Personal Heroes -See the essays below
Three students from Newaygo Middle School in Newaygo have been named local winners in the 50th annual America & Me Essay Contest, sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance.
The three students, who earned first, second, and third place awards for their school, are McCaiden Rienstra, first; Iris Herrera, second; and Grace Painter, third. All three received award certificates for their achievement. As the school’s first place winner, McCaiden’s name will also be engraved on a plaque for display in the school.
Newaygo Middle School’s participation in the America & Me Essay Contest was sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance agent David Landheer of Fremont.
McCaiden’s first place essay now advances to the state level competition, from which the top ten essays in Michigan will be selected. The top ten statewide winners, who will be announced in April, will each receive a plaque, a medallion and a cash award of $2,000. In addition, the top ten essayists will be honored at a banquet in Lansing, meet with Michigan’s top governmental leaders, and be featured guests at a Lansing Lugnut minor league baseball game dedicated in their honor. Also part of our 50th Anniversary celebration year, we will be presenting each top ten statewide school with a $1,000 check and another $500 more if the school was sponsored by a Farm Bureau Insurance agent.
A team of finalist judges that includes a top Michigan government official and the sponsoring teachers of last year’s top two statewide winners will determine the ranking of the top ten statewide winners this year.
Several thousand eighth grade students from over 400 Michigan schools participated in the 2018 – 19 America & Me Essay Contest, which was conducted with the help of Farm Bureau Insurance agents across the state. The topic of the 2018 -19 contest was “My Personal Michigan Hero.”
Started in 1968 and open to all Michigan eighth grade students, the contest encourages Michigan youngsters to explore the greatness of America and its people. As sponsor of the contest, Farm Bureau Insurance has earned 11 national awards from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.
Here are the award winners:
The Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
By McCaiden Rienstra
Benefiting the community has different meanings to different people. Some people think benefiting the community means volunteering at organizations, like the Salvation Army, or being a troop leader for the Girl Scouts. For others, it means dedicating your time to individuals in need and trying to help them to the best of your ability. My Michigan hero, Amanda, takes that second meaning to heart and helps those in need through her business and personal life.
Amanda has been working in the cosmetology industry for twelve years, and has recently finished studying for a physiology degree. Two years ago, she started her own business/salon. It has been quite successful, and I often go there to get my hair cut. She works very hard to keep her salon as a pleasant environment so she can continue doing what she loves.
Through her business, she gives back to the community in many ways. If someone comes into her salon wanting to donate their hair, she gladly accepts it. Later, she creates wigs for people with cancer or hair loss. She also came up with a way to give back and show gratitude towards her customers. She calls it “Free Fridays,” and every Friday she chooses a small pool of customers at random to receive free haircuts. Veterans, firemen, policemen, etc. are given free haircuts as well, for Amanda has a high respect for them.
Although Amanda has a busy life outside of her business, she still finds the time to look out for the people in her community. She told me that she attempts to form personal relationships, or friendships, with each of her customers so she can help them with more than just their “bad hair days.” If an emergency ever comes up for someone, she tries to help and support whoever needs it. Every time I see her, she is always kind and asks me how I am, and tells me to let her know if I ever need anything. She also told me that if someone is going through a rough time, similar to something she has gone through, she wants to be able to tell them that she has gone through something much like what they are going through, and not be ashamed to say it. Her words were, “I am not embarrassed by what has happened to me, because it has turned me into who I am.”
Overall, Amanda is a strong, caring, and helpful person who is just trying to improve the lives of the people around her. She proves that you don’t have to devote yourself to a large, already established organization to make a difference in the community. I challenge you to be like Amanda, and simply look out for the people around you and in your life. Amanda has improved the lives of many people with her small gestures of kindness that I know she isn’t just my hero, but many other people’s hero too.
