2011 Martin Luther King, Jr. Essays

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What is your dream for a Beloved Community? Since 2003, over 2200 local students have been challenged to examine the legacy of Dr. King in their lives, and their role in social justice. This year, students between 4th and 12th grades presented their thoughts about their dream for the beloved community, and what they can do to bring it about. Students where asked to describe a problem in their community that needs to be fixed for their dream to become a reality. Here is what they had to say:

Harald Adams, Grade 7, Urbana M.S., Searing
There are many other reasons that someone might bully someone. But most of the time, the bully has insecurities themselves and most likely they just need a friend or someone to talk to. ..Most of the time the bully needs just as much help as the victim if not more.

Sami Al-chaar, Grade 8, Jefferson MS, Ms. Baird
It is easy to think of bullies as bad people, but usually they are often deeply insecure.

Emmy Alameda, Grade 8, Campus Middle School, Mrs. Nolen
Is there a rule out there saying that these minorities can’t have well paying jobs? That the majority of nice new houses go to the whites? I never understood why the laborer who spends hours vacuuming and cleaning or waiting at a cashier station gets paid less than someone who sits on a chair all day at an office and barks orders at people.

Henry Ando, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Mr. Rummenie
My dream for the beloved community is that nobody, young, old, or somewhere in-between, ever has any reason to commit crime.

Elizabeth Atkinson, Yankee Ridge Elementary, Grade 5, Mr. Smith
If I was asked, “What is a problem in our society?” perhaps, for an answer, you might expect homelessness, or the economy, or maybe even homework. But I would simply smile and nod for all your suggestions, and when you were done, I would voice my opinion. Apathy. Not trying. Doing the bare minimum. Sure, you could get through school that way. Not great grades, but yeah, you could. But you probably wouldn’t get that job you wanted. Or your second choice. Or third. Or seventeenth. You could survive. But think about the big picture. No great novels would be written. No diseases cured. No important pictures. See what I mean?
The cause of this problem is simple. Kids do not understand the importance of education. In some places, education is rare and a luxury. In others, even knowing how to read is rare.
(Note: As you read the following sentence, please imagine a drum roll. Thank you.)
And now—the moment you’ve all been waiting for—How to prevent it. (or at least make it a rarity.) One way is for the parents to be involved with the school. Also it would probably help if the parents helped the kids with homework. Another thing would be simply the student having responsibility for his or her own learning, as my teacher puts it.
My dream is a community where everyone tries hard and succeeds, and where education isn’t thrown away like an old sock. Apathy is a problem that must be approached if this dream is to become a reality.

Quillin Bakker, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Mr. Rummenie
One organization in my community takes place at my church, New Covenant Fellowship” in downtown Champaign, called the “Daily Bread Soup Kitchen.” This organization makes hot food for lunch and sends sack lunches home for dinner. Anyone who comes in during the week Monday through Friday from 11:00 to 12:30 is eligible.

Lauren Barnhart, Grade 8, Jefferson Middle School, Ms. Baird
. . . Middle school can be a scary place as it is; school bullying, teenagers dealing with hormones, and so on. Now imagine middle school as a kid who has problems socially. You are subject to bullying because you act different, nobody understands you, and on top of all that, you can’t help it. You are scared. For some kids, this is the horrific reality. The sad thing about it is, people don’t care. In my school, I have witnessed people finding amusement from these kids; being “nice” to them just to get a laugh. Kids who are socially challenged often can’t deal with these issues on their own. People just don’t know what to think or how to react to this unique group of people, and this in itself is a huge weakness in my middle school community.
I recently worked with kids who have a variety of social issues. I spent the afternoon playing games with these kids. Honestly, it touched my heart. I didn’t spend more than an hour and a half helping out, but even after the quick 90 minutes, I could see that if you just look beyond each social disorder, you can see that each individual has their own unique personality that shines through; just like everyone who doesn’t have a social issue. Underneath it all, we are all just human beings with our own separate personalities. In some people you just have to look a little deeper to find it. Working with the kids made me want to change something. It made me want to find a solution to the problem that hangs above my middle school, and also, my community.

Amira Barre, Grade 08, Jefferson MS, Baird
My mother always told me that my tongue is a sword, which means I could really hurt other people by what I say.

Uma Basole, Grade 4, Stratton, Ms. Newman
Books lead to wisdom, wisdom leads to knowledge, and knowledge is power. Smart children leads to smarter communities, smarter communities lead to smarter cities. Smarter cities lead to smarter states and smarter states lead to a smarter nation.

