Central Junior High School recently announced winners of its essay contest to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. This year the topic was “Bridging the Dream.” Here are the top three essays:
“Everyone Likes to Dream”
I tip-toed down the stairs late one school night, trying to figure out the weird growling noise that was keeping me awake. What I saw when I opened the door made me laugh. My dog Molly was stretched out in a weird position on the kitchen floor, totally asleep. I smiled as I realized how silly it was that I was scared, as my dog was just growling as she slept. Turning to leave, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.
Molly’s paws were flexing back and forth, her nose was twitching, and her tail was wagging. In fact, her whole body was practically wagging it was shaking so hard. I was about to wake her up to say hi when it dawned on me that she was dreaming. What exactly she was dreaming I didn’t know, but it didn’t matter.
My dog Molly had dreams. Things she only imagined could happen. Chasing squirrels, forests full of smells waiting to be sniffed, maybe even flying, Molly was happy. Then it occurred to me, did you have to sleep to dream?
I pulled the dictionary off the shelf and lay down next to Molly as I flipped open the big book. D for Dream, I thought. I skimmed through the definitions. My eyes settled on the very last one, which was: an aspiration; goal; aim. I thought dreaming had to happen when you slept. Instead, maybe dreaming was like goal setting, something that kept you going. I thought of my dreams. Working for NASA, becoming a better trumpet player, and traveling to Germany are all things I hope to achieve in life. Of course Molly’s and my dreams are nothing alike, but she and I both hope to achieve something that seems unreal.
This happy thought was soon washed away as I realized that a lot of kids think negatively about themselves, what they have and can achieve. Mr. Hart, my chorus teacher, told us that when you say, “I can’t”, you won’t be able. Being optimistic isn’t something I necessarily specialize in, but I try to realize that where I am is just a stage in my life. I will build up from my childhood. Mistakes I have made and will continue to make can help me, not tear me down.
I wish all kids understood that there is value in struggle. We are lucky enough to live in a country where every person, no matter race, religion, background, and financial standards can make something of themselves, even if their family did not. A boy I know who wants to do more than go to jail like his family members understands that we can all have a dream.
Goals can be huge, like becoming president, or small, like getting an A on that math test for which you have been studying. Dreams are aspirations for today, tomorrow, and the rest of your life. My hand on Molly’s back suddenly felt too comfortable as I thought of other kids living in shacks and barely surviving. Dreams for them would be finding enough food to stay alive for the day, not winning a Nobel Peace Prize. It doesn’t matter, as long as there is a dream.
It occurred to me then that lying with my dog in the middle of the night would not fulfill my dream. I would have to do something, go somewhere and be someone. One person couldn’t make a difference! Who was I to think I could change someone’s life?
That is when I realized my biggest dream of all. It is not to go to Germany; it is to make a difference. I could start in one class, in one school, in one town in Kansas. There is no need to travel the world to find out what I already know; every kid in this world needs expectations and goals for themselves, no matter how big or small they may be.
I was lucky enough to travel recently to Memphis and see the National Civil Rights Museum, where it struck me as odd how the small events you don’t hear about made a difference in fighting racism. You hear about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks and Ralph Abernathy, but there are thousands of others who share Dr. King’s dream. The dream that all races will stand together as friends, workers, and brothers. My dream may not be the exact same, but I think Mr. King would agree with me. His dream made mine possible. If all people stood together through good and bad times, kids would see hope, prosperity in all, and always remember they can move forward.
Ambition. I don’t want the dictionary definition this time. I know what it means to me. I want something for which to strive. My dream is that all kids find something they love or want to love and struggle to achieve that goal. Let kids surprise themselves, soaring past expectations, and moving closer to dreams they never thought imaginable. I know success requires suffering. Whether it’s shooting hoops, doing homework, or practicing the cello, working for the dream may not be easy; it may take hours or years. Success is not what matters to me; it’s just that kids have a chance to be successful, whether they achieve this or not.
Years later, when recalling Dr. King’s assassination outside of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, close friend Reverence Samuel “Billy” Kyles said, “You may kill the dreamer, but you cannot kill the dream.” I realized then that we may have lost Dr. King, but he will never stop inspiring others to dream. With that, I kissed the dreaming dog and went back to bed.
