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Students Place in State Essay Contest

posted Mar 20, 2018, 6:32 AM by Lee Stephens   [ updated Mar 20, 2018, 6:48 AM ]
Brianne Argo, Mrs. Stephanie Necessary and Ava Kelly
Stereotypes begin at a young age and middle school students are not immune to its touch and influence. Perhaps it is this experience that enabled two Seneca Middle School eighth grade students to write essays about stereotypes that earned them both recognition and prizes for their powerful work. Brianne Argo and Ava Kelly recently attended the awards ceremony for the 8th annual Atlantic Institute Essay Contest at the Booker T. Washington Auditorium at the University of South Carolina. This year's essay topic was "Looking Past Stereotypes: Accepting Others in Today's World." Argo wrote a fictional story and won 4th place in the state along with a $50 gift card. Kelly wrote a first-person narrative essay and won 1st place in the state. She was awarded a 7-day trip to Peru for her and her teacher, Mrs. Stephanie Necessary.

Necessary said of the contest, “I'm thankful for organizations like the Atlantic Institute that provide wonderful opportunities for our young people. In today's age, it is so important to encourage our youth to think beyond themselves, to prepare to be the leaders of tomorrow, and to have opportunities like this to shine. It takes a village to raise our children, and it is because of groups like the Atlantic Institute that we know the future of South Carolinian children are bright.” The Atlantic Institute is a non-profit organization that emphasizes the importance of education, dialogue and understanding in cross-cultural engagement.

Read on to appreciate the creative works that earned these young ladies and their teacher their amply deserved awards.

Stereotypes of the Eyes: by Brianne Argo

Out of breath, I took a seat on a bench close by.  I’d been running 5 miles every morning for a month, and I saw no change.

A group of thin women ran past with criticizing looks.

“Looks like she’s out of breath, especially for having only walked a few steps.” I overheard one of the woman.  

The others just chuckled amongst themselves and continued on.

I thought nothing of it and went on my way to work. A few moments later, I hurried through the door of Burger Barn.  

“Mornin’ Susan!” Someone called through the kitchen.


I snatched up my apron and set to work flipping patties and watching the orders.  

I could tell it was gonna be a rough day, and I had a doctor’s appointment later to tie it all off.

I wandered over to the window and took an old woman’s order.

“Welcome to Burger Barn, how may I help you?”  

“Morning dear, I’d like a Bacon Whopper with a small fry and diet Pepsi please.”

“Yes ma’am, that’ll be six fifty-five when you round  the next window.”

She drove off while I stood and stared out the window.  I couldn’t wait for this day to be over, even though home had nothing better. Going home had its own list of disappointments.

Three hours later, I punched my card and swiped up my purse. On my way out I saw a little brochure for a fitness center a few minutes down the road.  I gathered the papers in my hands and examined them. Cornell Fitness, it read, a swell looking gym that holds all your exercising needs. I scanned through a few more paragraphs before I stopped abruptly.  I was staring at my name scrawled out in black pen on top of the first page. What’s this? I searched for an answer and found one on the bottom of the page.


In a flurry of anger, I found myself standing by Dan’s desk, looking down on him.  

“Susan! I thought you left!”

“I think I should’ve left sooner.” I steamed.

“What’s wrong? You look upset.”

“I believe I have good reason to be upset.”

I slammed the papers on the table and pointed at my name scribbled at the top.

“Oh! You found it! I was hoping to give it to you before you left for work, but I figured you’d already left.”

“What’s this Dan!?”  I stabbed my finger into the name.

“Well, I thought you could use some help with--with, you know.”

“Oh I know! I Know that this is none of your business.” I scolded as I pointed to my stomach. I slapped down my name tag and stormed out of the room leaving an astonished and angry Dan behind.  

I tossed my purse on the wooden coffee table and stomped over to the couch, where I flipped on the TV.  

I awoke to the phone, and gritted my teeth ready for an ear full from Dan.  I punched the talk button and growled.

“What do you want Dan?! I quit, and there’s nothing you can do.”       

“Um, Mrs. Sanders?”    

I froze, and the anger dropped from my face.   

“Uh, hello?”  I lifted the phone up.

“Yes, this is she.”

“Oh, well, sorry to bother you, but are you ready for your appointment?”   

I looked over at the clock ticking happily on my mantle.  4:45? I must have slept a lot longer than I thought.

I scurried out the front door to my old, Honda Civic. I turned the key and drove off. I tried not to floor it.

I pulled up to the small building. Then I hopped out of the car and wandered on up the same path like everybody else, except, I wasn’t everybody else, I wasn’t here today because I was sick, or injured. I was here for different reasons, reasons people would never ask about, like, “Are you alright?” or, “Get well soon.” My reasons were because of something that people wouldn’t call a disease, or an actual sickness, but something that people would explain as laziness or disrespect to self.

