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The Afro-American, May 11, 2013 - May 17, 2013

Character Education Essay Contest Winners Nassir Holder Franklin Middle School Baltimore County

Camille Offendel, Assistant Vice President Legg Mason Global Fiduciary

Camille Offendel’s profile inspired me to incorporate positive traits into my life. She said, “The most important lesson I’ve learned is that regardless of your background and circumstances, you are responsible for who you become.” She looked past what was currently going on in her life and made a solid foundation for her career. I chose the article because it spoke to me. It taught me you cannot complain about your life because you have the power to fix it. I also believe that you and only you can find your special gift. She had an eye opener that made her realize what she needed to do to be the best she can be. Her eye opener was realizing a better education would raise her up the corporate ladder. This article is my eye opener and helps me see what I have to do in school for later on in life. In the article, Offendel said her college degree was her foundation for reaching where she is right now. I also think education is an opportunity that will get me to my successful life in the future. I want to be an entrepreneur of my own soda company and education is necessary in the business field. As Offendel said, you have to be humble when working with people. I want to be proud when I look in the mirror and say this is how my life is supposed to be because of me. I want to reach the goals I have set for myself. This article is an exact replica of my plan for success because I believe I can change things. I plan to use this article as a road map to my perfect destination. I will use what I learned to shape my future because this article taught me I am my future. I can change my future for the better or I can ruin it. Offendel says in her article that you have to be responsible with your life. That means doing what you have to do and doing it thoroughly. Although I am interested in the business field, many people my age are interested in careers in music and theater. This article can be used to shape your goals for any career. If you want to have a career in singing, your foundation would be music school. You cannot sit down and hope you have your “big break.” You have to associate with people who can help you get there but you have to take control. This article encourages me to use self-discipline because Offendel states that if you don’t, your success will be short-lived. One of her biggest points that I agree with is, the time to change your life is now. In seventh grade I learned my grades could affect what high school I could attend. By the time I realized this, my grades weren’t as high as I wanted them to be. I had a B average which is not the best in my house because my parents and I know that doesn’t truly reflect me. It was then that I also realized that if I wanted to be an entrepreneur I should focus on business in high school. That was another eye opener which will take me very far. I am zoned for Owings Mills High School but I am going to Carver Center and participating in the business management and finance magnet. I was accepted into Carver because I took the time to make things right. Offendel’s profile showed that the only thing that can stop you from reaching your highest potential is you. It taught me that you can’t sit around and let opportunities pass by you. I learned from her mistake and I now know that sitting around will hurt me. I have to be responsible because one mistake can mess me up, as it almost did in seventh grade. Although it is hard to admit, my peers and I sometimes like to blame our failures on others. Offendel’s article helped me realize that in order to change my life I have to act upon it and do so. Her profile reminds me of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” because they both state that change starts with you. Now my life’s plan is to do things that will help my success and benefit my education and my career, while doing what’s right and helping others too.