Paul Berlocher, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Mr. Rummenie
In a beloved community there would be peace. There would be helpfulness. And a sense of brotherhood. These things may only be achieved at a personal level. Each person must chose to do all this on their own.

Destiny Burden, Grade 5, BTW, Ms. Middleton
This is really important you talk to your children before they grow up about the responsibility there is about being a parent.

Jared Busby, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Mr. Rummenie
Bullying has changed everyone over the years and in some instances has caused people to kill themselves. My dream is a community where bullying has not been heard of or practiced and will stay that way for a long time to come.
Bullying has a history behind it. Most bullies actually feel insecure about themselves and their social status. This drives them to make others feel worse than the bullies themselves. In recent years bullying has spread just from face to face encounters to the Internet, where bullies can hackle and cause distress to their victim any given moment of the day. Cyber bullies have even caused people to kill themselves.
The way I think we can stop bullying is through team work. Instead of just helping the victims, we should be finding and shutting down the bullies themselves. We are a community and if we work as one we can stop bullying. Stop bullying in its tracks THEN ensure it will not come again. Some precautions to take would be to work on identifying the bullies before they start to move on to bigger things, as well as to look for people that are victims before they become the bullies themselves. You also need to be able to protect yourself and ignore bullies because if you can make it so they have no reason to mess with you. I have found out the hard way that you cannot try to confront a bully because they will actually come after you.

Sarah Cameron, Grade 5, Wiley, Ms. Richards
Remember that bullying hurts the victim, but it also hurts the bully.

Merced Celis, Grade 8, Jefferson, Ms. Baird
Here in America we never think about the war. Many kids don’t think about the war that is going on against Afghanistan. They don’t know that somewhere out there, kids our age are outside running away from bombs, not knowing what they did to deserve it.

Curtis Chung, Grade 5, Wiley Elementary School, Ms. Cortright
A problem of my community, perhaps even the world, is pollution. A few years back, my mother took me back to her hometown in Southern Vietnam. The neighborhood was severely polluted. The ground was covered in litter, people wore crude masks to cope with the smoke and sulfurous smell and the water in little streams smelled terrible and could easily be mistaken as black ink. (YEEUK) After that horrific experience, I studied pollution and ways to prevent it. Sometimes you may read or hear about pollution. But there’s a lot of pollution you don’t know about.
Toxic waste is a huge factor in land pollution. Back then, one way to dispose of toxic waste was to put it in a metal container and have it buried. But, after a while, the containers would leak. The toxic waste would get into the soil and ground water. People in the contaminated area became sick and had to move away.
Air pollution: Most living things on earth need air. You need oxygen contained in the air to survive. But some of the air you breathe can have harmful substances in it.
You could probably prevent air pollution by car-pooling, going on the bus or not using a vehicle at all.
Water pollution: You might think, “Oceans are huge! We have plenty of water, right?” Guess again. Only 3% is fresh water. The rest is contaminated with salt. Out of this 3%, less than 1% is available. That’s why we must keep water clean. Dumping waste into clean water is called water pollution. Water can be polluted by many things like run off from soil, industrial waste and sewage.
My dream is to have a clean community. So next time, bike to your next destination, have a carpool, don’t litter and don’t throw stuff in a nearby lake. We could make a huge difference.

Esther Chung, Grade 4, Barkstall, Ms. Palmer
My perfect community is when the planet is clean and the birds are singing and everybody is happy. But that won’t happen if people keep on littering.

Jny Cockrell, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Mr. Rummenie
My dream for my community and America is that all types of prejudice would end. I believe what causes this problem is the respect shown towards certain people that is not shown to every body.

Ayanna Cowart, Grade 5, Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Ms. Middleton
I think a solution for preventing hate crimes and racism we should create a youth and leadership program for all ages.

Brianna Coulter, Grade 8, Campus MS, Ms. Nolen
Discrimination is keeping us from becoming a beloved community. Because discrimination makes us look at anyone who isn’t us and cringe away. Discrimination also makes us look in the mirror and hate ourselves.

Prithvi Dharmaraj, Grade 4, Booker T. Washington, Mrs. Mayer
You want to stop pollution? Well you can help stop pollution NOW! How? We can protest. Another thing is that littering is a problem of pollution. We can get more litter patrol in the park to get rid of littering. Also we could get more trashcans so litterbugs can throw away trash not litter.

Blakd Donaldson, Grade 11, UHS, Mrs. Hogan-Chan
No student should have a learning disadvantage because of minimal access to technology.

