Essays written by three middle school students recently won the 18th annual Lycoming County United Way and Sun-Gazette "Live United" essay contest.
A record number of 449 students entered the contest, according to Sun-Gazette Editor David F. Troisi, one of the judges. The contest was open to Lycoming County students in grades five through eight.
The award winners were honored during the United Way's annual Volunteer Recognition on Dec. 12 at the Community Arts Center.
According to Scott N. Lowery, Lycoming County United Way executive director, the annual contest "is aimed at heightening the awareness of our young people to help those around them facing difficult times."
Students were asked to write an essay describing how they helped someone facing a challenge or problem by working together to achieve positive results.
Sponsors included the Williamsport Sun-Gazette, the Lycoming Mall, Woodlands Bank, Riverside Subs and Pizza, Williamsport Crosscutters, Otto Book Store and the Community Arts Center.
The winners were:
First place - Ashley Snyder, 13, an eighth-grader at McCall Middle School, Montoursville. She is the daughter of Stacy and Daryl Snyder, Cogan Station.
Second place - Alex McWilliams, 10, a fifth-grader at McCall Middle School, Montoursville. He is the son of Jen Hoffman, Montoursville, and Brian McWilliams.
Third place - Lily Saar, 11, a fifth-grader at Donald E. Schick Elementary School, Loyalsock Township. She is the daughter of Amy and Nate Saar, Willliamsport.
The winning essays are reprinted below.
In memory of Hank
By ASHLEY SNYDER
The time when I helped someone with the challenge that they were facing was when my neighbor Hank was still alive. My brother and I helped him by getting his newspaper in the morning and getting his mail.
My family and I helped him by making dinner and taking it over to his house to eat with him. In the summer, I would help him pick sugar snap peas and green beans. In the fall, I would help him get ready for winters by cutting down dead plants and picking corn and onions that were left over.
My family and I would invite him to Thanksgiving dinner. In the winter, I would help him by shoveling his sidewalk and snow-blowing his driveway. Also, I would help him hang Christmas decorations for Christmas. My family and I would go over to his house on Christmas Eve and spend that evening with him.
In the spring, I helped him plant flowers in his flower bed. I also helped him plant bulbs and seeds for the garden.
When he was in and out of the hospital over the past few years with congestive heart failure, my family would go see him and keep him company. Just being there for him made him happy. He considered us family.
In the end, I hope one day someone will be there for me.
By ALEX McWILLIAMS
A couple of months ago, I had learned valuable lessons by helping a family with no home.
At my church, we have a program called Family Promise, which means we take care of families with no home. My dad and stepmom took me to the church to help the families and make a difference in their life.
I felt bad, and if other people went with me, they would have felt bad, too.
When we got there, I spoke with the kids. They told me about themselves, like what school they went to, and how old they were. I kept them occupied by playing kickball, basketball and other fun activities.
What I didn't know was that I was taking them away from the thought of no home. All this time, I was having so much fun as well. That worked out well for the kids and me. I helped prepare the meal for the families, like getting beverages if needed, or helping to set the table. I could tell they were satisfied.
In my opinion, it was a fun night. I never expected it to turn out like this. I had no positive feeling when I left, but now that I think about it today, we helped those families a lot.
What I experienced was that helping can be fun, and I'm pretty grateful for the things I possess. This year, I think my family and I are going to help more often and do more favorable deeds. My family will change and since we never really did a lot of good deeds, we are going to make up for all we didn't do.
Help and encouragement
through SCHICK Club
By LILY SAAR
Challenges and problems have been faced and solved by the students of our school through SCHICK Club - Students Caring and Helping in Community Kindness. We assist teachers at recess and spare time. We often sort papers, forms and certain documents for teachers. We gather these papers, and others, and group, staple, and deliver them.
For example, we put together book orders, stapled them, grouped them for different teachers and delivered them.
Also, we help teachers understand SmartBoards and such. We enjoy helping teachers because they have lots of things to do, so it's just another challenge we helped face.
Recently, SCHICK Club came together to walk younger children to our school's Freeze-Pop Friday. Our club donated to our food drive, collected the food from the classrooms, and set it all up in the C-wing to help those affected by floods.
Because of many plastic bottles and jugs being thrown away at our school, we started recycling.
We took our time to clean buckets to deliver to classrooms and halls to reuse plastic, paper, jugs, newspaper and aluminum. We take shifts at lunch collecting, emptying and placing milk jugs in the bins.
Even though we are just a small part of our whole community, we all assist and participate in like activities and will eventually excel into higher situations.
We all feel proud to be a part of our club, and it is such a good feeling knowing that even though it's a small job, it is making a difference.