Laws of Life Essay winners share their life messages with Rotary

Published 6:51 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2016


BHS winners left to right: Rickia Hughes, 12th grade school winner and fourth runner-up in the state; Rachel Rentz, 11th grade winner,; Elijah Harris, grade 10; and Brad Mitchell, 9th grade. — Carolyn Iamon

Four Bainbridge High School Students who are this year’s Laws of Life Essay winners at Bainbridge High School came to Rotary Tuesday to deliver their personal messages.

By way of introduction, BHS Principal Tommie Howell commented that the Laws of Life and Rotary principals are a perfect merger upholding many of the same maxims of life.

Dr. Heidi Chambers, chair of the BHS English Department introduced all of the winners and announced that 1041 BHS students participated this tenth year that Bainbridge Rotary and BHS have entered the Georgia Rotary Club Laws of Life Essay Contest.

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Students choose a wise saying or maxim that illustrates a character value they have learned as they look at the challenges in their lives.

The first student to speak was Brad Mitchell, a 9th grader, who chose the maxim: “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Helen Keller. His character trait was Perseverance.

He spoke of his disappointment and being immersed in self-pity after a stress fracture of his elbow kept him from being a starting player in the football season. He developed a bad attitude as he stood on the sideline and didn’t show any joy in the team’s winning. He went on to tell how he realized his bad attitude was being perceived and overcame it by volunteering to be the best water boy he could be. Next speaker was Elijah Harris, grade 10 winner.

His maxim was “The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.” Hubert H. Humphrey. His character trait was Friendship.

He described a childhood life filled with a feeling of exclusion and feeling different from most of the others. He was in and out of foster care homes and never stayed in the same place very long. Consequently, he was not able to make friends. He told of arriving at yet another new school at age 10 convinced it would be like all the others, but something different happened that changed his life forever. He was noticed by a sixth grade teacher, Ms. Thompson, who took a special interest in him and encouraged him to make the effort to “hang out” with the others. He realized he had received the greatest gift of life, friendship.

The 11th grade winner was Rachel Rentz who spoke on the maxim from Margaret Mitchell, “Life’s under no obligation to give us what we expect.” Her character trait was Perseverance.

She spoke of growing up in the same town and same house for a number of years and taking everything happily for granted without fear. Then, she entered seventh grade and on the first day realized she hardly knew anything at all.

She couldn’t see through the thick curtain of fear, described as a life-altering event that proved itself to be an awakening. She has since learned that it is change that haunts her and spoke of her efforts to overcome that. She found that love and friendship are always there if you have hope and keep your eyes open for it.

Rickia Hughes, a 12th grader was the overall school winter and also fourth runner-up in the state. Her maxim was ,“You’ve been given this life because you are strong enough to handle it.” Anonymous. The character trait is Strength.

Her story was one of loss, beginning with the death of her mother in June 2007 when Rickia was 9. Her life had been going well until her mother lost her battle with breast cancer. Then it came to a screeching halt. On that very day she had to take on more responsibility than she would have liked. She had to begin helping to care for her seven year-old brother and felt she missed out on a lot of things normal teenagers do.

She felt robbed of her childhood and teenage years. The worst came when her grandma was injured on her job and could no longer work. The family had to give up many things others take for granted. At the age of 16 Rickia took a job and took over all the household bills. She became angry and resentful. Then one day her brother came to her in tears and asked why she had shut him out of her life. That was a wake-up call that “kicked her gears back into motion.”

She realizes the pain and rough times have only strengthened her to be the person she is today. “You never really know how strong a person you are until you have to pick your life back up and put it all back together.”

In addition to English teachers, Heidi Chambers and Patricia Sibley, the students were accompanied by proud family members .