Aly Dorner, Barkstall, Grade 4, Ms. Palmer
You are outside on the community basket ball court when some one comes up behind you and starts yelling at you and calling you names. A crowd is starting to form, and then he starts punching you and kicking you. Everyone is cheering, “Loser, fight back, Blackie!” You are crying and whimpering with pain. That is racism and it needs to stop.
Racism is terrible. Sometimes people aren’t treated fairly because of their skin color and they get beat up and get called names. And some people don’t even get jobs because their skin type. A long time ago racism was worse, African Americans weren’t allowed in restaurants and they had to use a different drinking fountain. They had to sit on the back of the bus, and sometimes they couldn’t go to school all because of their skin color. But nowadays things are better, but sometimes African Americans are still treated unfairly. Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.
If people aren’t safe, that ruins a perfect community. A perfect community is where people are safe and happy. They are treated fairly and no one gets hurt. But racism keeps my dreams from happening. The way we can help stop it is to treat everyone fairly and keep everyone safe.

Ellesse Dorsey, Grade 5, BTW, Ms. Middleton
A lot of parents should also be more involved in their children’s life.

Daniel Driscoll, Grade 7. Urbana Middle School, Mr. Rummenie
Another thing we should have is a bullet train. Almost every other major country has one like Japan, England, Belgium, and Germany.

Mikhayla Eveland, Grade 11, UHS, Mrs. Hogan-Chan
Many families suffer due to the recession. When the economy began to go downhill, many companies were forced to lay off a certain number of workers which meant no incomes for some people.

Hunter Fitzwater, Grade 4, Barkstall, Palmer
My dream of a perfect community is kids playing safely on the sidewalk, animals freely roaming the forest, flowers blooming in the parks, fresh air, and clean water to drink. Pollution stops my dream from happening because it hurts animals and destroys their habitats. It also poisons the water and intoxicates the air.

Vanessa Frazier, Grade 5, Booker T. Washington, Ms. Middleton
My beloved community of Champaign Urbana has a problem. Many kids, teenagers even grown ups are fighting. Violence is really messing up our community, because shooting can go through people windows and hurt them and kill them. It can hurt children more than anything that’s not fair. Many people I know have been out there fighting in my local community; it is really messing up and tearing apart black on black crimes. Hate we shouldn’t fight we should leave it alone it’s not worth losing your life over a fight. Adults and teenagers are influencing kids to fight telling kids it’s okay to fight.
We should have more people to persuade them not to fight teenagers and adults not to fight. We should do more community service about fighting is not right. Stop all that that hate we should just get together and tell teenagers, adults fighting isn’t right you are setting a bad example for us kids. Having more community service would really help people stop fighting. It would really hurt relatives to hear or see that one of their family members got shot or hurt. Bad things really happen to people always fight it would really help mothers and relatives not to cry and be hurt if their kids don’t fight. We should have a new law that says if you fight you have to do 40 hours of community service.

Zelda Galewsky, Grade 11, UHS, Mrs. Hogan-Chan
If a plan of action is not taken soon, the country will continue to head down the slippery slope of obesity and vulnerability towards diet-related diseases.

Immanuel Han, Grade 8, University High School
. . . If I were to state such a problem, I would tell the reader that it is people out on the streets with no homes, no family, and no love. Everywhere I go, there are so many people out there that wander the streets of our community. They have no destination; no purpose. I believe that the saddest thing to witness is people who have no purpose in a place except for to worry about the next day.
My solution that I present to you is change. We, ourselves, must change our views of those who need help. We need to break our prejudices of these people who need our help. No one else is going to build homeless shelters for us. No one else is going to feed our own community’s people for us. No one else is going to want to solve our problems for us. I know that it is only then when we can even begin to consider giving spare change or offering people an extra sandwich. Change is the first step we, as a community, must take to try to tackle this problem.
To do this, I believe that the first thing that needs to be done is altering our views of the people in streets. We first need to break the prejudices we have of these people. These people may have all kinds of reasons of becoming that way. But I believe in a second chance.

Mariah Gonzalez, Circle Academy, 12th grade, Ms. Miller
Many people in my life have said: “It takes an entire village to raise a child.” Love and acceptance should be all around to everyone in a community from children to the elderly. If everyone loved one another, everyone would feel the social need of belonging and would work alongside his or her fellow citizens to achieve victory. If one individual felt like he or she was understood and accepted, imagine what that person would achieve to help their community.
Accomplishing love and acceptance in a community may take time though. Throughout human history war and bloodshed have been prevalent around the world due to hatred and discrimination. It is hard to change the habits that we have known for several centuries.
Many things can occur to help achieve love and acceptance in a community. For real change to happen though, people must come to the realization that change must happen within them. Every human must discover that despite their differences with others, that every person has potential. Current programs that are going on now, such as gay-straight alliances in high schools and colleges, disability awareness groups, and anti-bullying movements in schools across America, will hopefully cause people to come to a realization of others’ worth and to love and accept.

