Lake Michigan Credit Union Presents
HUTT 2 0 18
About the Hutt Scholarship Lake Michigan Credit Union is pleased to present the 2018 Lloyd F. Hutt Scholarship winners’ essays. LMCU takes great pride in its ongoing support of education, and encourages students to pursue their dreams. This scholarship program provides financial resources to help make those dreams a reality. This scholarship program was established in 1990 to recognize and honor the contributions of our founder, Lloyd F. Hutt. Applications were submitted from all over Michigan and Florida, and included several from other states. We are proud and privileged to have provided $361,500 in scholarships to 222 deserving students over the years. Each year, a topic is selected to serve as the central essay theme. High school seniors are invited to develop and write an essay based on that theme. This year’s topic:
“Imagine nearing the end of your life – describe what will have brought you the greatest happiness or success.” An independent panel of judges was assembled to review all submissions. Each essay was evaluated for content and passion, rather than writing mechanics. Essays were assessed in a blind process in which the identities of all authors were concealed. Judges had no knowledge of entrants’ grades, accomplishments or their school district of origin. The essays that follow were selected as our 2018 Hutt recipients, and each student author will receive a $2,000 check to be used toward their higher education needs. The following essays appear as they were submitted, without edits. Congratulations to this year’s winners!
Table of Contents Essay Winners: Jacob Bradley.................................................... 3-5 Daniel Brejnak.................................................... 7-8 Nelleke DeWaard................................................ 9-10 Bethany Gardner................................................ 11-12 Eben Gardner..................................................... 13-14 Savannah Kramer............................................... 15-16 Andrew Lehman................................................. 17-18 Paul Manderfeld................................................. 19-20 Isabella Montoya-Bedoya.................................. 21-22 Cameron Moore................................................. 23-24 Rylan Peets........................................................ 25-27 Anna Prins.......................................................... 29-30 Sama Ramo........................................................ 31-32 Madeline Sikkema.............................................. 33-34 Journey Vanpatten............................................. 35-36
Judges: External Judging Panel....................................... 38
Happiness And Success: Unaltered By Time
Jacob Bradley Coopersville High School Jacob intends to pursue a degree as a Physician’s Assistant at Grand Valley State University.
The spring of 2093 has arrived. It is a rainy, foggy Sunday morning and a 93 year old, smiling man is approaching the end of his rope. Some are frightened by the notion of a life ending, but that is not the case for this senior. This old fellow sits contently on his porch, sipping his lemon water, as coffee never treated his tongue well, not even as a teenager. A delicate, old boxer wobbles up the steps of the stone entrance to the house. It is a fawn colored dog, but has been sprouting gray hairs for a number of years now. Her name is Ava. She has been through a lot, but being rescued from a cruel desolation by this man at a ripe young age has settled her soul. It’s evident that the dog is just as attached to him just as he is to her. Afterall, he has not had much company lately. Aside from his young family who is only able to escape their “blink and you miss it lifestyle” every once in a great while, not many stop to visit anymore. The elder and Ava are very content with their “less is more” approach to life nowadays. Continuing to -3-
knew his passion to help and inspire others was more powerful than his desire to have luxurious, materialistic ideals. He saw past the paycheck and knew the everlasting reward would lie in his ambition to help those who truly needed it. You see, his passion led him to pursue a medical degree that focussed on addiction therapy and rehabilitation. But what he did was worth more than a title or a certificate.
sip on his lemon water while peering over the trees, the lines around his eyes scrunch as he begins to reminisce the adventures he once voyaged. As young people, lacking inevitables such as experience and life’s tests, it is too facile to accept the idea that money equates to success, or vice versa. It would be a waste of breath to tell a teen that wealth is not the best route to a smile. It is because that teen, like most others, has been innately programmed to believe that cash is the greatest path to happiness. A good job means good pay, a hefty paycheck allows for extravagant items, and having lots of extravagant toys yields happiness. But what if in the end, money is just that, money: green slices of paper that seem to cause more issues than not. What if instead, success isn’t as subjective as it seems, and that happiness is actually brought about by the effort to make someone else happy.
The young P.A. awoke one morning just the same as the ones before. He grabbed his lemon water and was out the door. It did not take him much time to tidy up in the morning because there was simply not much for him to do other than get dressed, wet his hair, and go. He joyfully strided in. It was 7:00 a.m. and he greeted the secretaries and headed toward his office, routinely. A mere half hour had not even been completed when there was a loud bang coming from the lobby. One more followed and a yelp trailed after. Alerted and eager to help, the doctor rose to his feet and ran after the noise. It was moments like this that the doctor seemed to enjoy most about his job. The unexpected always gave him the adrenaline that he thirsted for. But this time was different. The pain in the young woman’s eyes was frightening as her anger toward the EMD’s was filled with rage. She most definitely had not checked herself in, instead, it was her family who called 911 that morning.
If things go as planned, the mister’s younger self will have become a physician’s assistant, or something within the then ever-growing medical field. He will have taken the risk of spending lots of money on a university to insure a successful career. The old man could always see the good in people and believed each individual to possess the power to change and grow. Because of this unique mindset, he will have entered the fight against substance abuse in the form of a doctor. He will meet numerous patients all with their own stories, each comprising of wins and losses against a bloody battle with addiction. One patient in particular, however, will cross paths with the doctor. Yet, little did they know of the lasting effects they would have on each other.
Months dragged on. The December snow was piling upon rooftops and slicking the streets. The woman was struggling with her addiction and withdrawals, but her caregiver was not one to be defeated easily. The situation posed great challenges for the medical professional. Although the sun was not visible at this time of year, he could see light within the woman. She was making progress despite taking long intervals of treatment, in and out of the hospital. Would she make it through this? What if she doesn’t? Could I handle something like that? Thoughts such as these roared through the doctor’s mind. They bore weight heavy enough to steal his sleep and seep into his dreams, morphing them into nightmares.
He sips and smiles fondly as he vividly remembers the unsettled feeling of stepping into the lobby of Pine Rest Rehabilitation Center. The old man was quite lively as a young adult. It was not long after he stepped into the office before he was treating patient after patient, changing lives, and rekindling spirits. It was hard for him to see people in awry states, but it only invigorated him more to help those who needed it. This gave him greater satisfaction than any dollar amount ever could. He -4-
Now it was April. The ground was breathing life into colorful petals, the birds were chirping, and the woman was on the brink of finally becoming sober. All the doctors, nurses, and including the P.A. himself, were astonished by how far the young lady had come. She would smile now. And every once in a while, those passing her room would even hear the melodies she sang to herself. Things were finally good for her. She was happy. Soon the woman left the treatment center to pursue greater things and spread her healthy-living lifestyle to others who needed it. She became a mentor to those battling addiction in a different state than where she had been treated. Through social media, the doctor watched her give the light of hope to hundreds of people. The doctor’s heart was filled with gratitude. He helped this woman to find a better life to the point where she was doing the same for others. He was happy. The Sunday rain was starting to subside. The mail truck was leaving, headed off and away from his house. The old man hobbled himself up from his squeaky chair and headed down to his mailbox. It took him awhile to reach it, but that was okay. The former P.A. learned to enjoy the slow parts of life. Patience was a strong suit of his. Finally, he opened up the mailbox, grabbed the multiple envelopes held within, and headed back to sit by Ava. She was waiting there for him. Once back in his seat, he shuffled through the numerous bills and other miscellaneous news. But one stuck out to him. It was a letter from an old friend. He peeled back the paper and continued to read what was written out in dark blue ink. The old man’s eyes widened, he could not believe what he saw. The letter started off with the words, “My dearest, ray of hope.” The letter was from that of whom the old doctor had helped to a new life in his youth. The woman was expressing her thanks to the old man word after word. She cited all the accomplishments she fulfilled, all the lives she touched, and how hers was turned around. The letter ended with the following words: Without a doubt, Doctor, you are the one who saved my life along with so many others. I owe my life to you. Without your moral support and belief that I could do whatever I wanted, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I have done. I realize we are both in old age now, but I think it is important to recognize that our legacies will live on to help those who follow our footsteps. You have lived a truly successful and happy life. Thank you. Sincerely, Ava Gerard A tear of joy rolled down the wrinkled cheek of the former doctor. He looked down at his companion, patted her head, and held the letter to his chest.