— Sadie Keller is a seventh-grader at Central Junior High School.
“Bridging the dream: what is your dream?”
Most children are nurtured and led to believe that we can be whatever we want to be when we grow up. As children, we imagine our “grown up” selves to be princesses, pirates, astronauts, and whatever else we desire to be. During those years we do not know the starkness of reality. As a result, the possibilities of what we want to be are infinite. But unlike the other children I did not want to be a princess, a pirate, an astronaut or anything else. There was only one thing I was truly passionate about, one thing that mattered the most to me. Even now it is what is most important to me. In a word, my passion is Art.
The word “art” is quite vague. Some even debate whether it can or cannot be defined. For me, art is not an object nor a painting or a sculpture. It is the way of seeing the world and everything in it. It is an attitude of being which recognizes both the beauty of things as they are, and the excitement of creating beauty out of ordinary things. Just like beauty, art is in the eye of the beholder.
Since I was a young girl I have had an obsession for art. I am no longer merely infatuated by it. I want to constantly create what my hands itch to make. Everywhere I look I am persistently encouraged by the things I see. Little things, little objects, unseen by most peoples’ eyes are so vivid to me. Lyrics, music, laughter, everything inspires me to draw, to paint, and to write. My imagination is unlimited and sometimes I just want to stop time and capture the picture in my head. It is no longer just a love for art. I am far beyond it. It’s past an addiction. Art is my world, it is the air I breathe, the light I see, and it is my life.
One of Martin Luther King’s dreams was for every kid to have infinite possibilities for their future and become what the wanted to be. He achieved his dream and it made it possible for kids, like me, that are not white to become what we want when we grow up. That is, of course, if we work hard. Because of people like him, it is now possible for me to go to college once I’m older. And I am truly grateful. If not for him and many others I would not be able to pursue my dream, which is the source of my happiness and what drives me to live every day to its fullest.
There are countless ways to go after my dream, and end up achieving it. I could just sit around and wish with all my might that some person might notice my talent and potential. Or I could just simply forget about it completely and choose another path that might be much easier. Or I could basically just give up, but those options are out of the question. My parents taught me to work hard and anything can be achieved. And I believe them. Because all those grand artists in history and numerous other significant historical figures did not just simply give up or lie around doing nothing at all. Therefore, I know that the only way I can make my dream become reality is simple: work hard and don’t lose sight of what is truly important.
All children only have one ultimate goal: to make our dreams reality. Some of them may be silly, and others might seem unreachable. Some kids may just want to grow up and be devoted and loving parents, other children may want to save lives or help the world. I am among those billions of children. I only want to make my dream come true. I want create art. But most importantly, I wish for the ones I love and for myself to be happy.
— Maria Najarro is a ninth-grader at Central Junior High School.
Eighth grade essay
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” -Barack Obama
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream; an idea that changed the world forever. He proved that through peaceful actions, it is possible to alter the way people treat each other and move ever closer to equality. We have come a long way from the days of slavery and segregation, but this fight is far from over.
I believe that with each new generation born, our world is given a chance to start over; to take the mistakes of the past and gain from them the wisdom to stop repeating. It is the responsibility, and the privilege, of every single person on this planet to strive to be the very best person that they can be. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in this world.”
Completely eradicating discrimination and inequality is no small feat; and is truly impossible for one person alone to accomplish. When faced with a task so great, most people will exclaim “But I am only one person!” Dr. King was, indeed, “only one person” but he understood that one person, standing up for what they know is right, truly can change millions.
It is not possible, nor fair, to expect that just because you believe in freedom and peace; you must dedicate your entire life to building a movement. But it is possible, and should be expected, that each of us should begin to treat each other with respect, compassion, and common decency. I truly believe that there is no one on this Earth from whom I cannot learn something of value.
To leave behind the prejudices of the former generations and begin anew, we must not only stay true to what we know is right, but continue to learn from others. Only then will we be able to move on, and to grow stronger.
— Ruby Love is an eighth-grader at Central Junior High School.