Sophie Hannauer, Grade 08, Jefferson MS, Baird
Even if you don’t do the actual bullying yourself, you may not be helping the situation. Every time you see someone being bullied, think about this phrase: “he who allows evil commits evil.” Always stand up for a person being bullied, even if you don’t know them. You will feel better if you do.

Damion Harderson, Grade 12, UHS
Books have an amazing way of transforming us from individual thinkers to worldly humanitarians, eager to erase evil for the greater good.

Karen Hernandez, Grade 7, UMS, Mr. Searing
This problem can be solved by starting to accept each other, and thinking we are all equal to each other, no matter what’s your language, race or from where in the world you are from.

Rylee Hinton, Grade 4, Barkstall, Ms. Palmer
Animal cruelty is not only bad for the animals but it’s bad for you. Because you can go to jail for multiple years for abusing animals. When you start out just by hitting animals it can lead to more serious cruelty such as dog fighting.

Jake Hogan, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Mr. Rummenie
STOP THE WARS! MAKE WORLD PEACE!!!!!!!! That is my ultimate dream.

Alice Hu, Grade 8, Uni High, Rayburn
Our teachers are not getting paid enough. They do much more beyond the call of duty, something the community should be thankful for.

Rachel Hurt, Grade 4, Barkstall, Mrs. Palmer
Gun violence is a choice between life and death, and guess, what, guns do not have a choice because they are just DEATH. And who would want that. Gun violence is my worst nightmare and can be your worst dream. We should all use our voices not bad actions to stop gun violence.

Briesha Jackson, Grade 12, Centennial, Mr. Maroon
Another reason why I think students are racist is because the teachers and adults with authority do not do anything about it. When some people hear racists remarks, they don’t do anything to stop the issue.

Ryan Johnson, Grade 04, Barkstall, Ms. Cecava
In my beloved community there are no guns or fights

Jacob Jones, Grade 8, Jefferson MS, Ms. Baird
Instead of trying to stop it immediately with harsh punishment we need to find out what the bullies are bulling people and see if we can help.

Binh Le, Grade 4, Barkstall, Mrs. Palmer
Don’t you want to have a clean place to live? If you do, then help to stop pollution. There are many things you can do to stop pollution. You can walk instead of driving.

Cherrin Lee, Grade 4, Barkstall, Mrs. Palmer
You have always though war was a game, but now you see it’s a bloody event, a battle for survival. You scream for help as people around you slowly thin out as they beg for mercy but their pleas fall on deaf ears. War is merciless.

David Lee, Grade 7, Urbana M.S., Mr. Rummenie
My dream is that no one will feel left out, threatened or discriminated because of their race.

Dominique Lewis, Grade 8, Jefferson M.S., Ms. Parmer
A positive example in my life is a lady who offers cooking classes for kids; while she helps us cook she talks to us about college, and how to succeed in our lives. She also shares with us obstacles we must overcome-like peer pressure.

Laura Litchfield, Central High School, 10th grade
Dear Unit 7 School District,
I am writing on behalf of my experiences in your schools. I would like to talk of some racial issues that I endured during my seven years of attending your schools. I am writing this letter because previous attempts to explain and express myself seemed to go unnoticed.
Elementary school was a definite struggle for me. I was insecure and not sure of my identity. I had some learning challenges and since I am half black that was double trouble for me. Also, my classes and the staff were all white, with the exception of my 5th grade class. Even before I knew it, I was breaking barriers. My way of overpowering not so obvious racial issues was to act out in class. When I felt embarrassed, angry, or just confused, I hid under my desk or did some random actions that would send teachers up the wall. One time I was sent to the office and I wouldn’t talk. I was also sent to the conference room and went under the table. My Mom was often called in to deal with me.
Instead of asking why, I’m going to tell you how I felt from the bottom of my heart. Now that I look back I can say that I was hurt. Hurt by the hidden racism that’d been unnoticed for so long. Hurt that my racial identity wasn’t recognized and affirmed. Hurt that learning about black history or why it’s so important to learn about cultures other than white wasn’t emphasized. Hurt that I had to constantly wonder about racial issues. Hurt that you worked into my head that race doesn’t need to matter. But, I can’t go back in time. That’s why I have a dream.
I have a dream that ALL schools can be racially accepting and understanding. I have a dream that schools are fun and safe learning environments for all students no matter what age, color, or how fast they can solve math problems.
I can’t make you change. I can only tell you how I felt and what can be done to help. Here are some ideas:
1. Hire people of color.
2. Bring guest speakers in to classes who can teach about different cultures and backgrounds.
3. Be sure to have more than white people put up on the walls.
4. Do more with Black History Month and more throughout all of American history. There is no law saying that black history month actually expires after a month. Feel free to catch up with the rest of society.
5. Have clubs that help students learn more about different cultures.
6. Listen to what students of color have to say. Build relationships with all students.
7. Recognize what racism is. Understand white privilege.
8. Know that racism is wrong. Know how racism hurts. And get over it. And, I think ALL of these ideas would help ALL of your students.