Words To Remember Me By
Daniel Brejnak Algonac High School Daniel intends to pursue a degree in Creative Writing/Literature.
When I imagine my final days, I am at peace having experienced and completed my reason for being on this earth. I know that my life has had great meaning. My purpose was predestined and fulfilled by a true God given talent which I recognized at a very young age and am grateful for. I go confidently knowing that I left this world a better place because I lived. Yes, I am leaving this earth better than it was when I arrived. I have added to this world’s treasures through my work, my love. Treasure’s in literature to be revered alongside those of Shakespeare, Selznick, Lovecraft, Tolkien, Lewis – the greats. Although I will be physically gone, I will have left my soul on paper. I will not truly be gone. I’ve spent my entire life following my heart, living my dream, sharing my craft, as an author and a teacher of literature. A globally recognized master of the written word, penning down thoughts, dreams and places that others will eternally experience through my many, many works.
become. I’ve spoken at many great universities and lectured to hundreds of aspiring writers around the world. I’m humbled to know that I’m responsible for, and proud of, perpetuating the next great circle of life with my wisdom. I have lived long enough to see my protegees have fame in their own right. Their abilities having excelled to a level far beyond my wildest dreams. Their fame earned by their endless need to propagate fine works of literature. Their passion driving them as mine did me. I’m beyond proud to have been their mentor.
Every word has a its own singular, distinctive, meaningful element and when they are artfully strung together, possess the power to bring out the best or worst in man, cut to the core or exalt beyond measure, impart knowledge, and bring solace. They can raise hope, excitement, and move their reader to experience emotions yet undiscovered. For these reasons, I’ve spent my entire life, studying the craft of writing. As a youth I was always reading. Throughout high school, writing and literature consumed my days. College was an eye-opening world of wonder, choices upon choices of classes within every field of literature and one-on-one experiences with literary geniuses, multitudes of guest lecturers, and published authors to glean from. Graduate school brought internships and work study, and my first published works. I drove myself to master each and every distinctive technique. I read every work, great and small. I explored every genre and medium, until I had perfected my craft to the utmost degree.
My desire to give the gift of the love of reading, acquiring knowledge and pursuing one’s passion and doing just that has been my greatest joy. Following what I was put here to do, and doing it, is my greatest success. Leaving no thoughts unexpressed - regretting nothing has brought me my greatest happiness. Penning profound thoughts, eliciting one’s most inner conscious, being a seeker of deep and profound knowledge and conveying that knowledge to reveal my reader’s most basic primal need to communicate my greatest accomplishment.
I proceeded to have an amazing career which started out within the world of publishing and editing. I’ve produced thousands of storyboards and manuscripts and gone on to write numerous novels, plays, movies, and documentaries. I’ve become a New York Times Bestselling author over a dozen times, though just once would’ve been enough. Throughout my life, within these stories, I’ve explored theories, explained philosophies, and examined human nature. I have developed characters that are my reader’s best friend and confidant. I’ve developed worlds where beauty and peace are alive, and through that, I will be too. I’ve elicited emotion and deep thoughts in my readers, making them search for their own truth and question their own being. I took my life’s passion and put all of me into its permanence.
Throughout my life I have been surrounded by every imaginable resource that literature can provide. Never alone, for any and every book provided a friend, a source of discussion, a formidable debate, an answer to inquiry, a path to new knowledge. Literature has been my reason to live and my raison d’etre. I have lived a complete life that’s been a joy to spell out. I have accomplished in my life what many never will, I never had a job, never worked a day - I did what I loved and enjoyed every page. I am an Author. I wrote therefore, my life will never be resigned to “The End”.
The idea that I have participated in the evolution of the next generation through my literature, words, language, spoken truth, written records, elates me. I’ve been blessed in sharing the knowledge that I’ve acquired with those just embarking on their path, opening their imaginations to whom they may -8-
The Most Happiness
Nelleke DeWaard Forest Hills Northern High School Nelleke’s higher education choice is currently undecided.
Staring into the hopeful eyes of my seven grandchildren, I realize that I’m finally grasping the end of the rope. The rope that is life, I suppose. My husband and children are crying by my bedside, seemingly unready to let me go, although I have felt this has been a life well-lived and there’s not much left to do with the small piece of it I have left. My vision is going quickly now, but I won’t loosen the hold my eyes have found with the smallest grandchild of them all. I have always refused to believe in “picking favorites,” but I have to say I feel drawn to the runt of the litter. “Grandma,” she says in a tiny voice, “what made you the most happy?” Of course, I’d like to give a generic answer and respond with “my family,” because in a sense, they have given me the greatest happiness. They’ve provided me with love, caring, safety, and stability. They’ve all lent me their shoulders to lean on and a circle of familiar faces to always hold close to cherish in my heart. Yes, these people have provided me with -9-
forgotten to answer my granddaughter’s question. Or maybe I did, just not through my own words. My husband’s hand raises the hot liquid to my lips, and someone opens the blinds, Thank the Lord it’s seven pm. As my family’s silhouettes begin to fade entirely, I enjoy the feeling of hot coffee making its way down the back of my throat and orange and pink clouds filter out everything else. As the sun makes its final move and dips beneath the cotton candy horizon, I realize I have never been more content. My grip on those hands falters, and I wish I could tell them the “L” word once more, just to feel the shiver go down my back again like it was the first time it was ever uttered from my lips.
a sense of steadfast security and unconditional love, things that cannot be touched or held in the palm of your hand such as money or trinkets. I could also say that my intelligence and education has brought me the greatest joy in living. What can be held in the brain can only be withdrawn through their own doing, or the sharing of knowledge. Words, illustrations, conversation, you name it. I live and breathe words, and they have flown through my fingers and mouth through the years, transferred to the ears of young and old listeners alike. Intelligence is an army of defense, and it is also a tool that can be used for peace. I hold it with me for both. As I’ve described these wonderful mechanisms of living as what has granted me great happiness, you’re probably thinking this old bat has gotten everything she wanted out, out of her system. Not quite. What has brought me the greatest happiness and success through this eventful life has been my experiences, all of them past and present, and always nearing the future. These experiences of life, and the feelings that ensue. Swinging on a playground into the great above, bathed in rays of sunlight for example, or a midnight run through the dead of night with a furry friend. Snorkeling in the ocean, and the feeling of your entire body filling with wonder as you take in an entirely different world than the one you walk on. Walking through a crowded city street, and thinking how many different thoughts must be swarming through that many peoples’ heads. Flying in an airplane and watching terrain you thought you once knew become so, so much smaller to the eye, but larger at the same time. How often are things big and small at the same time? I’ve snapped out of my daze, and ask for one more cup of hot coffee to enjoy on this Earth before I enter the cafe’s of heaven. “Really Nellie, I don’t think caffeine is the best thing for your body at this time.” One of the figures standing around me says. I can’t even make out their faces anymore. Nevertheless, the steaming cup enters my frail hands and all I’m wishing for now is to see one more sunset. Please God, I need to see your creation once more before I leave this life. I’ve - 10 -
Life Looking Backwards
Bethany Gardner Lake Orion High School Bethany intends to pursue a degree in Nursing at Grace College.