The lady at the front desk called my name and had me right down some information on a clipboard.   When I finished, she lead me to the back and did some measurements. Then, she had me step on the scale. My cheeks flushed in embarrassment, but when I looked up, she just nodded to herself as she jotted down some information.

I was lead farther back, and sat down on an examination table to wait for the doctor.

“Good afternoon, Susan. I’m glad you could clear your schedule to be with us today.”

Oh yeah, I thought, I’ll have plenty of time on my hands now that I’m unemployed.

“Yeah.” I sighed sheepishly.  

He leaned over the back counter and sifted through some things before he looked back at me and frowned.

“Have you been doing the daily exercises we recommended for you?”  

“Yes sir, but they haven’t done a thing, in fact, I believe I’ve gotten worse.”    

“Let’s have a look.”  

He did some tests and walked me through some of the procedures.

After a while, he came back with a printed white sheet of paper.

“Susan, I’m afraid we have some bad news.”  He looked at me, then continued on. “We have discovered, that your obesity is not only caused by a genetic inheritance, but because of a serious disease called Cushing’s syndrome.  Your body is producing too much of a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol throws off the rest of the body’s systems. Though it’ll take some time for the symptoms to ease up, this disease is curable.”  

No wonder I’ve been fighting so hard. It’s not just laziness like everyone says, or that I don’t have any self respect, it’s because of something I can’t help.

People care too much about what they see, and not what they know.  The stereotypes of the eyes are stronger than we show.

The Separation of Billions

by Ava Kelly

Where I am, there is always a separation.  Whether it be gender, race, or something else, I will label you.  Because of me, you will think you are different. Maybe you will believe you are better than others, but most likely you will feel you are less than others.  I can ruin your reputation in a heartbeat, so be wary if you stray from the path I have made for you. I make it impossible for you to know others honestly. I steal opportunities by closing your mind to the idea that those different than you could be a best friend or soulmate.  Unknowingly and silently they pass each other in the hallway, no signs of recognition, never speaking to each other.

I have created the clique, an evil thing that makes it virtually impossible for different people to interact or become close.   I bring forth and motivate the bully and mob mentality. I break apart long-term friendships and relationships through lies, gossip, and inaccuracies.  I make people who refuse to submit to me outcasts and misfits in their schools, workplace, and even in their own homes.

Because of me, people will make assumptions about people they have never met.  They assume to know who a person is from rumors, without actually getting to know the person or even talk to them.  No one cares to know that the single mom is a volunteer at the orphanage every day and is loved by the children, so much, so she and her family foster them.  Because of me, people make up stories about individuals outside of their group, and people will never mingle with others and form any meaningful relationships with those considered to be below their group.  

I make it so people who have a lot of piercings and tattoos that they are unable to cover up cannot get a good job because people assume that they are troublemakers, alcoholics, druggies, and will scare people away.  They will never know that the man they are so afraid of lets children with cancer pick out tattoos for him to get. He wears the tattoos they picked out proudly to symbolize those who have survived and those who have lost their battle to cancer.  

I make it so people are too afraid of the delinquent to realize he is losing in an intense battle with depression and will soon add to the increasing suicide rate.  No one noticed or cared when he came to school. They never saw how truly drawn and weary he looked whenever the school bell rang, signaling school’s end. No one noticed the bruises, both new and old that increased in number over the academic year.  They never saw how his home life had taken a toll on his mental and physical health, and, because of me, no one noticed that he was being beaten up by his abusive, alcoholic of a father and that it was slowly killing him inside.

I can cause heartache, loneliness, and depression.  I can cause people to think they are not good enough, that they do not fit the mold they received or the mold that has been chosen for them by myself, their friends, or their family.  People have tried to break their mold but it usually backfires, and people stop trying to converse with them. Although I am a cause of depression and the skyrocketing suicide rates, still few try to stop me.  I am the reason some people think boys are better at sports than girls, blondes are unintelligent, unemployed people are lazy, or all Muslims are terrorists. I can cause wars to break out because people think their country or way of life is superior to every other.  

I increase the death rate through wars, self-destruction, killings, and more.  I can cause mental and physical harm to those who crave my approval. Some people feel the need of my acceptance and are willing to do anything to feel like they belong, not caring how unhappy it may make them.  I can be the voice in your head telling you to eat less, exercise more, buy the shoes, or not to let her sit at your table because you’ll never fit in. It’s likely that all of the people I’ve marked as outcasts and misfits will have an extremely tough time finding friends and will not only battle me but will also fight loneliness, sadness, isolation, and anger.  With no one helping them win the war, there is a high chance they will have to admit their defeat and succumb to the depression they had been fighting, or, in some cases, worse. If you have even a moment of weakness, I can influence and overpower you. When in my clutches you listen to me and obey me, there is barely a ghost of a chance you will be able to stop my mindset.

Although my power is mighty, people have slowly begun making dents in my armor, but there are still too few trying to make a change to truly damage me.  One day, maybe my reign of terror will be over, but that will be a long time off because I divide the people that need to assemble to defeat me. I am the stereotype.