‘Laws of Life’ winners share essays with Rotary

Published 7:48 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2012

THE LAWS OF LIFE GRADE WINNERS were, left to right, 12th grader Dustin Eakin, 11th grader Codie Long, ninth grader Trey Walker and 10th grader Vallory Pinson. Pinson was also the school’s overall winner.|Justin Schuver

Grade winners in the Bainbridge High School “Laws Of Life” essay contest read their essays and met members of the Bainbridge Rotary Club, at the club’s Tuesday, May 1, meeting at Charter House Inn.

The Laws of Life Essay Contest is sponsored by the Georgia Rotary Districts Character Education Program, and challenges students across the state to write about the maxims or “Laws of Life” that mean the most to them. Each school names winners in its different grades, as well as an overall winner.

Vallory Pinson was the 10th grade winner and also the BHS overall winner. Her essay was based on the maxim “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” from the Bible, and her key trait was courage.

Email newsletter signup

The ninth grade winner was Trey Walker, whose maxim was “He that would have the fruit must first climb the tree,” by Dr. Thomas Fuller, and his key trait was perseverance.

The 11th grade winner was Codie Long, whose maxim was “If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was ‘thank you,’ that would suffice,” by Dr. Johannes “Meister” Eckhart.

The 12th grade winner was Dustin Eakin, whose maxim was “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around,” by Leo F. Buscaglia. His essay’s key trait was kindness.

Jeanine Halada, a teacher in the English department at BHS, introduced the students and their essays.

“This contest values the messages all of our students have,” she said. “It is the message of those essays which count — not who is the best writer, but who has the best message. I do not think I could judge these essays because so many of them are exceptionally powerful.

“This program helps remind teachers, the community, and other students of some of the paths on which these kids have to travel. It helps me, and I hope others, to try to remember to ‘walk in their shoes’ some of the time and to remember to be compassionate when working with students all of the time.”

Halada said that this was the first year that some of the high school’s special-needs students were also able to participate in the program. With the help of BHS teachers Rhonda Hall and Marie Stapleton, those students were able to make posters or collages, instead of full essays.

Halada noted that Susan Mason, the director of the Georgia Laws of Life program, was very impressed by BHS’s initiative to include its special-needs students as well. Mason told Halada that another school in Ohio was interested in implementing a similar idea.

“I love that BHS and this Rotary are innovators taking a great idea forward another step,” she said.

Each school’s best of grade winner receives a $75 cash prize, while the school finalist is eligible to win $100 or a grand prize ranging from $250 to $2,000. Out of 1,419 students at BHS, 1,145 participated in the program — an 81 percent participation rate that was 8 percent higher than last year, and also set a new school record.