Today I sit here imagining my life as it nears the end here on earth. I look back through the years thinking of my successes and thinking on the things that have brought me much happiness. My successes did not come without failures and my happiness did not come without disappointments which we know all too well come in this life. Yet, I am encouraged by the six pillars which have marked my life giving me great hope for the future generations which I will leave behind and for which have shaped me and I now leave this legacy to my family. A legacy of hope and faith. Humility has marked my life...living a life that honors God and putting aside pride when I was â€œrightâ€? and also, accepting when I was wrong. Showing compassion to others and offering help to the needy and those who were struggling in life. Looking back at my career in nursing, which I had dreamed of since my high school years, I succeeded in a lifelong goal of nurturing mothers - 11 -
given to me. Life is hard. We are not promised a rose garden,but remaining steadfast with my eyes set on the goal of a life well lived even through hardships and adversity has brought me through the most difficult of times. As I sit and ponder my life, I am thankful for the perseverance to be faithful in the small things each and every day. In doing so, I trusted that the bigger things would be taken care of.
and children and was there for the unwed mothers and unborn babies. Humility made me a likeable person and one that others respected. I also displayed humbleness in being married and in my mothering. Though I failed so many times, I sought forgiveness and made things right with my husband and children. Integrity has marked my life. I fought to do what was right even in the face of adversity and pressure within my social settings, whether with friends or in the workplace. I was a leader and tried to live as a leader through every aspect in life. A leader lives by example and serves those that he/she leads. In my home and family life, I taught telling the truth and kindness and love toward others always wins! I think of my days in high school on the executive board of our student counsel and being a leader on the softball team and then through college --playing a sport and having the drive and hard work to push through nursing school. Integrity is more than being honest, it makes for a life of success. Integrity sometimes takes courage in the face of popular opposition, hardships, discouragement, and personal loss.
Thankfulness has marked my life-- thankful for a loving mother and father who raised me along with my five brothers and sister. I am thankful for the opportunities to love others and to serve my own family and community. I learned these things from the best upbringing and role models. I am filled with gratitude as I look back at all the successes that have filled my life, but also, I am grateful for the times that I thought I knew what was best for me, but God said, “no” and pointed me in a different direction. I am thankful for the learning and wisdom that comes with age and “living” through experiences, both good and bad. I am thankful to have lived in a nation that is free and for those that have lead our nation and for those that have served our nation so that we remain free! Joy has marked my life. Finding happiness in the highs of life is easy. Finding happiness in the lows of life has been seemingly difficult. These times took effort and perseverance. My successes may have brought me my greatest happiness but they did not bring me lasting joy.
Compassion has marked my life. Mother Theresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love,’ and ‘Peace begins with a smile”. Going into the helping field of nursing was driven by my desire to help others and a compassion for the sick and troubled. I have been on missions’ trips in both local cities and faraway lands, helping to care for those in need and less fortunate than I. I have taught my children to love the unlovely and to care for those that are hurting and less fortunate. I tried to give hope to those that seemed lost and without hope. Having compassion upon others has brought a sense of fulfillment in my life that has brought happiness, where there most definitely would have been a felt void in my life without this marked pillar.
Happiness is temporary. Joy is rooted in something that does not just fade away. Finding joy in my life has come from thinking of the big picture of who I was in this world, what my goals were, my attitude in going about life, and also living in the present day-to-day, “smelling the roses” as they say... I have found great joy in raising my children alongside my husband and in my career in helping others. It is the satisfaction of making a difference in the lives around me...Joy unspeakable!
Faithfulness has marked my life-- faithful to my dreams and goals; faithful to my family and friends; faithful to my community and workplace; and most importantly, faithful to my God who created me to love and honor Him in all I do with this life he has
So, as I sit and imagine the end of my life, I contemplate all that I am now and all I truly want to be. With that, I will find true happiness and success.
- 12 -
Eben Gardner Cedar Springs High School Eben intends to pursue a degree in Business at Grand Rapids Community College.
How does a teenager begin to address what has brought him the greatest happiness or success? The difficulty with addressing this question is imagining who I will be in my far future. In order to tackle such a philosophical question, I realized that I must first look at what I am. I am human and to be human implies that I must have the ability to empathize with others - to learn from mistakes, to make changes, and to inevitably grow. In order to imagine what will have brought me the greatest sense of fulfillment nearing the end of my life, I have to reminisce and reflect on the journey I have traveled thus far. My journey has led me to acknowledge that I will receive the greatest sense of success and feeling of happiness knowing that I have left a lasting impact on the people around me and the world I am to leave. Something as small as a smile marks my greatest moment of happiness. The lowest point of my life came when I was in Juvenile Detention for several - 13 -
at them and give them the same smile Gino gave to me. My measure of success is how I make an impact in the lives of others.
months. I felt hopeless, believing my life was no more than a waste of space. I knew I would return home from detention without any means of change. In this dark abyss, a staff member named Gino gave me the smallest glimpse of light through the game of chess. Throughout my stay, Gino and I played an infinite amount of games. Although we played well over one hundred rounds, I lost every single game except for one. A few days before I was discharged, Gino and I played our last game and it was this game where I finally beat Gino. Gino paused with the final checkmate move. What I initially read as a pause of shock was actually a pause of joy. Gino slowly gazed up at me with a smile so bright it was blinding. This smile is forever etched into the foundation of my brain, because it represents hope at the lowest point of my life when my existence was contaminated with utter hopelessness. Gino carried me out of my darkness by believing in me. Although not everyone goes through childhood delinquency, everyone goes through rough times where they feel alone, believing their life is worthless. A smile is what changed my life and set me on a path to find and better myself. The gift of Gino’s smile is what I believe the world needs. To spread the gift of Gino’s smile to people lost in their own darkness, would give me the greatest happiness.
When the time comes for me to look back on my life and assess my happiness and greatest success, I will reflect on what I have done, who I have impacted, and the legacy I will leave behind for the generations to come. As I journey towards the man I am to become, I think about my measure of happiness and success and how this is to shape my near and far future. I seek to pursue a way to be a hospitality ambassador to the world in an effort to pass on the gift of Gino’s smile by giving hope to people. I desire to be a lifelong learner in order to better serve those around me for the betterment of our society. In doing so, I will look back on my life overwhelmed with happiness and a true sense of success knowing I have lived a truly meaningful life.
The world defines success in incredibly superficial ways. Success is often measured by fame, wealth, popularity, and other tangible possessions. I can’t help but think of how trivial these indicators of success are when looking at what really matters in life. Success should be measured by what will mean the greatest at the end of life. If at the end of my life, my greatest success is measured by the size of my bank account, I believe I would feel an even greater regret for not filling my life with what actually matters: the people I love and the love I share. I want my success to be measured by my ability to look beyond a situation and say the grass is greener and the sun shines brighter than when I first met my best friend. I want to say that that friend has stood beside me for the last fifty years. I want to be the face people think of when they have nothing to believe in, and I want to be able to look - 14 -
The Ability To Love
Savannah Kramer Crestwood High School Savannah intends to pursue a degree in Psychology.