My Michigan Missionary
By Grace Painter
“We have come dangerously close to accepting the homeless situation as a problem that we just can’t solve.” - Linda Lingle
To countless people in the world aiding the homeless isn’t even on their radar. Even as I look out at my community, through my eyes there is no insecurity in sight. Only prosperity and formality of everyday life shines through. However, if you take a closer look there is a lot more than meets the eye. You will discover poverty, desperation, and a deserted people. I have been fortunate enough to meet one of the rare people who are working and striving towards a better future. This specific person is Dale Painter. Dale is what most people call him, but to me he is and will always be Papa. Not only is he an extraordinary grandpa but also a good-natured samaritan striving to abolish homelessness.
My papa is a hero, a leader, and a missionary. Just because a person is a Michigan hero doesn’t mean they can't help cross-cultural areas like Mexico. Mexico contains many struggling areas in desperate need of assistance, especially in one town called Matamoros. For twenty years my grandpa has been devoted to constructing houses for the needy in this town. Each year he is able to provide ten families with a house and provisions such as food, blankets, beds, clothes, and much more. My papa’s quest to dissolve some of the hardships these people have been bound to may never be resolved, yet through his faithfulness and generosity, those enduring these harsh conditions may discover their insecurity gradually decreasing.
A downward spiral is a way to describe homelessness. Nothing will ever change if we refuse to reach out and help, this situation will never improve if we continue to do nothing. We are oblivious to this problem even in Michigan, and even here my papa plans on helping those in need. He has done so much in and out of Michigan. In addition to building houses in Mexico, my papa has contributed to two transitional housing sites in Newaygo. Due to my papa’s volunteer hours and his influence on others, six or so families are able to have a home until their lives have improved. This is the reward of my papa’s hard work. He is able to change people’s lives for the better, pull them out of a dark place, and not only give them a house, but a home.
The world is a cruel, unjust place with hurting people everywhere you look. Although you can attempt to improve everyone’s lives out there it is unachievable if you go it alone. My papa will never fix the entire world, but he is improving it one house at a time. No one can know what the future will hold, but if we take small steps towards improving the homeless situation we might be able to abolish this problem in Michigan and around small pockets of the world. My papa has proven through his selfless actions that homelessness isn’t an unsolvable problem. It is just waiting for people like my papa.
My Michigan Hero
By Iris Herrera
Hero, a word commonly used in fictional writings to describe the person who saved the city or defeated the bad guy. Usually the tall handsome man whose muscles bulge through their clothing or the beautiful woman whose figure is ever so perfect. But on some rare occasions, like mine, a beautiful short black haired woman. She may seem average, no Wonder Woman or Black Widow, yet just like these two, this person has saved lives and helped many from harm. My aunt Desiree Thompson is my personal Michigan hero.
After 4 Years of nursing school, many years working in ICU, to now being personal aid to people all over Grand Rapids she has saved and helped many people. Desiree’s job isn't easy. She takes care of patients fifty-five and older who need help managing their medication, living their everyday life, and making sure their complex medical needs are taken care of, and she is required to be on call for anyone who needs her. Not only is she a nurse coordinator but she is also a mom to three. Her two oldest have graduated and are successful in college, and her youngest, a freshman, is successful in school and is striving to become an ultrasound technician.
She has worked hard and dedicated her life to not only her nursing career but her family as well. About a year ago, my grandpa was told he was going through liver failure and that he only had about a year to live. Desiree was there to help; she became his full time care provider and managed all his medication and everything. It was her job away from her job. While they waited in ICU for answers on his liver she was still receiving calls from her patients and coordinating their care, even though her dad was in the hospital fighting for his life. After long nights and stressful days, she finally found a volunteer to donate their liver. Within months my grandpa successfully had his transplant. Desiree gave him another shot at life, and if it weren't for her knowledge of the medical field, dedication, sheer grit, willingness to stand up to the doctors in my grandpa’s care, and lots of patience, he probably wouldn’t have gotten his transplant and most likely would have lost his life.
Desiree is one of the hardest, passionate, persistent workers I've ever met. She has influenced me to work hard and help others myself. She loves her job and is a truly powerful woman, Desiree Thompson is a true hero!