Dominique Luckett, Grade 8, Jefferson Middle School, Ms. Baird
My dream is to make an organization called To Make a Difference…We will take anyone because there are no bad people, just people who make good choices and bad choices, and if you make good choices then you are on the road to success.

Lisset Macedo, Grade 5, BTW, Ms. Middleton
Sometimes parents feel ashamed because they can’t help their kids and they feel like they should have gone to university to help their kids.

Trisha Mallare, Grade 5, Barkstall, Foersch
Many who are bullied lose confidence. They become isolated and unhappy.

Austin Maltbia, Grade 8, Jefferson, Ms. Baird
Violence is a big problem in my community. There are gangs, egos, and a lot of just troubled kids. These things all lead to kids doing violent acts.
Most people think these kids are just the bad kids. They have no hope to be successful in life. Well, those people are wrong. These kids could be successful. All they need is a little support (or maybe a lot). What I would like to do is start a comfort group for kids in my community. This comfort group is just a place where kids can vent out their feelings and have someone to listen to them. I think this comfort group could help kids understand that their not the only ones with this problem. I think this would make kids less angry at the world, and happier with their own life. This comfort group will have volunteer adults so they can know even adults care about them. This comfort group could give kids the support and care they need to concentrate on school and in the long run, help them get into college and get a job. The first thing I thought about when I was thinking about this group was “How am I going to get kids to vent out to a 13 year old kid?” Then, I thought about it. I thought, “If a kid really wants that much support, they’ll vent out to me anyway.

Breanna McCaslin, Grade 4, Barkstall, Ms. Palmer
Child abuse is a generational process. It gets taught down and down from generations. We need to stop child abuse.

Connor Meade, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Searing
Some administrators thought that if recess was taken away, and replaced it with study time, students would get better grades on tests…What they didn’t know was that they would be overloading the brains of children and making them learn less, which might be surprising.

Lontashia Meads, Grade 5, BTW, Ms. Middleton
Then when you have problems paying bills you wish you could go back to being a regular teenager again.

Omeed Miraftab-Salo, Grade 5, Booker T. Washington Elementary, Mrs. Mayer
Thousands of people are hurt and exploited because of a system of classifying people into unfair racial categories. This system unjustly regards of European descent as “better,” than blacks and Latinos everyday. Sadly, this happens in every community and is affecting ours too. I believe our community can become one of the few who are fighting against it.
Step 1, as the public we need to raise awareness about racism. Everyday many people are hurt and abused simply because of their race. Their lives are deeply affected by this whether it’s in school, work, or in their neighborhood. Our residents need to talk and alert people to the fact that this is happening in our society. Many people don’t know that there still is prejudice in their district!
Step 2, as a group we can speak out. If people don’t know how this is wrong, they can’t react to it. . . . This year I went to Detroit, Michigan to the 2nd annual U.S. Social Forum. It showed me how much we can achieve by coming together to fight. One of the workshops in the Social Forum took some of the racist all-white neighborhoods in the city and rented out houses. Then, they gave them to mixed and black families. Two months later, many people’s views in that neighborhood changed for the good. This method not only costs next-to nothing. But also, it is a lot more efficient in getting large groups of people to come together and fight injustice compared to other ways.
Step 3, help and encourage those who are guilty to stop. Instead, forgive them and help them to cease to continue doing it. We must not shout and accuse them of prejudice, and simply acknowledge it and go on. Also, we must HELP them change their selves for the better. It is our job to encourage and change and support people who are making this change of character.