â€œThe greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.â€? If my life was coming to an end, my biggest success or greatest happiness would come from how deeply I loved and was loved in return. I was raised by people who made sure self-love, empathy, acceptance, and kindness grew inside me. This is by far what has brought me the most happiness because it helped me find myself and helped me understand others on a level that most people cannot. Finding yourself is a huge part of living and growing. Oneâ€™s character is formed by experiences they encounter, the people around them, the ones who raise them, and the influence of their community. All of those factors contribute to my ability to love and be loved so easily and freely. I am beyond thankful that I always chose the right people to hang around and spend my time with. They are the ones who taught me to love people for - 15 -
a world much different than the one I thought I wa living in. Being a caucasian woman in a community of women of color, I was not blind to certain advantages and privileges. I did not think they were fair, but instead of letting them anger me, I took my experience and used it to fight for my muslim and colored brothers and sisters. The love I have for the diversity I am exposed to is something I will never be able to explain to those who cannot love as easily as I do. “Some days, you must create your own sunshine.” This is exactly what I’ve done my whole life. I do not base my happiness and success off materialism or other people, but myself. I create my own happiness by loving and being loved in return. Being able to see past certain parts of people and accepting the ones around me has helped me find myself and understand others better than most can. The world just lacks a little love and sometimes it needs people to bring it back. My biggest success and happiness so far in my life is my ability to do just that.
who they are, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, disability, anything on their physical outer shell. Coming into contact with so many different people and being able to experience those differences firsthand taught me that the world is blind to what’s behind a person’s appearance. Being able to see past that has always been one of my biggest accomplishments and one of my greatest happinesses. I have used my open mind and ability to accept others to become an advocate for human rights. I stand for women’s rights, animal rights, all rights. I openly spread awareness on issues that society continues to sweep under the rug. Being a young female in today’s society, I must stand up and speak out to gain respect. Loving so easily and effortlessly and accepting people as they are has worked completely in my favor. Being loved in return comes with simple respect of and kindness to a person. I remember talking to a parent of one of my friends and they told me something that will stick with me as long as I live. They said “People would be a lot nicer if they were blind. Then, we would actually see them for their character.” It’s too hard in today’s society to get past racism, or not stare too long at someone with a physical disability, or not envy someone for their popularity status and want to tear them down. These are all human tendencies that have been taught by society and need to end. I am beyond grateful for all the love I experienced in my life that I am able to spread and share with those who need it more than I do. I am proud of the person I have always been and will continue to be. This ability has really helped me find myself and become an active member in my society as someone who speaks up for those who are too afraid to use their voice. Another factor of my ability to accept and love and be loved in return is that it has really helped my understanding of those around me. Once you accept something different in your life, it truly brings insight on a whole new world. I have learned just how ignorant some people truly are. Growing up in an area that is majority muslim, I have experienced ignorance firsthand and seen racism take place before me. Being raised in this area rich with culture, where diversity was all I knew, I saw - 16 -
The Final Entry
Andrew Lehman Forest Hills Eastern High School Andrew intends to pursue a degree in Nursing at Bowling Green State University.
May 12, 2088 Well it’s been a ball and life has served me well. The nurse says not much longer now – just wanted to get my final thoughts down before I lose my battle. My 50-year career as a pediatric nurse has been everything I dreamed and more. I got to do what I love most, work in the greatest field of science – nursing – caring for the best people in the world - kids. I’ve experienced so many things that have influenced who I am today. Some experiences were too little to even recall but meaningful nonetheless. Others, more memorable, leaving a permanent stamp on my happiness today. I’ve met so many beautiful people, young and old alike. From those whom I worked with, to families that worked with me. Nurses have such passion and empathy and I like to think that my natural qualities were young and immature when I started my career. It took time and some stubborn lessons, but I learned that when I - 17 -
I did come to understand that these children were at peace with no more suffering, no more tears. No more interrupted naps and IVs to flush. No more helpless looks in their eyes. I still don’t know why God chooses some and not others, I’m just grateful that I got to be part of their short- lived lives, making them comfortable in their last hours.
put others first, you truly performed my best work. Often challenged by brilliant minds working beside me, I found answers that were not so obvious. I was happiest when I worked on a team of nurses on the floor. We worked in tandem often times with not a lot of words, just an understanding of our roles so we could get our work done. That unspoken communication is so important between colleagues, in sports I think they call it chemistry. It was with the constant interaction with other compassionate and caring hearts that helped me grow more in my ability to care and empathize with my patients.
Oh, to be someone that makes a difference in a child’s life, what a feeling. I’m not saying I get credit for healing the sick, I’m just one humble human being trying to do my part. But to hear my name yelled in the hall with a shrill voice followed by laughter, that’s an amazing feeling. Yeah, there we times when kids just wanted to be held by their mother or father, or play games with their sister or brother. But there were more times than I can count when those kids asked for me by name. Maybe it was the way I chatted up sports statistics or musical artists with the teenagers – they were always trying to stump me. Or the way I’d lead the bunny hop down the hallway on rainy days, or make hand puppets out of those silly safety socks. It was that connection. Now, that brings a smile to my face.
And brave kids. Man are those kids strong. When the odds are stacked against them, they stare down “can’t” and “won’t”. I’ve seen firsthand how the power of the mind can make all the difference. Kids are amazing. They truly make the best patients. They don’t complain or chastise another test. They taught me that it is ok to just let things be and not fight for control. They are curious and ask simple questions. They don’t ask about “what ifs” or argue theory or method. They are just happy to be and make the most of what’s around them. And they love jelly toast and macaroni and cheese. They play tic tac toe and go fish – and it’s fun for them. Its all about the simple things.
Most of all, I learned to be an optimist, especially when the odds were against my patients. My gift for small talk came in handy, too, in helping kids and families feel comfortable as tough times faced them. You see, for kids, it is not about the tough times or the scary tests. Its all about what comes after that. It’s about running in park on a sunny day, or finally getting to use every crayon in the Crayola box. It’s about dreaming of that game winning touchdown or finally landing the lead in the play. Or, simply its about getting the red Popsicle when the child can finally eat again. For them, it’s all about squeezing every last drop of juice from those sour lemons and making the most flavorful and refreshing lemonade.
And while I know my belief may not be popular, I’ve been humbled by the power of God to take those He loves without explanation. It’s hard to understand – I did everything right, by the book and yet I lost patients. Those were the of the hardest days of my career. No, it wasn’t the days when I was physically tired because I had to work doubles. Or those days when I was so busy I didn’t have time for a bathroom break. No, the toughest days were when everything I was trained to do couldn’t stop the inevitable and save the lives of my little angels. There will never be the right words to describe how I feel when a patient dies. Every one of them is still with me. Every little hand left a mark on my heart. And, it never got easier even when I finally understood that it wasn’t about the flawless medical care, but more about a grander plan. As much as I tried to find fault in my care or actions of the medical staff, it wasn’t my fault or any one else’s fault. These endings were as God intended, exactly as He planned. Over time,
I hope those I touched in my career were able to taste the lemonade too. I’m proud of my decision to follow in the footsteps of my grandmother and join the ranks of professional nurses. I only hope my legacy of care and healing will be an inspiration to others contemplating a fulfilling and prosperous career in nursing – now that would really make me happy. - 18 -
My Father’s Letter
Paul Manderfeld Forest Hills Northern High School Paul intends to pursue a degree in Business.
I gazed down at my father’s soft eyes. They were bright - alive, twinkling under the harsh light from the fluorescent bulbs above. They made the room radiate; I could hear their soft hum and feel the energy in the room. To the left, a window was cracked open, as if the darkness of the night was prying the hatches, fighting to engulf the inside. Lined against the edge of the window were cards: hundreds it seemed. Some were from family, many from friends. They stood in formation, creating a precarious border between the light and the dark. During these final days, his disposition didn’t change. He still joked and laughed and sang everyday. Someone was always in his room. Old friends traveled from across the country to see him, and distant family members lined the hallways. His high-spirits and vast heart had touched a countless number of individuals during his 39 years on earth. In his room, money and stature were forgotten - a lawyer laughed with a farmer and a CEO - 19 -
Building relationships is how I advance my happiness, and eliciting the best out of my peers is my idea of success. My car, house, and job contribute to a materialistic meagerness within my life. It’s not what I will own or do that is important, but who I do it with. While the materials attributed to success fade and die, the people I love last forever. The car will depreciate and break down; the friend I texted yesterday stands next to me, cheering me up and driving me forward. The house I own forecloses and forces me out; the teammate I lent a shirt to today grants me a place to sleep, helping me back to my feet. The job I hold ends with me getting laid off; the stranger I converse with tomorrow becomes a close friend and talks me through this difficult ordeal. Life is tough. It has expansive highs and deafening lows. Through its dismal inconsistencies, I remember the words of my father and know those around me are the most important part of the ride.
reminisced with a teacher. Not one boasted of their wealth or patronized another based on titles. In his room, they lifted each other, carrying the same philosophy in which my father lived his life - the same philosophy he would instill in me. I was 5, far too young to appreciate or accept the profound knowledge he could offer; the cancer was terminal and he knew his message couldn’t be left undelivered. He wrote it in a letter, meant to be understood years later. For as long as I can remember it sits, framed on the oak mantle above the fireplace. It has moved houses, endured a broken frame, and freckled over the years, but nonetheless, sits in the same dead center position overlooking the the living room. In this room, I have looked at it thousands of times, understanding and living it a little more each year. He knew what was written would bring me as much happiness and success in my life as he had enjoyed in his. His message was: “The most important thing in life is the people you love and those who love you.”