Joshua Chen Roberto Clemente Middle School Montgomery County

Kyle Carson, Senior Engineer Smart Grid Engineering Baltimore Gas and Electric

One article that inspired me was “Be a Good Influence” by Kyle Carson in the Character Education Week 2 newspaper. This article inspired me because I connected to the parts of the article about having parent support, spending time with good peers and helping others with my education. Like Carson, my parents are also very supportive. Before a big test my parents will sometimes cut my screen time and tell me to study. Even though it seemed that they are just cutting out my fun and making me do something boring, in reality they are trying to help me be successful in life. From seeing my parents constantly work hard and wake up early in the morning to walk the dog or make our lunches, I am inspired to work harder and show them that all the hard work they put into me has paid off. Even if I don’t want to work or if I am tired I will still do my best in everything. One other thing I got from this article is that I have to be dedicated and hardworking in order to do well in life; that I have to stay focused on what I want to become and continue my education and classes in order to reach that goal. One way this article inspired me is that Carson talks about how he chose a high school that specializes in science and media because that’s what he wanted to do. Before I read this article I was deciding between two different high schools; one specializing in all the subjects I really enjoy and the others that almost all my friends are going to, but specializing in only some of the classes I enjoy. After reading this article I decided to choose the high school that specializes in what I enjoy even though I won’t see a lot of my friends, because to have a good education I have to choose what I enjoy myself and not just based on my friends’ choices. One important theme that I got from this article is to choose the right friends. Many times I’ve seen bright students start hanging out with other students that encourage them to do what is wrong and their grades start dropping. Then when they get in trouble all their “friends” abandon them. I choose friends who I can connect with and who will always push me to the next level in my education and character. My friends will stick with me even if I can’t sometimes hang out with them because I have a lot of homework just like in the article when Carson says, “that having a few close, loyal friends is better than having lots of friends who don’t completely support you.” I know that sometimes even though it may be something that I really want to do I have to put my priorities first and education is one of my top priorities. Another thing that Carson has influenced me to do is to be a good influence to my friends and not just have them influencing me; that I should be loyal to my friends and help them to improve in their education and character as well. This article has reminded me that even though it can be hard, I need to continue to balance my education with my social life so that I can relax and improve at the same time. The last thing that I have received from this article is that as I work hard now in school that later on I can help others with my education. Even though I am young and having a job seems really far away, that one day I’ll be graduating from college and having to find a job. I want to have a job like Carson, where I can help those in need. I want to study hard now so that in the future others can benefit as well. I enjoy all subjects in school which is why I’m choosing a high school that specializes in all subjects and I plan to use what I’m going to learn to help others. Whether it’s through my writing to help people gain knowledge of current events or engineering a robot to help save people, I want to help others and that is why I’m going to work hard in school and all that I do.

Niara Hicks Kingsville Middle School Montgomery County

Taneka Francis, Marketing Manager T. Rowe Price

The person I chose to write about was Taneka Francis. Three traits I admire about her are that she is hard working, determined and focused. From the article I can tell that Francis is very hard working. She said in middle school, she had to be at school from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. because she was on the school basketball team and she did many extra-curricular activities. Because of all the things she had to do, she had to be up really late to finish her school work. She must have been a hard worker to maintain such excellent grades and still be able to do her time consuming activities. Her work ethic also impresses me because her parents got a divorce which probably made it even harder to keep up with her studies. Francis’ hard-working attitude reminds me of myself. Once in sixth grade, I had to do a project on Egyptians for social studies. I remember working so hard and long on that project that I was up until 9 every night. It took me a little longer than two weeks but I finished and I put in my best work. All that hard work paid off in the end because I got an award for the most creative project out of the entire grade and my project was displayed in the sixth grade showcase. After this experience, I learned that I have to do my best in everything because I never want to leave a bad impression on anyone. Another trait I like about Francis is her determination. In her article, she talked about how she managed to squeeze in her extra-curricular activities with school work. This is an example of her determination because she was determined to do well in school while still doing what she liked to do. She also wrote about how she wanted to get into a prestigious college when she got older, so she spent a majority of her free time studying and reading. In the end, she ended up going to the college she dreamed of. I was determined last year when I tried out for the school soccer team. I was scared to try out at first because I didn’t play on a travel team like all the other girls. After my friend talked me into it, I tried out anyway. I tried very hard to keep up with the others and did my best tricks. I didn’t make the team, but I’m very thankful for the experience. One last character trait I admire about Francis is, she is focused. In middle school, she only focused on school and didn’t get distracted with parties and such. This must have been very hard for her to do because middle and high school students are usually always on the Internet or watching TV. I will try to be more focused because I am going to high school next year so it is going to be a little harder to stay on track. Francis has inspired me to be more focused on my grades and not be influenced by the crowd. I know that in order to be successful and get a good job in the future, I must have good grades in school. I also know I should stay above the influence because if I hang out with the wrong kind of people, my reputation will be ruined and I can’t have that happen because there are so many negative stereotypes toward Black people and I have to prove to society that they aren’t true. To keep my grades up, I will stop going on the Internet as much as I do and study and read instead. To stay above the influence, I will keep hanging out with people like me who don’t drink or smoke or make bad decisions. I know that my decisions don’t only affect me, but everyone around me and I don’t want to bring shame to my family and friends.

Congratulations to the winners!!

A special thanks to everyone who submitted an essay to this year’s contest!!


2013 Character Education Contest Winning Essays