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in love
More than 150 Oklahoma students entered our spring essay contest in 2020. (NonDoc)

What’s the only thing better than winning an essay contest? How about winning it unanimously.

In the 15-18 age category for NonDoc’s first spring essay contest, a 15-year-old student from Norman High School finished first. As a Norman High alumnus myself, you might be wondering whether I was biased or swayed by pride in my alma mater.

While I do still get pumped up any time I hear the opening to Eye of the Tiger, I can assure you that the winning essay noted below received first-place votes across the board from our staff. That’s a fairly amazing feat, when you think about it. In all, 59 high school students submitted essays related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we appreciate all the entries. We also appreciate the patience showed by students, teachers and parents who have been waiting for the results of this contest.

So without further ado, please enjoy the three winning submissions in our 15-18 age category below. Each essay has been edited lightly, and each winner will receive a gift card to a local restaurant of their choice. That prize was made possible by OG&E, our gracious sponsor of this competition.

Keep writing, young folks. The world needs your voices.


In love with humanity

By Starlight Galley
Age 15, Norman High School
First Place

Change. It’s something so many of us fear because we are only human. However, when that change inevitably comes, we rely on our support systems. But where do we turn when those systems are taken away? We all invest so much time with technology on a normal day, so many of us took for granted the real and alive world we live in. I’ve heard many of my peers swear that when this whole situation is over they don’t ever want to see their phones again.

We all thought we were mostly reliant on technology and social media, but that’s not true. We are reliant on the real world. We are reliant on the feeling of grass beneath our bare feet, the scent of rain in the air before a storm, the sunshine on our faces and legs. We are reliant on Friday nights in the movie theaters with our friends, and on the familiarity of the hallways in our schools. Most importantly, we are reliant on each other, on the art of humanity. We need to feel the physical presence of those we love. We need hand holding and embraces. We need the sounds of laughter and tears in our lives. We rely on the little stolen glances from across the room and the sounds of each other’s voices. Because, once again, we are human.

So if asked what this pandemic has made me learn about myself, I would say this: I am in love. I am so in love with being alive and with every single person I meet and places I haven’t been, skylines and countrysides that I haven’t seen yet. I am in love with the colors of my friends’ eyes and the sound of their laughter. I am in love with the anger, frustration, love, wonder and other raw emotions that we feel. I’m in love with the way that my friends and I fit together like puzzle pieces when we embrace. I’m in love with the times at 3 a.m. when we’re all sitting in someone’s basement speaking words we swore we never would. I’m in love with every single mistake and flaw that has ever been and ever will be made, with every breaking point, every goodbye and every hello. With words never written and lyrics never sung. I’m in love with all of it. With humanity from the beginning of time to the farthest corner of the future.

How incredibly lucky are we to have such an amazing world, such incredible memories, and such remarkable people around us that make this so difficult? We are so fortunate to be able to feel the way we do, to be alive, to hurt this way. This situation and way of living seems impossible right now, but I know that we are all going to come out on the other side of this chaos with a new love and appreciation for humanity. And that alone, that has to be enough to keep me going.


Together

By Brandon Ramirez
Age 16, Putnam City West High School
Second Place

“Shwooop!” Tiny stars shoot out into the dark and everlasting space above, where they illuminate the night in a marvelous display. They shine, vibrant and explosive, in a resemblance to us. They resemble our existence and how we can sit there together, shining bright, like a mirror of the night sky, glistering and magnificent. We are stars.

There is a world, a universe, of endless possibilities. There are endless moments, discoveries, upbringings, downfalls and much more for us to see and experience together. Just like the fireworks we shoot into the Fourth of July sky, we shine stronger, brighter, and more magnificently together.

Recently, lots of moments have been filled with nothing. Places and events that bring people together to create precious moments suddenly can’t do anything. Though social distancing has to be done, there is so much we’ve lost to it. I have come to realize something because of this, or at least it has reinforced what I have already known and been told so many times by so many people. I am, of course, referring to the fact that we are social creatures.

We are social creatures, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s what led us to become such a huge and incredible species here on Earth. It’s what eventually created such amazing art, architecture, music, technology and everything else that we enjoy here. Technology, like everything else, is a very precious thing to us. Now, at this moment, it does something very important. Technology lets us stay connected, which is a lot more of a big deal than we give it credit for. We can’t replace actually being next to someone, feeling the breeze or smelling the BBQ at our local gatherings, but there is so much more we can do. We can connect with people around the world through text and calls. We can unlock the internet and access endless knowledge and discoveries. We can read a creative essay titled Together, written by a highschooler.

Technology is wonderful because we are wonderful. It is also — so long as our creativity remains the same — limitless. One day, we may set off to a new planet, solar system or galaxy and continue our journey to endless discovery. One day, other plants in a world of gold and orange glowing skies might be visited by us, with an eerily beautiful scene made from endless plains and mountains, filled with life, microscopic and gargantuan, of some origin not yet known to us. One day, we may find ourselves exploring intricate, illustrious, beautiful galaxies of all hues and make ups. These things may be part of our future.

Then again, I may be thinking a little ahead. There’s still plenty left to discover and experience with each other here. A better understanding of viruses, ever-evolving music and art, finding out what’s for dinner — there’s plenty for us to see and do. Now though, with everything that has happened, I realize how important it is to see things and do them together.


Appreciating normal

by Kallie Chapman
age 16, Coalgate High School
Third Place

The end of a student’s junior year is a busy and exciting time, but when my extracurriculars began getting cancelled, it was hard not to be disappointed. Soon, school was cancelled for the rest of the year and I was homebound. As difficult as the transition was, I soon began to learn more about myself than I ever would have in a classroom. From helping as we plant a garden to hanging up hummingbird feeders, to setting up an amazing outdoor workspace, I began to appreciate all the little things about life.

My family has always talked about starting a garden but never found the time to do it right. Soon after we got the news that school would not resume as usual we headed to a greenhouse to buy some plants. While my parents got tomato and bell pepper plants, I picked out a pretty black flower plant that hadn’t bloomed yet. I never thought of myself as a gardening person but I soon purchased a pot and some plant food for my flower. Nurturing my flower has made me feel better about the state of the world and seeing it bloom into beautiful black velvet flowers has given me a sense of satisfaction when so many things have been ended without closure.

Listening to the birds is a hobby that sounds like it exclusively for people who have retired and resorted to porch sitting. I can confirm that I am an avid porch sitter now and find nothing more entertaining than listening to the birds chirp and sing. After hagging up two hummingbird feeders, I have also been enjoying watching as these tiny birds eat up their sugar water. Appreciating nature is something that I did not expect to be able to do during this time.

Out on our porch, in the sun, in a reclining chair, with my book in hand, reading for my English class, doesn’t it sound lovely? Getting to work in the good weather and sunshine has been a huge benefit. Instead of being stuck learning within four cinder block walls, I am reading to the birds and letting the ants learn trigonometry as I think out loud.

While I am still disappointed in the things I have lost, I have learned a lot about myself and found the good in having to stay home. Listening to the birds and watching our plants thrive has made this quarantine seem just a little more worth it. I am excited to start my senior year in the fall, but I will his this time of working in nature and relaxing.

Check out the age 11-14 winners, too

‘All the days are the same. Or are they?’ Essay winners age 11-14

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William W. Savage III (Tres) holds a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. He covered two sessions of the Oklahoma Legislature for eCapitol.net before working in health care for six years. He is a nationally certified Mental Health First Aid instructor.