Now I don’t know for sure when I will be laying on my deathbed. It could be next week, or at age 39, or at 100. However when the day comes, I will know that I lived the happiest, most successful life when I look around and see a hundred cards by the window and hear the laughs of the people I love and those who love me.
This was his secret to happiness. Yet the secret was more of a moral and less of a guide, requiring me to find the best way to follow it. I decided the best way was to complete one action based off of these words, a small act of kindness to someone I love everyday. Today, I texted a friend I hadn’t talked to in a while. It was a small gesture, a quick joke returned with a laughing emoji. Yesterday, I lent a shirt to a teammate for practice. It wasn’t necessary. He had his own with the only complaint being that it smelled bad. Yet, I made an additional trip outside to retrieve a fresh one from my car. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe I will write out a thank you note to a teacher or possibly I will spark conversation with a stranger. When first starting this daily habit, it was nearly impossible. My mistake was thinking these small acts had to be made out to people I LOVED (only a small circle of 5-6 individuals fit this criteria). However my dad’s heart was immense; the number of people he loved was infinite. I realized there was something to love about everyone, and my circle grew to anyone I met.
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Isabella Montoya-Bedoya North Fort Myers High School Isabella intends to pursue a degree in Biomedical Science with a minor in Business at the University of Florida.
I can recall every second, of every day, for the past eight years. I can tell you what day of the week it was and exactly what I did that day. I am not part of the 2% in the world who claim to have an eidetic memory. However, I am part of the 1% that developed a form of epilepsy in their childhood, and of that 1%, I am one of the very few who can attest to every single moment following the experience. I am a naive mind, one that saw a solution at the end of a complication. I am defined by a decision that was able to keep a wise, yet naive mind, alive. As I picture the near end of my life someday, I imagine completing a task I set out to do 8 years ago. I imagine recounting every single day since my 10th birthday. In order to understand my intentions with my last final moments, it is crucial to understand the moments that started my soon to be decade project. It is crucial to understand me.
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is a chance to accomplish a goal - to make a difference; not only has this experience shaped my system of beliefs, but it has also allowed me to excel in academics revolving around writing, analysis and communications.Documenting every day became a testimony for my will to learn and flourish a naive way of thinking. This form of thinking has pushed me to constantly seek a different perspective, it has allowed me to turn my challenges into stories.Eight years later; I have written eight journals for 2513 days in a row. I was cured of epilepsy at the age of ten.
At the age of four, I developed juvenile myoclonic epilepsy, also known as a form of absence seizures. Due to abnormal electrical activity in my brain, I would experience petit mal seizures, a state where I would “blank out” for a few minutes. I would simply lose my state of consciousness and become unaware of my surroundings. This became extremely difficult to hide from my peers in primary school. “Isabella, stay in line, follow the leader.” “Isabella, you are out of line.” “Isabella, detention during recess.”
As I fast forward a few decades into the future, I see myself looking back on these journals. Often times in present day, I allow myself to skim through old entries to recall significant events in my life. I recall my first day of middle and high school, my first prom, the time I got into my top university. I imagine these events may be insignificant to a eighty year old,however in present time they are all I can say I have experienced. When I am in my last days of life, I will hopefully be reading of the times that shaped my entire life. This may sound a bit extreme, unrealistic in a way. However, the moment that will bring me the most satisfaction will be writing one last journal entry that summarizes thousands of pages. Although many may say that their success will be defined by wealth, family, and a prosperous career, I myself will find the most satisfaction in writing about these events, because it acknowledges the fact that I have accomplished such milestones. I have been asked many times what will happen to my library of stories after my final days, and to be quite honest, I have yet the slightest clue. However, I do know that when that time may come I will have probably written about the possibilities many times and will have an array of ideas. In my final days, I will be reliving the many years of my life. I will be accomplishing the goal of a ten year old. A ten year old who pictured her final moments of life way before her time.
This was followed by a lengthy explanation of epilepsy that my teachers did not understand. My days afterschool were spent at an epileptic neurologist. A series of tests would be set up every day in attempts to trigger one of my seizures. By doing this, the neurologist was able to map the electrical waves in my brain. It was a never ending game of attaching multiple wires to my head. Using an electroencephalogram, bursts of light were flashed in my eyes, ranging from the deepest purples to the most luminescent reds. It was not the moments during a seizure that I dreaded, but the minutes after the seizure that forced me to hate such an experience. Post total confusion. It was as if my brain’s hard drive had been wiped clean. It was not until my tenth birthday that I came to realize the fear that I had built up. It came from years of constant visits to specialists and never ending explanations to my peers. The fear of forgetting. I received a purple velvet journal on my birthday. That purple journal became the start of a project for the next eight years. I began to write. Writing became a ritual for me. It has shown me the true meaning of being persistent and dedicated. I have found myself accomplishing goals I would have never thought possible years ago, all in attempts to write something exciting down on the blue lines of paper. It was a belief that if I wrote every single day, I would never forget like I used to for ten seconds during a seizure. To me ten seconds forgotten was ten seconds I was unable to get back. To me every second of everyday - 22 -
Cameron Moore Walled Lake Central High School Cameron intends to pursue a degree in Forensic Science at Madonna University.
Every Thursday, a Boy Scout is sent to feed me oatmeal I can’t eat. “My name is Charlie. Pack 104. Service first!” this week’s oatmeal-boy recites breathlessly at the foot of my bed. Then he grimaces, eyes darting across the uncanny laboratory of tubes and monitors that is seamless with my tracts and veins. “Sir the nurse told me you like maple brown sugar but I could get apple cinnamon if you-” “Charlie, I can’t eat this late,” I manage. He nods, then sits easily on the couch, drumming his fingers on his knee. When I go to meet his eyes I find them waiting for mine. He swallows, and begins, more slowly: “Sir, I’m sorry if I bother you because whenever I come I’m supposed to feed you oatmeal but you can’t eat it.” A moment’s pause, saturated with - 23 -
cross above my marriage bed, where my wife and I reflected Jesus’ commitment to His Church as we tended to our love, lying close and talking long into the night. The same cross I heaved into a mirror when a drunk driver took the life of the woman I married, leaving me, pockets full of stones, to drown in the truth of how naturally this world is one of suffering and uncertainty; and as shards of mirror and the faith I had placed in my marriage cut deep and threatened to bleed me, I saw, then, that she was but a pearlescent tile in the grandiose and incomprehensible mosaic that is God’s love: His blessings, His provision, His plan for us, His patience, His kindness, and His promise of washing our sins clean and granting us life abundantly in this world and eternal life in the next if we but
mechanical beeping and whirring; his face turns grave. “But honestly, you’re actually dying and that terrifies me, and I need to know if right now there’s anything happy you have with you through…” he gestures morosely to my sterile surroundings, “This. As in, at this point, what has made you the happiest through life?” The narrator, in my little fictionalization of the prompt, that’s me. And in response to the question of what will have made me happiest in my life, I know I would have an answer for him already. But I also know a few things would run through my head first. First: I’d be nailing down a definition of “happiness.” Happiness is tricky, because something that seems happy now can be a millstone of a regret later. So, I’d suppose that happiness is fulfillment and satisfaction that fills one with meaning.
let go and fall into the arms of the Son and declare that He is Lord. Even when all else has disappointed, betrayed, or died away, God’s love is the reason my life will have been worth living, and single thing that will have made me happiest as I lie dying, nearing eternity with Him. Even as the work of my hands will amount to naught, as my progeny five, five hundred, even five thousand generations hence will forget me and themselves return to dust; even as death, and hunger, and murder, and rape, and war, and emptiness, and hatred walk the lands like behemoths and shake the very foundations of this world, God’s love endures forever.