Tara Moazemi, Grade 4, Barkstall, Mrs. Cecava
Does every kid in your community have a good education? In my dream community everybody has a good education. You can help every school give every kid in the school a good education by giving the school educational books that the kids can use in class.

Miyah Morris, Grade 08, Jefferson MS, Baird
Something that I can do to try and make a difference in my community would be to, go through all the things that I think are negative and actually go out and make them positive. In the morning or even when I’m walking, and I come across someone, I will speak.

Elena Newmark, Grade 10, Urbana High School, Ms. Dahlke
Since I was little, I have loved food; I have also been lucky enough to be able to eat amazing food. I have been blessed to have access to the Urbana Farmer’s Market, and the wonderful community of farmers and vegetables that come together every Saturday morning. But sadly, not everyone in Champaign-Urbana has access to such rich food, or can afford the ingredients required to make good food. One place that everyone aged 5 to 17 has access to, is the public school lunchroom. But public school lunchrooms have a bad (and well-earned) reputation for horrible food. The disgusting food served in school lunchrooms is a major problem because unhealthy school lunches are a major factor in the pandemic of childhood obesity. For schools trying to promote healthy lifestyles, the food that they are serving undermines what they are trying to teach.
Why do schools serve these unhealthy and disgusting lunches? Many of the reasons are cost and resources. Processed and packaged foods are much cheaper than buying raw ingredients; not only because they cost less to buy, but because they are cheaper to prepare. In Illinois, in the Midwest United States, there are hundreds of farms and farmers looking for business, and the schools in Champaign-Urbana could have local farms provide the meat and vegetables for their lunch program. The Farm to School program is a program that connects schools up with local and regional farms that will then provide the schools with fresh food for their lunches. It is a competitive grant program that is funded by the federal government with support from the USDA.
If our community decides to take these vital steps, not only will it help stop the growing problem of childhood obesity, but it will teach a generation of kids how to eat healthily and stay healthy throughout their lives.

Paula Norato, Grade 8, Campus Middle School, Mrs. Nolen
What is freedom? To you it is a little, But to me it is everything, To me, It’s a Real life, It means I can be myself, To quit pretending to be someone else. I came here to work with you, And I end up working for you. All I wanted was freedom…We had heard of the USA. How it was full of different Opportunities. A lot of Possibilities. But instead we got blame. Do you even know what equal is? That’s all we want To be Equal.

Cynthia Nyemitei, Grade 10, Centennial High School, Mr. Maroon
I dream of a society where teenage pregnancy and single parenthood isn’t a norm.
Teenage pregnancy has become a major problem in our society. It is very important to recognize the factors influencing teen pregnancies. Family structure plays a very important role in an adolescent’s life. Most teenagers live under unstable family situations which may at times lead to lack of love and affection, causing teens to seek for external love and warmth.
Another factor is coming from a broken home. Teenagers who come from broken families often feel rejected. They get torn between going back and forth to please one parent or the other.
Sexual abuse and rape could also be a possible factor influencing teen pregnancies. Teenagers, especially females who fall victim to sexual abuse feel worthless and have low self esteem. They begin to have a different mindset of sexual behavior, which makes them oblivious to the dangers of having unprotected sex with various partners. Adolescents who were born to teen mothers are more likely to have a baby in their teens. It is very difficult to break the cycle of teen pregnancy in a particular family.
I have a dream, a dream of a society where teen pregnancy is very rare. This dream of mine cannot be realized without each and everyone’s dedication. Please help me pass this message on to a friend. If you are a mother how much does your daughter know you care? If you are a father how much love do you show your daughter? Does she know how much you care about her future? Maybe yes, but what if NO! Then she probably might be on the journey of becoming a statistic.

Anwen Parrott, Grade 11, UHS, Mrs. Hogan-Chan
Eating disorders in young women, often caused by the unrealistic standard of beauty created by the media, has an enormous and widespread impact on our nation’s youth.

Michaela Patton, Chikako Barnes, Victoria Kindratenko, Grade 4, Stratton, Ms. Newman
If you know someone that smokes try not to breath in the smoke because it will damage your lungs and it’s bad for you. My friend’s grandma died because she breathed in someone else’s smokey air. That is why you shouldn’t smoke. SO DON’T SMOKE IT’S NOT A JOKE!

Brianna Pierson, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Searing
Last year in 2009,we used enough bottled water that can stretch the earth three times.

