Longboat Key Rotary essay winners

The Longboat Key Rotary Club awarded two $350 scholarship awards for each of 2 categories: one from students in grades 6 through 9, and one from students in grades 10 and higher. They also awarded two $100 Honorable Mention awards. The contest was limited to children and grandchildren of LBK’s Police and Fire personnel. The first essay was submitted by Shelby Fultz and is the $350 winner from grades 10 and higher. Shelby is a freshman finance student at the University of Florida and the daughter of Mark Fultz, who is lieutenant for the Longboat Key Fire Dept. The second essay also won $350 for the 6th – 9th grade category.  Conner Gohl is in 7th grade at Venice Middle School and is the son of Tina Adams, Fire/Rescue Liaison.

Purpose: Pith of a Photograph

By Shelby Fultz

Every spring my expanding exposure to multiple perspectives is as undeniable as my adoration for the arts. Students as young as 5 and as old as 18 are my main audience during art tours for the Embracing Our Differences (EOD) Art Exhibit. The exhibit features art focusing on diversity, illustrating the universal truth that we are all equal. It’s an organization that embodies the four principles of truth, fairness, good will, and friendship. Principles that my father taught me at a young age to personify in all that I do. I lead an open forum on the various pieces in the exhibit in which the kids in my tour groups are encouraged to share their opinions and experiences. If only I had a dollar for every insight spoken aloud that I hadn’t thought of before; I’d be able to pay for my college tuition. There are a suitable handful of enlightening exchanges I have experienced as a docent; however, one particularly stands out among the rest. With the help of the four principles that I know my dad uses daily, I made the decision to tell a despondent truth. A truth that would forever change my disposition on life and purpose.

During my junior year of high school, I was given the unique opportunity of serving on EOD’s Steering Committee. It was during these meetings, where I contributed to the process of choosing artwork for the exhibit, that I learned the significance of a particular piece. The artwork was a photograph of a young boy with the piercing eyes of despair. In the artist’s statement, it was brought to my attention that this poor, Brazilian child was homeless. The artist had traveled to the city of Sao Paulo to take pictures and had developed a friendship with this youngster, who thus became the subject of his work. Upon the artist’s return to his home in Kuwait, he received a letter. The little boy he had photographed, had been murdered in the early morning of January 15th, 2015.

After learning this, I began to question whether I should share this information with my young, 5th grade tour groups. Do I expose them to the cruelties of the world for these realities are the truth? Anyway, what good will and benefits could these students take away from such a disheartening story? These students are still so young and naive… That is where I was mistaken.

I ended up telling the 5th grade class about the boy. It was only fair that they knew. How could I hide the truth behind the picture when it gave the photo so much meaning? The mournful faces of those children after I shared that awful information with them, I will never forget. I’m sure I influenced their perspectives that day. They sure did influence mine as mournfulness turned to hope when one girl piped up that this boy was now in a better place. Hands shot up. Many pointed out how they are privileged to be given the opportunities they have, now realizing the privileges that others lack. How meaningful school, dinner, a cell phone, friends, Disney World all became in an instant. These 5th graders were nowhere close to naïve, their perspectives gave light to this sad boy’s story.

Any way you look at it, this boy’s life had purpose, a great purpose; he taught these children that while the world still has its dark spots, there was now a group of 5th graders who were aware and could make it their purpose to fill those spots with light. I made sure this opportunity was known to them. They have the tools, the education, the opportunity to make a difference in this world. All they need is just a little inspiration, a slight epiphany, some drive and they’re off on a great adventure to save the world.

At my current age so many students struggle to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives. I’ve recently discovered however, that this is a universal issue among all ages and quite simply isn’t truly an issue at all. My current perspective, thanks to the boy in the photo, is now this, I believe that every life has a purpose whether it is known to you or not. An unfortunate event may be the precondition of one’s higher purpose. We as individuals thus need to be optimistic when faced with situations of absolute despair as it is destiny carrying out the essential steps in achieving our ultimate reason for existence. I think about this when I think of my father and his career as a firefighter. The calls he responds to that don’t have happy endings. How does one go to work and experience and see all that he does? I asked him one evening. He inspires hope in all those suffering and they inspire him right back. The ones that are going through the worst of times, but do something as simple as saying thank you and smiling. The small sign of hope in a detrimental time, gives my father purpose in his daily work life.

I don’t regret for a second telling those 5th graders the truth behind the photo. By sharing that boy’s story, I carried out the 4 principles my dad uses every day. I told the truth, because it was only fair to those students to know the real story behind the photo. And while I didn’t know what exactly would come about it, I hoped it would spark a conversation that would build connection among the students. The truth sparked a conversation that brought much more than being simply described as something beneficial. This conversation among the 5th graders brought goodwill, friendship, inspiration, and purpose.

I hope to travel to Brazil one day and meet the homeless children that live in its streets. Maybe, one of those 5th graders will find purpose in devoting their lives to providing for children with less and will find that the slight moment of sadness experienced in 5th grade will lead them to the streets of Brazil for some greater journey. Who knows? Life leads us all down different paths, for some it’s a path of a firefighter, for others it’s still unknown. However, if one sticks to principles of honesty and good will, no matter what the path, one will find purpose. Don’t seek purpose for purpose seeks you.


Teens, Drugs and Ethical Choices

By Conner Gohl

In today’s society, kids my age are being asked questions critical to their future about drugs and alcohol.  Depending on how you answer and react, is how your future will turn out.  Have you ever tried drugs or alcohol?  If you haven’t, try the following four questions to make the right decision when the time comes.  One, is it the truth?  Two, is it fair to all concerned?  Three, will it build goodwill and better friendships?  Four, will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Teens die every day from drugs and alcohol.  “Alcohol and drug abuse is a leading cause of teen death or injury related to car crashes, suicides, violence, and drowning.” Stated from Teen alcohol and drug abuse.  When asked about drugs and alcohol, if a teen makes the wrong decision, the end result could be one or more of these consequences.  When faced with the decision to do drugs and alcohol, it is the truth that if you make the wrong decision, it could be a bad end result.

“Parents fall out with each other over how to handle the situation, while other sons or daughters can get blamed for being a bad example.”  Stated from Drugs.ie.  If a teen takes drugs, it will affect their family and friends which is not fair.  Some disadvantages you put on yourself and them is they cant count on you to do something responsible, they may not trust you, it is harder for you to find a job, and you may get blamed for something you didn’t do.

If you think drugs will bring you goodwill and better friendships, think again. “Some things your friends will tell you if you do drugs is, you shouldn’t hang around us, and drugs will kill you.”  Stated from Promises.  If you do drugs, it will ruin your friendships, and relationships with your family.

If you think doing drugs helps you and your family, read these disadvantages.  “They can’t count on what you say or do, you might steal their money or car, and they might get fired from their job.”  Stated from Easy to Read Drug Facts. If you do drugs, not only will it affect your family, but it will also affect your future, job, and friends.

In conclusion, when faced with a critical question, save yourself some stress and ask yourself these four questions.  Is it the truth?  Is it fair to all concerned?  Will it be goodwill and better friendships?  Will it be beneficial to all concerned?  You will surely thank yourself for doing it.

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