Then my eyes would drift over to the dresser across the room, placed there half to display souvenirs from life and half to hide an obnoxious AC unit. There are two things on it: a picture of my wife smiling shyly into the camera, a glass of chardonnay in her hand (she didn’t drink, but she wanted a prop to pose with), her strawberry blonde, waist-length hair blowing in a Tuscan breeze; and a ticket from when I performed a concerto with the Chicago Symphony (an excursion from my lab career). Either my kids or my nurse would have wanted those things there for me.
As I looked at the cross, the symbol that God had not and wouldn’t ever leave my side, my mind was an aviary of memories and my answer to Charlie was a pearl between the oyster shells of my lips:
I would elect to have a foot-long cross fixed to the wall opposite my bed. It would be the same cross I gazed at while learning that it is the symbol of Jesus’ Resurrection and of God’s mercy in sending his only Son to agonize through undeserved torture and execution as the final sacrifice for the sin and injustice of the world; the same cross I had on my wall as a teenager while I prayed for guidance and came to realize the depth of God’s patience as I came to Him over and over (and over, and over) for forgiveness for falling for the lies of pride, wealth, and lust- for blindly chasing my whim through a minefield the Father guarded me through. The same
“God’s love for me has made me happiest,” I whispered.
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Life And Death
Rylan Peets Spring Lake High School Rylan intends to pursue a degree in Law at Grand Valley State University.
Death is inevitable. Her looming grasp can snatch us up at any moment, leaving us with unwavering uncertainty and anxiety on when she may pluck our heartbeat from us like the feathers on a chicken. Death may seem like an overbearing substance in our lives and something that may intimidate us, but we are all given a life to live, and we must live it to the fullest without fear of death. That leaves us with a question that runs through many of our heads daily: at the end of our life, what moment or snippet of time will leave us the most fulfilled and most thankful for? Many people choose a significant other, a successful career where money is never an issue, and much more. My story, on the other hand, is a bit different. Cancer seems to snake its way into everyoneâ€™s lives one way or the other, whether it affects yourself or a loved one. It has the power to change someoneâ€™s life in the matter of a phone call or visit from the doctor. Ironically, if I were nearing the - 25 -
After the call, we were sent to our local children’s hospital, Helen Devos, to meet with a neurologist for further examination of my tumor. Resulting in an intense early summer filled with doctor’s visits and MRI after MRI, it seemed to be confirmed that the tumor residing in my head was a benign, noncancerous one that could be removed after the summer baseball season was over, so in August or October. It was early June at the time. That put our minds at ease for a little bit; I was able to enjoy my summer, keeping my dream of playing college baseball intact, and the tumor didn’t pose a huge threat to me. That was, until one fateful doctor visit that changed everything. It was our normal run-of-the mill appointment, one that has been accomplished numerous times in the past few months. We were scheduled to look at one of my previous MRI’s of my brain with my neurologist, to see if the tumor had grown at all. We’d been doing this sort of thing, again, for about two months now and the tumor hadn’t grown at all, so we were expecting similar results. That, however, was not the case. Upon inspecting the MRI scan, our doctor explained to us that the tumor had grown significantly and abruptly since our last meeting with him, and that it need to be removed immediately. He explained to us that because of the tumor’s rapid growth and the fact that it was encroaching closer and closer to my brain, it was most likely a cancerous lymphoma. He told us to brace for years of chemotherapy, surgeries, and other intense treatment. This hit hard. Harder than anything I have ever experienced. My whole world seemed to come crashing down at that instant. Being told you have cancer, something that everyone, no matter what age you are, dreads to hear is a very hard pill to swallow. All I really remember after that were the tears and the numbness I felt. My mom and dad were a wreck; I had never seen them cry that much before, and that was the first time I’d ever seen my dad shed a tear. Me, I was just numb, appalled, and shook to the core. The realization that my baseball career was over, that I would never be able to throw a ball, lace up the cleats and step out on a diamond again; the fact that my one true escape from the world and every day issues was gone was too
end of my life and had to pick an event that has brought me the greatest happiness or success, it would have to involve cancer. I myself had my very own cancer scare the summer going into my junior year of high school, so this would be almost two years ago. Before I go into detail, let me give you a little background information on me. I am a baseball nut. I have had an unwavering love for the game that has stuck with me ever since I could remember. Whenever I put my glove on or lace up my cleats, the world around me just seems to melt away, and the only thing that matters is me and the diamond. I don’t care about anything else when I step on the field; baseball is my escape from life. My dream is to play college baseball and to maybe even move on after college and play professionally. That being said, your junior and senior year of high school are the most crucial years of your life to get noticed by college scouts. The summer going into my junior year, I was already being scouted by and talking to some very prominent baseball schools in Michigan (Grand Valley State University, Central Michigan, Michigan State), so my life was heading in the direction that I wanted it to, and it seemed like all of my hard work was finally paying off. That is, until cancer had something to say about it. I remember the day so clearly, so vividly, that to even try to forget it would be absurdly impossible. My story starts in my sophomore year, during the spring baseball season. I had constant nagging headaches that would not quit, and at one point I was taking six to eight 200 mg ibuprofen a day just to alleviate the pain. My family and I struggled gravely to find the culprit of this phenomenon, so we eventually went to the doctor to receive a cat scan in order to see what was causing these headaches. We waited two days after the cat scan until the doctor’s office called, saying that they had “found something in my head, and that I needed to see a neurologist immediately.” This statement is forever incised in my head. To get a call like that, saying that there was something (a tumor) in my head was just unfathomable news to me and my family. It didn’t feel real. It felt as if I were in some weird nightmare that leaves you sweating and gasping for air when you wake up, only I was completely conscious. - 26 -
much for me to bear. I cried that night as well, one of the few times I have allowed myself to do so. When something like that storms into your life, nothing matters anymore. All feelings are basically extinguished. The only thing that you think about anymore is life and death. Two weeks later and I find myself recovering from a 2 hour, 84 stitch surgery where they sliced my entire head open to take out a massive chunk of my skull where the tumor resided. I was fine; the surgery went well and I was recovering quickly. The thought of cancer still being a part of me and infecting me was still clouding my thoughts. However, two weeks later, I received the best news of my life to date. After taking the tumor to be reviewed at a lab, it ended up being non-cancerous as the doctors originally thought. This meant to me that my baseball career returned to me and I could go on living my life to the fullest without having to worry about a life threatening disease. I was left with an experience I can honestly only be thankful for now. As crazy as it seems, at the end of my life, this event will no doubt leave me the most fulfilled and thankful for. Until youâ€™ve been in a situation like this where death is near and clouds your everyday thoughts and judgement, a true appreciation for life will never seem so amazing. Although I turned out fine in the end, the fact that I almost had baseball, freedom, and my life taken away from me is something that I will never forget. The feeling of ecstaticness and elation knowing that you can have your life back is unmatched. This situation gave me the utmost appreciation for life and taught me to live it to the fullest, because you never know whatâ€™s around the corner. And at the end of my life, that is what I will be most thankful for: an appreciation and respect for the life that was and is given to me.
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“Little Dude” Faces Death
Anna Prins Holland Christian High School Anna is undecided, but considering Chemistry or Computer Science at Hope College.
