BHS student wins state in Laws of Life essay contest

Published 8:46 am Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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Bainbridge High School senior Corbin Austin recently was named the state winner for the Georgia Laws of Life Essay Contest.

Austin’s win makes him the first ever BHS student to win state in the essay competition in the 14 years BHS has participated.

“We are so incredibly proud of Corbin,” said English teacher Dr. Heidi Chambers. “Placing first in a field of over 25,000 essays is an incredible accomplishment.”

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The Essay Contest was established by Sir John Templeton in 1987 and encourages young people to embrace quotes or “Laws of Life.” In their essays, students use one of these laws to reflect on values that mean the most to them. Values such as generosity, courage, perseverance, honesty and integrity. Teachers then choose the best work from among their students and send it to the state competition.

Austin’s law of life was “True happiness comes from making others happy,” a quote by David O. McKay. He then titled his essay, “The Dog, the Old Lady, and the Boy,” where he detailed his relationship with an elderly woman and her dog.

Austin explained when he was in the tenth grade he was approached by his literature teacher, who was Dr. Chambers at the time about walking her grandmother’s dog, as they lived in the same neighborhood.

Austin explained Chambers’ grandmother was 97 at the time and just had surgery on her leg, making her unable to walk the dog. Austin said he happily agreed and began walking her dog.

Austin continued to walk the dog for 2.5 years.

“The last time I walked her dog was on her 99th birthday on September 28, 2020,” Austin said.

As Austin walked the dog, he noticed Chambers grandmother’s dementia was starting to worsen.

“You could tell her memory was fading and her dog didn’t want to leave her,” Austin said. “The dog knew something was wrong.”

Austin approached Dr. Chambers and explained to her that her grandmother had begun paying him double.

“I was keeping Dr. Chambers updated throughout the whole thing and telling her how Hercules (the dog) barely would leave the front porch because he was so worried to leave her,” Austin said. “I felt wrong her paying me and me not being able to do my job.”

Chambers thanked Austin for telling her and explained to him that although he felt that way, her grandmother felt that Austin really gave her a purpose and he was the highlight of her day.

Upon hearing this, Austin continued to walk Hercules.

“Her happiness and the whole experience with the whole family is what really brought me joy,” Austin said. “Seeing her smile really brightened my day.”

Austin recounted that she would always compliment him, especially on the whiteness of his shoes and tell him stories of her training squirrels and feeding them food.

Eventually, Hercules and Chambers’ grandmother went to live in an assisted living facility.

However, Austin still thinks of them often.

Austin said when he turned in the essay, he never thought much about his story.

“I never thought my life experience was big enough that people would think wow that’s exceptional or anything like that,” he said.

Austin was even more surprised when he later found out he made it to the top seven essays in the state and dumbfounded when he won state.

“I never in a million years thought this would happen,” he said.

Because of his win, Austin won $1,000 and picked his teacher, Dr. Chambers to win $100.

Austin will put his money to good use when he attends Kennesaw State University next year to major in architecture.

The Bainbridge Rotary Club partnered with BHS to host this essay competition and Bainbridge Rotary’s Laws of Life Contest Chair applauded Austin.

“On behalf of the Bainbridge Rotary Club, I would like to congratulate Corbin Austin on being the Statewide winner of the Georgia Laws of Life Program,” said Tommie Howell. “We would like to thank Bainbridge High School and the BHS English Department on their continued participation in the program. Laws of Life allows our students the opportunity to use their writing skills in telling their own personal story. Perhaps, most importantly, it makes students realize their stories are important.”

Austin couldn’t agree with Howell’s sentiment more.

“Don’t ever downplay your story,” he said. “What might seem minute compared to others really turns out to be a big experience for you; it can even be as simple as walking your neighbor’s dog.”

Austin said he now can’t imagine his life without Gigi or Hercules, as it was a huge plot point in his life.

Austin will be reading his full essay at Rotary Club at the end of the month.