Kathy Qiu, Grade 11, University High School, Ms. Majerus
Child abuse and neglect has become a national epidemic. Many people have the misconception that only violent and “evil” people commit child abuse. On the contrary, most instances are actually caused by people who are unable to cope with their tempers in a time of crisis. Such crises often involve drug and alcohol problems, the stresses of child care, financial difficulties, and past experiences.
Methods to help prevent child maltreatment can be as simple as befriending a parent or child, and talking to neighbors about looking out for each other’s children. Such friendly actions demonstrate understanding, care, and involvement. These elements all help to build a safer, more compassionate neighborhood.

Annie Rong, Grade 11, University High School, Ms. Majerus
When we first moved into our present house, my dad took a painstaking liking to weeding. He woke up every morning before dawn to bend down on our front lawn and pluck. One, two, three; one, two, three. These weeds were the kinds lawnmowers could not reach and only my dad’s probing hands could cause their demise. . . .
One day, our doorbell rang. It was a surprise for us all since we had no acquaintances and expected no one. Eventually my dad opened the door while my mother and I peered against the windows. Our guest was an elderly man who carried a long stick with him. He and my father had a short exchange and the stranger gently handed the stick to my father before leaving with a wave.
The stick turned out to be an efficient and timesaving implement for weeding, it was designed so the user would not have to bend his back and reach for difficult places. My father, who had been complaining of back pains for several days now, was ecstatic at this gift. He went on his weeding rages with more enthusiasm than ever. This small gift, simple and perhaps strange it may seem, carried with it a significance that I’ve never though about before. It was an act of respect, a respect that grew between strangers without words, yet it was as real as one between best friends.
Coming down to it all, I believe that respect is the foundation for an ideal community. Should respect become the foundation of our community, no longer will the color of our skin or the background of our parents determine how others view us; rather, it will be our conduct and choices that speak for us.
Secondly, respect is something without borders. It is something that even the most distant strangers can share and it creates a bond so strong that it is almost unbelievable. Like a smile, it is something that everyone can understand and appreciate. Let respect become the core of our beloved community and we will create one that can cover the entire world.

Shoentera Russell, Grade 5, Kenwood, Ms. Rome
People don’t have to be any kind of police or FBI or anything else, but regular people can help out if we just put our minds to it. Then we can say, just like President Obama: “Yes we can.” People in the community can gather around and try to think of ideas of what we can do to help. This is why regular people don’t have to be police to help out in our community.

Kathryn Schwartz, Grade 7, Urbana M.S., Mr. Rummenie
If only we could look at the actions we make and see how they affect others. That would be the greatest lesson.

John Seyler, Grade 11, UHS, Mrs. Hogan-Chan
In the long run, being on the wrong side of the digital divide can affect a person’s future.

Marina Shah, Grade 11, Uni High, Ms. Majerus
If we as a community really care about all our fellow citizens, we should be spending money on rehabilitation programs and education to help people, rather than prisons simply to punish. Prisons succeed only in creating further problems for society.

Aaranya Shanbhag, Grade 4, Barkstall, Palmer
When I see someone bullied, I can speak up,
“This is not right!”

>Erin Sheahan, Grade 08 Jefferson MS, Baird
But then, shining through the night
Came a righteous glowing light
That covered over all its’ plight
And cast a glint among the dim
For deep inside the lily knew
That the end to all the sadness
All the hatred, all the madness
To bring light throught the darkness
That it must begin with you.

Elizabeth Singe, Grade 5, Next Generation School, Kerner & Feser
Even though we think reading is no big deal, learning to read is one of the most important things in a child’s learning process.

Kirsten Slaughter, Grade 11, Urbana High School, Mrs. Hogan-Chan
Many kids in our communities are growing up without any fresh fruits or vegetables. Buying fresh local produce is unfortunately becoming too expensive for some families to buy. A solution to this problem is simple—involve the entire community in raising fresh local fruits and vegetables.

Nick Smith, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Mr. Rummenie
People need to walk or bike instead of taking their car so that people are not polluting the air we breathe.

Sarah Stelzer, Grade 4, Leal, Huff
The environment is the community of the world.

Mohammad Sweid, Grade 4, Stratton, Ms. Newman
The thing that creates littering is when people are lazy to throw it in the trash so they throw it on the ground. If people stop throwing trash on the ground and throw it in the trash can they will make the world a better place for animals and for you and me.

Lincoln Taylor, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Mr. Rummenie
It’s up to the people of America. Stop smoking, stop littering, use more eco-friendly factories, use solar energy.

Josh Thompson, Grade 04, Barkstall,Ms. Cecava
Do you know what I’m going to do about it? All the bullies are going to go to anger management schools so that way they con’t beat up each other.