As I plan for my future by applying for colleges, financial aid and scholarships, it’s hard to imagine that my life could possibly end. All of this looking forward naturally prevents any reflection on the past. Most eighteen-year-olds tend to think they’re invincible, but life has given me a different perspective. When I was eleven, my dad was diagnosed with stage-four kidney cancer. This cancer has no cure, so my family knew right away that we had little time left to spend with him. I look back on my moments with him as some of the most precious of my life. Though I was young and my memories of him seem to be slowly slipping out of my grasp, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of peace and love when I think about him. I may not remember anymore what he smelled like or the exact color of his eyes, but I do remember the outpouring of love my dad showed for his family. My dad struggled to put my sister and me through private school so that we could get the best education possible. He - 29 -
death, I have happy memories like these with my loved ones to look back on just like my dad did. I want my happiest moments to be shared, as I believe life finds meaning in community. Since I lost my dad, I’ve been really into performing. As both a singer and actor, I find myself on stage often. I love to make others laugh and bring joy through something fictional. If I can bring joy to just one other person, I bring joy to this world. When I’m on stage, I can make people laugh as Lady Catherine De Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice or make them cry by singing a Handel air from Messiah. I feel like I have the ability to change my small pocket of the world for the better, and that’s enough for me. If losing my dad has taught me anything, it’s taught me the importance of paying attention to human relationships, because you never know how long your life will last.
not only worked forty hours a week as a mechanic, but also spent countless hours of his free time in our pole-barn doing freelance mechanic work. Some of my happiest memories were made out in the barn with my dad. Every afternoon he would come home from work at 4:30 sharp and, no matter the weather, I would be outside waiting for him. In some ways, I am still the little girl I was then: standing in the cold waiting for my dad to pull in the driveway and wrap me up in his warm embrace. He would say “hey little dude!” and spin me around before we’d go inside and I’d help him work on a project. My dad taught me that life isn’t necessarily about finding success, but finding love. His greatest happiness as he neared the end of his life was his family. The last night before he was admitted to Hospice, we had our last family dinner. My sister and I went to two different take-out places to get his favorite things, and we all sat around his chair reminiscing on our favorite memories together. We held hands and prayed as a family for the last time that night, and he passed away two days later. I feel that when my life comes to an end, my greatest happiness will have stemmed from the same roots. He may not have lived long enough to find some great success or some great legacy, but the life he did have was filled to the brim with happy moments with his family and friends. Looking back on my life, those are the things that make me happy, too. I am happy because I am a part of something bigger than myself: a family, a community, a fellowship. It’s comforting to know that there’s someone out there looking after me.
Whether I die young or live a long life, I want to be remembered for my joy, not my riches or my material success. One of my favorite poems is “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye, where she states that she wants “to be famous in the way a pulley is famous, or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular, but because it never forgot what it could do.” My happiness is only the happiness I bring to others. I may not do anything remarkable with my short existence, but I will always remember the smiles I brought to another person’s face with a joke or a smile of my own. As a Christian, I believe that when I die I will be reunited with those who have gone before me. I know I’ll see my dad again, and he won’t be sick anymore. He’ll spin me around and hold me in his arms and call me his “little dude” again; he’ll tell me he’s proud of the woman I’ve become. No matter what age I go, my one desire is that I will go in peace with the knowledge that I’ve left a world behind that I’ve improved in some way, as well as the knowledge that I will be entering into a beautiful and everlasting life.
My short time with my dad also taught me the value of spending quality time with others. After I lost him, I began spending as much time as possible with my mom, now that I know first-hand how limited our time with someone can be. Every once in awhile I’ll stay in on the weekends just to so we can watch a movie together. Because we know how short life is, we feel free to go to the store at 8:00 at night in our PJ’s to buy pizza rolls and ice cream and not care what anyone thinks of us. I hope that when I stand face-to-face with - 30 -
Sama Ramo Muskegon Catholic Central High School Sama intends to pursue a degree in English, Economics, or Pre-Law at the University of Michigan.
I have known how I wanted to be remembered at the end of my life since I was thirteen years old. I learned this lesson when I attended my grandfatherâ€™s funeral. I had always known my grandpa as soft spoken person who was always kind and encouraged me to work hard in everything that I was involved in. One particular attribute that I truly treasured was his continuous effort to know what was going on in my life. I did not get to see my grandpa frequently due to the distance between where my family lived and where he and my grandma resided. I would most often get to see my grandpa during big family events. Even in the middle of the disarray only a big family event can cause, he still made time to converse with me. Being the youngest grandchild of twenty other grandchildren meant that sometimes I was forgotten in the chaos of all my other older cousins. However, my grandpa was determined to catch up with me. He would always ask me how I was doing personally. He would also ask me how I - 31 -
the end of my life, I want to look back and see that I have helped others even when it was hard to do so. I want to look back and be able to acknowledge my selfless actions that have contributed to other people’s wellbeing. I want to look back and see that I truly was my grandfather’s granddaughter. Specifically, the actions that will have brought me the greatest happiness and the greatest success will have been in making other people’s lives brighter. To be able to make someone else’s life better is a privilege that ultimately leads to greater happiness. In life, that is true goal and the fountain from which all success flows. This mindset is further explained in the poem “Success” written by Ralph Waldo Emerson when he writes, “To know even one life has breathed / easier because you have lived; / This is to have succeeded”. Success truly and simply is being able to make someone else’s life better. I look back on the best moments in my life and I think of all the happiness I have felt from helping others. I think of all the times I have been a supportive friend when my friends needed me, all the times I have provided counsel to those who required it, and anytime I was able to be kind when it was hard to do so. In those times I not only feel successful, but I feel close to my grandfather.
was doing in school and if I was earning good grades. My grandpa made sure to emphasize the fact that I had to always put in 100% effort into everything that I did whether it was concerning academics or athletics. That conversation, although seemingly mundane, was crucial to me. It made me feel important and cared for. I was not just the youngest grandchild to him. I was my own person. To me, my grandpa was someone who positively affected my life by reminding me that I was important. However, when I attended his funeral, I got to see my grandpa from a completely different perspective. I was able to see the full extent of his positive influence on the world beyond just the impact he made on me. The priest who was presiding over his funeral knew him well and was able to give a homily that truly explained how he made the world a better place. In essence, my grandfather was a doctor during the civil war in Iraq in the 1950s. He gave medical help to poor individuals and requested no payment from them in return. He continued his work throughout the country even when it was dangerous. This perseverance in caring for others led to many people acknowledging the positive impact he made during his death. The church was filled with people who recognized his self-sacrificing nature. There was also two other memorials in the Middle East to celebrate his life. It was truly remarkable to understand just how many people one person can effect. Instead of the funeral being a time of mourning and sorrow, it became a celebration of all the goodness he brought to the world. I had never been so proud to be his granddaughter. However, that role had slightly changed for me after attending his funeral. Instead of simply being related to him, I felt that it was my responsibility to continue his legacy of service. My aim is to emulate his character and bring the most positive impact I can make on the world. I have always been taught to be kind to others and give back to people. But I was never able to see the true impact it made until his funeral. Suddenly, it became very clear to me how I wanted to live my life. Consequently, towards - 32 -
Itâ€™s Not What You Have, But Whom
Madeline Sikkema Libertas Christian School Madeline intends to pursue a degree in Dental Hygiene at Word of Life, Argentina - Bilingual Bible Program.
While glancing around the room, I noticed the diverse representation of people. Different races, different genders, different families. This was a place where family rifts meant nothing, personality differences meant nothing, only the remembrance of a man who served the world well. Where is this place? It is a funeral. The funeral of my greatgrandfather, celebrated and loved. These inevitable death â€œcelebrationsâ€? tend to be melancholy, tear-jerking, and heartbreaking. Surely this solemn gathering could not provide meaning to anyone, except for the inescapable reminder that a loved one is missing. However, for some reason, this funeral did. Why? As I intently listened to my great-uncle speak, he illustrated the life my great-grandfather had led. It was marked with suffering, as he was orphaned at the age of twelve and sent to live with a family member, without his four other siblings. He found the love of his life at a small church - 33 -
encourage my friends and family during hardships. Helping other people will bring joy not only to them, but also to me.
and married her three years later. Sorrow struck, and she passed away. Again, he married another woman, and she died as well. Finally, his third wife lived on with him until he died.
