost successful freeing a black man named Tom Robinson. This case was started by the Ewell family, who claims that Mayella Ewell was harmed, to put it politely, by Tom Robinson. Even though Tom was accused of guilt, Ewell is furious at the prospect of him not being charged and thereby innocent. This then escalates where he threatens Atticus and physically harms his family. Basically, one person’s freedom affects another’s. Due to our bias and hate toward one another, it is impossible for freedom to be given to everyone. Sadly, this is the way our society works.
However, according to Dr. King, freedom should be given to all people. He refers to a promissory note from when the Declaration of Independence was written. He refers to how freedom was promised to everyone because “all men are created equal.” This is how freedom should work. But, it doesn’t. Freedom is an ideal, an ideal that many people fought for and still do. The declaration was written so that people did not have to fight for their freedom in the future. Somewhere, something went wrong. America is not what it promises us it would be. Freedom has forgotten its promises. Freedom should be given, but it is not.
In conclusion, the world is a place where freedom must be demanded and fought for. We have all seen many examples of this, from court trials and protests, to revolutions and wars. Once we have gotten freedoms we secure it for everyone. It then becomes a societal norm. So, when we are no reminded of our given freedoms, we are also reminded of the years of pain and bloodshed that we had to work through and how we had to demand it.