Abigail Shillings finds a lot of meaning in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late,” the 19th century poet once said.
Emerson’s advice became the focus of Shillings’ essay for the annual Character Counts! in Montgomery County Foundations for Life Essay Contest, which she entered shortly after her mother, Melissa, died from a motorcycle crash last summer.
Shillings, 17, a senior at North Montgomery High School, was named overall high school winner of the contest during an awards ceremony Thursday at Crawfordsville High School.
Students in third through 12th grades county-wide took home monetary prizes for the top essays putting a personal touch on musings from notable literary, political and religious leaders.
“Accordingly, these young writers are the best of the best from throughout our county,” said Mike Raters, a Character Counts! board of directors member.
Character Counts! received entries from local schools last fall. Once judges read the essay, board members picked the winners.
Shillings’ story dealing with the loss of her mother stuck out to the board. Melissa Shillings died in July after a minivan struck the motorcycle she was riding on in Lafayette.
Her husband, Kris, the motorcycle’s driver, was hospitalized for more than a month with injuries from the crash.
While Kris was in the hospital, Abigail stayed with grandparents before moving to an aunt and uncle’s.
“Going to school was really hard because I didn’t want to get out of bed, but I had to,” she said. “I had to continue my education.”
After graduation, Abigail plans to become a nurse, following the footsteps of her mother and other relatives. She will study at St. Elizabeth School of Nursing in Lafayette.
Awards were also given to overall winners from the elementary and middle schools.
Walnut Elementary fifth grader Lucas Oppy based his essay on a quote from the Rev. Jesse Jackson: “Never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up.”
Lucas once watched when schoolmates laughed at a child who fell on the playground, but has also seen teachers go the extra mile for their students.
“I’ve seen teachers help students get better grades,” said Lucas, 11.
Courtney Engels, an eighth grader at Northridge Middle School, explored the thoughts of former President Theodore Roosevelt.
The Rough Rider once said, “To educate a mind in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.”
Engels, 14, thought of Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who performed medical experiments on twin children at Auschwitz during World War II.
“It all could have been avoided if he had some morality,” she said.
A complete list of essay winners includes:
Chang Kuai Yeung
Sugar Creek Elementary
New Market Elementary
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We are pleased to announce the 2016 Sigma Sigma Sigma Character Essay Winners. Tri Sigma is the only national student member organization conducting CHARACTER COUNTS at all their campus locations having trained local leaders on the program. We are very proud of our partnership with this amazing group of women.
2016 Essay Contest Winners
|1st Place – Maggie Squyer|
|“What does it mean to be compassionate and how will compassion change the world? As a little girl, I remember gathering in the guidance counselor’s office at my elementary school for our monthly Student Council meetings and studying the colorful poster on the wall that stated The Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. At the beginning of each meeting we would chant “TRRFCC! That’s what character means to me!” but as an eleven-year-old, I don’t think I knew much about compassion, let alone what the word even meant. In the fall of 2006, that changed.” Read more…|
2016 Alumnae Essay Contest Winners
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