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Book Awards - Essays - 2014

The following essays were submitted by students at Plymouth State University (PSU) when applying for KYMMA's Joan Merrill Book Awards and Michelle Morse Book Awards in 2014.

- Read essays submitted by PSU students in other years: 2015, 2013, and 2011.

- See photos of Book Award Winners from previous years: 2012, 2011.

1) How Has Cancer Affected My Life?


It took me a long time to decide which adjective I was going to use for a title. I could have chosen bravery, persistence, strength, wisdom, kindness; Kyle had it all. I suppose God must have wanted another angel. [Name Withheld] had cancer since middle school. It came and went for so long that I didn't really think of how horrible it must have been until he was gone. He died last year, just one year after graduating high school, but I will never forget the immense amount of courage he had, and each and every day I look down at my wrist, and smile, and become more and more motivated to be a better, and stronger individual.

Kyle is a role model. I wish I had realized that while he was still alive. One of the times when his cancer came back, and we were talking about it, I decided he has to be the strongest guy, ever. He was cool and collected, extremely brave, as if this cancer was just another obstacle in his path. He made me believe that cancer was nothing, whereas I would have freaked out a little, and I know my friends would have, as well. Kyle never gave up. Unable to make it to school for over a year, Kyle still graduated, on stage with his class. I remember how big everyone's smiles were. It was a glorious moment and I'm willing to bet most people would not have been able to finish the way he did.

It makes me think. How can I show that same sense of strength, of bravery, and persistence to overcome anything? In the end, how can I actually overcome the hardest tasks set ahead of me? I believe those are three keys to success. You have to be strong. Go at things with the strength to complete that job. Bravery. Look at things with a sense of confidence. You can do it, as long as you're persistent, working hard at it, until it's over, and don't stop until it's the best thing you can do. Those are just three characteristics I try to emulate from Kyle, and they all came upon me in just one conversation.

At just 18 years old, Kyle already had all the characteristics of a great leader. He had wisdom well ahead of his time. Kyle was the most kind hearted person you'd ever meet. One of my best friends; [Name Withheld] had posted pictures of some of the messages he sent her during the times that she needed them. He always knew how to build people up, and help them with their own problems. Everyone has a struggle in their life, and it should be up to you to help them if you can. Sometimes all it takes is just one message and a person can have an amazing day, or week. You can change someone's life by just being there for them, help them turn their life around by just being a humble friend.

All the while battling cancer, Kyle did this for multiple people. He was selfless, and never asked or needed help from anyone. I try to do the same thing. I know I can help, so I do. I might not be battling cancer, I might not have a vehicle to get to the people who need me, but I do the best I can, anytime that I can. Kyle showed me how to be a great friend, the most important of these characteristics. On Ash Wednesday's gospel, the priest explained how you should do things out of the goodness of your heart, and not because you want other people to see you doing good deeds. I'm not even sure if Kyle was Catholic, but I know he followed that through and through. Being selfless has its own rewards, and every single time I can, I feel better than if everyone knew I was helping, or sometimes if the person I was helping even knew He was a genuine guy, and a true friend to anyone who needed him. I hope to follow in his footsteps and spread the same message that he taught to me.

The last time I was selfless was just a week ago. I'm the youngest of three kids in my house and, while my parents make maybe 30,000 dollars together, they still helped my two brothers pay for college and help me with my books and other supplies. The middle child, who has five years on me, has tried college in multiple places and ways and has just never been able to stick with it. It took me months, but I finally convinced him to join me at Plymouth State University. I sacrificed my friends and dorm for the next few years just so I could help him succeed and find his way, unknown to him. He needed help on his college essay (he absolutely hates writing), so I wrote his thoughts out for him and told our parents that he wrote this amazing essay and we're going to do school together. My last step is just to get my car this summer after working as a lifeguard and be able to make the trip for us each day. Kevin has been my friend since the beginning and I think Kyle would want me to be the best friend, the best brother, I can be.

In the end, Kyle was, and is, a great teacher. As long as he is in our hearts, prayers and minds, he will always be around. Sometimes, your greatest lessons are learned outside of a classroom. Kyle taught all of us the characteristics of a great all around person, a person that I strive to be like. Whether we were out fishing, or just laying around on Shaun's bed, or even trying to take the jack off of his truck so that he could put the spare on and get home, Kyle always had a lesson to teach. "Smile for Kyle." I will, man.

- Name Withheld, PSU Student

2) How Has Cancer Affected My Life?

When I was eight years old, my mother passed away from melanoma cancer, leaving my father to be a single parent to 11 children. As you can imagine, and possibly relate to, it was a very tragic event and has continued to be hard to deal with.

After years of heartache and dismay, I decided to do something about fighting cancer back. So, in 2011, I was awarded the honor of being Miss Berlin-Gorham's Outstanding Teen 2011-12.

When competing in a pageant, you must have a platform, which should be something you are passionate about. My platform was Melanoma Awareness, in memory of my mother who passed away on June 21, 2003. After being crowned, I created a Facebook group (Karen's Love for 11) which now has close to 2,500 members. I also put donation buckets throughout my town and hosted many different events to raise money.

On November 5, 2012, I presented a check in the amount of $1,441.85 to the American Cancer Society to be used for melanoma research. All my life, I have wanted to cure this disease to prevent any other child from going through the pain of growing up without a parent.

Since I've been at school, I haven't been able to focus on my fund raiser due to school work, but I plan on creating my own team for the Relay For Life event that will be hosted here at Plymouth in the up couple months.

Cancer can be beaten and I won't rest until I know I did everything I could to try and stop it. Being personally affected by cancer, I've decided that I will no longer let it hold me down, but I will continue to fight it.

My mother was a strong woman and I intend to follow in her footsteps. So, as my mother's father was recently diagnosed with cancer at the age of 85, I know that I can be strong for him and provide all of my support and love, just as my mother would have done.

- Name Withheld, PSU Student

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