If my life is to look like my great-grandfather’s, I must act, beginning now. He fulfilled God’s mandate to make disciples in the world. Formulating relationships to open doors for God to work through is the first step. Another component is leaving behind self-consciousness. If one is continually concerned about what others think of her, chances to change the world will be missed. Desiring a life of true success and happiness begins when we step outside of ourselves and invest in the lives of others.
What could this man possibly be remembered for except a life seasoned with grief? Something that was left out of this tragic illustration is the work that my great-grandfather accomplished while he was on this earth. Though he was poor, he opened his own autobody business, drove carriages on Mackinaw Island, taught immigrant children to read, visited jails, fixed poor children’s bikes, and complimented complete strangers. It wasn’t what my great- grandfather had, but whom he spent life with and how he used his time. Instead of storing up earthly treasures that would amount to nothing when he passed, he supported others to build memories and friendships worth far more than monetary success. Another effort my greatgrandfather made was to not work for human praise, but to live the life his Father in heaven had called him to live. Everywhere he went, he joyously proclaimed the gospel to further God’s eternal kingdom. His only request for his funeral was to have the gospel message presented to the audience. See, his mind was not set on earthly things, but on creating opportunities by forming long-lasting relationships to declare the gospel.
Some find themselves always striving for fame and fortune. But truly, what have they to look back on in their lives except for the uncertainty involved in protecting their assets and securing their positions. My great-grandfather lived a life stricken with grief, yet he chose to further God’s kingdom, and not his own earthly “kingdom”. My great-uncle spoke these words, “When Andy dies, there won’t be famous people lining up to give great speeches. They’ll simply be a few hundred people ready to give testimony to how Andy shaped their lives.” Fame and fortune were not a part of the goal; he wanted to shape others’ lives, not his own. It is not what you have in your life, but whom. I do not want to look back to my life and think, “I could have done so much more to invest in those around me.” When my time comes, I want to look back with satisfaction, because I know that I worked for the Lord, not for my own gain. Around my death bed, my hope is that I will be surrounded by smiling faces, friends and family, those I love, whom I’ve formed deep relationships with, whom I’ve learned and laughed with, whom I’ve cried with, and whom I’ve made the best of my life with, in the happy and hard times. Just like my great-grandfather, I am making a choice. My choice is that I will find joy in the people in my life, rather than unreliable circumstances which may cause heartache. By doing this, I find the source whence true happiness and fulfillment flow.
As I still live on this earth, what lessons can I learn from this incredible man? I realize that life’s greatest joys are not found in material possessions or circumstances. Even at my young age, there have been rough patches which have challenged my perspective of joy. Just last year, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Our family was paralyzed with shock. Millions of questions raced in our minds. Giving us time to process this news, a loving friend created a meal schedule, and bright faces bringing food, as well as joy, began coming to our home. It was not the removal of the difficult circumstance which changed our family’s perspective, but the people who helped us through. Their small gestures made me feel secure and brought hope back to life. I’ve decided to model what others have done for me and - 34 -
She Took The Lemons Life Doled Out And Shared Lemonade
Journey Vanpatten Sparta High School Journey intends to pursue a degree in Advertising at Western Michigan University.
Life invariably doles out lemons in all of our lives at one point or another. As I near the end of my life, it is my hope that the lemons that have been given to me are squeezed, sweetened, and diluted with water so I can share lemonade with others who find themselves feeling lonely, abused, or abandoned. Although my life has been relatively short, I have dealt with lemons. I was removed from my home and placed into foster care at fifteen years of age. It was through no fault of my own; I was the victim of another’s horrible choices. After my removal, I was placed in a children’s group home which was terrifying for me. Although I had lived with violence and abuse, the group home felt so foreign and invasive. There were extremely scary kids there, or maybe there were just extremely scared kids trying to deal with their situations the best they could. I cried all day every day while I was housed in that children’s home, because I didn’t have hope. The lemons were pretty overwhelming at that point in - 35 -
nightmares and self-doubt and sweeten them with encouragement and love. They are continually helping me to overcome many of the lemons life has thrown at me.
my life. Fortunately for me, I have great friends who knew someone who was a licensed foster provider. They collaborated and executed my “rescue” from that place. Hope came in the form of a wonderful woman I will call Sarah, who stormed the gates of the group home armed with her license to provide me with a temporary home. Sarah sheltered me for several months while I was adrift in the legal system, and in turn, I really tried to be a helpful person. Even though I was dealing with more lemons than a kid should have to, I tried my very best to share lemonade. I would do extra chores, volunteer to help, and try to repay Sarah’s kindness with my actions any way I could think of. The problem was that I was in foster limbo. Sarah could not provide me with a permanent home, and there were no available permanent placements. I am so grateful, though, that in a really dark and difficult time of my life Sarah’s hope sweetened the lemons by sheltering me.
So, what have I learned from these lemons I have been given so far? At the end of my life, how will this bring me happiness or success? That’s simple. I have learned the two most valuable lessons from Michelle that I think every person needs to internalize and live by. First and foremost, people are not disposable. Second, we are all works in progress. I believe that living these two precepts will both make me happy and bring me success. When I treat each person I encounter as a non-disposable work in progress, happiness will ensue. Every one of us should interact with others using compassion and kindness because we are all works in progress. Each of us should also strive to treat everyone as valuable – not disposable. Those two teachings will help ensure that the end of our lives will be full with the many people who have benefited from our compassion and kindness.
Throughout the entire ordeal, a former teacher of mine (Michelle) kept in close contact with me. I was friends with her son, and I oftentimes would find refuge at their home prior to the removal from mine. Michelle was constantly encouraging me (sometimes pretty loudly) to be my best, as she had been encouraging me for years! She stayed by my side throughout the legal proceedings. Michelle’s perseverance sweetened the lemons by providing me with stability and a cheerleading. While at Sarah’s home, Michelle and her family began the process to become licensed foster providers so I could have a place of permanence. Michelle eventually became my new mom, “Scott” became my new dad, and I was absorbed into their crazy, loving family for my new home. I am thriving as I never did in my old home. I have a secure, loving environment and new parents who teach me the sweetness of perseverance every day. I am not constantly afraid, and Michelle says that I continue to march toward reaching my potential. She also reminds me that we are all works in progress, as she relentlessly hounds me to do my best at everything to keep progressing. Michelle and Scott challenge me and love me. I am so grateful for my new crazy family that continues to squeeze the lemons of
My greatest happiness, my greatest success will be in the hope I will share with others. I am not certain of my exact career pathway, but I am certain that I will use my “lemons to lemonade” experiences to help others, exclusive of my career choice. I plan to mentor other young people in the foster system, to encourage them (sometimes loudly – just like my mom) that they are works in progress, and to relentlessly remind them that they are valuable. There is a very good possibility that I will become a licensed foster provider. Perhaps, I can be the Sarah or Michelle that makes a huge impact in the lives of kids in crisis. I am not sure how I would have survived without those two open-hearted women. Sharing lemonade. Through encouragement, perseverance, and hope- the lemons life gives us are sweetened. Our true happiness will come from sharing it with others. That will be my greatest success. Sharing lemonade.
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Lake Michigan Credit Union would like to extend our thanks and appreciation to the judges of the 2018 Hutt Scholarship contest, who helped select our fifteen winners out of the 1,070 essays submitted this year.
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External Judging Panel: Christy Buck Mental Health Foundation Gary Ebels Grand Rapids Community College Karalyn Jilbert Spectrum Health Keri Kujala Saint Maryâ€™s Foundation Teri Lamaine Bonita Springs Assistance Office Krashawn Martin City of Wyoming Robert Shubow Big Water Technologies Lanny Sperry Retired Deb Warwick Ferris State University Dave Weinandy Aquinas College
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