Jazmin Tweedle, Grade 7, Campus Middle School, Ms. Giermak
In my community of Urbana, the one problem that keeps recurring is the ridiculous amount of trash and littering. How can anyone ignore it?
One of the solutions I propose is to have a committee go around and start picking up trash. This is something my school members and I could accomplish, because it’s not that difficult to do.
Lastly, we could try to raise awareness about the problems that trash can cause to our environment. This is also possible for me to do, since I’ll be learning about programming and making websites soon in school. I can direct people to the website that I created, and they can read about all they can do to help with this extreme problem, and what happens when we litter. This could be a great project, being a fun way to raise awareness.

Asia Monique Wallace, Grade 4, Barkstall, Ms. Palmer
We can do this. Make this world a better place.

Desitesse Warren, Grade 12-Centennial,Gross
It is interesting to listen to others who have made mistakes and learned from them…This is my dream.

Emily Jane Warren, Grade 10, Urbana High School, Ms. Dahlke
There is an issue in our community that has remained under the surface for years. It has not gained much exposure in general media, and has been overlooked by those with the most power to eradicate the issue. Homophobia, though thankfully not as prevalent in our community as in others, is an issue that hits home and, believe it or not, affects everyone in a society. Homophobia, and sexuality as a broad topic, has come to be a taboo subject, dispelling most chances of solving it just for the sake of peoples’ shallow comfort levels.
Homophobia can take many forms. Bullying consists of violence or harassment, such as sexual harassment, nagging someone to disclose their sexual orientation, name-calling-like “faggot”, “dyke”, “homo”, “queer”, etc., other derogatory language-phrases like “no homo”, “that’s so gay”, etc., excessive and intrusive questioning, and endorsement of negative stereotypes. . . . On a larger scale, the enforcement of inequality, like job discrimination, the illegality of gay marriage, and the banishment of gays in the military, is blatant homophobia. Sometimes one knows what homophobia looks like, but might not be able to locate it. Society shows constant displays sometimes discrimination are active, and media, including films, television programs, the internet, music, magazines, advertisements, and other publications. Media can also shed light on LGBTQ issues, but are often contributors to public homophobia. These two areas can be especially harmful, because teens’ two main sources of information are friends and the media.

Imari Webb, Grade 8, Campus MS, Ms. Nolen
Well now, I step out
From under everything
You “gave” me
Into the world
How I see it,
Not how it lets me be,
But how I let it be.
I live equal.
You live free.

Kayla Webb, Grade 7, Urbana Middle School, Mr. Rummenie
One thing I think needs improvement in or “beloved” community is the lack of hope and compassion.

Bailey Westfall, Grade 10,Oakwood High School
We aren’t addicted
We can stop
Right after this one,
I’m done.

Liliana Zamora, Grade 11, Urbana High School, Ms. Hogan-Chan
The judgments against people with disabilities can be harsh and severely incorrect. Some people can’t even look past the fact that people with disabilities are normal people that can think for themselves. The extent of this problem can lead to both mental and physical abuse, politically incorrect language, and wrong information about certain disabilities. This treatment cannot be ignored. People with disabilities hear what is said and take it to heart. At Urbana High School, a student continually heard other students calling him “retarded” and now tells himself that he is “retarded” when he’s not. He’s sweet and he loves music. He has a mind of his own and he can hear what is being said. The high school then took it into their own hands to stop some of the language that can affect not only the students with disabilities, but everyone else as well.
At Urbana High School, the Social Justice Committee is made up of students, teachers, and other administrative figures. The committee was formed to make our community a more acceptable environment. The committee addresses all kinds of problems within the school and even the town. As part of the solution, the committee recommended that Urbana High school hold a Disability Awareness Day. As part of the event, twenty students will travel in wheelchairs for two whole school days. They will be able to experience the difficulty of having a physical disability and talk about it at the end of the day. The action is small, but the committee is expecting a big impact. It may just start with those twenty students, but it will end with so many more knowing the hardships of having a disability.

Ibeth Zarco, Grade 05, BTWashington, Mayer
One way of preventing harassment is giving teasers a punishment. Help you can give to intimidators is to give them consequences.

Irene Zharnitsky and Sofia Saleh, Grade 8, Campus Middle School, Mrs. Nolen
People judge you because of your race. The color of your skin. And the look on your face. All that can change. Though that might sound strange. If we work together. We can change the world forever. Into a better place. As long as we’re hand in hand. We can change the land, on which we stand. I have a dream and you should to. So why don’t you go see what you can do?

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