Atlanta Metropolitan College

Online English 1101 Writing

With sincere thanks for the inspiring work of Brian McKinney's online students at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California, we proudly present some of the work we did in English 1101 during 1999. Please enjoy our essays.

When a Parent Becomes Disabled by Dina Jones
Our Elders by Bayo Kuranga
Christmas Memories by Felix Osanu
The Breastfeeding Controversy by Leea Holt
Shacking Up by Makeba Holcomb
Who's Raising Isaiah? by Lisa Northington
Prescription Medicine Can Be Addictive by Dawn Bowden
Making a Change by Juan Butler
Volunteer Service by Emma Ferguson
Say Goodbye by Franklin Strong

"When a Parent Becomes Disabled" by Dina Jones

Every day when I look into my daughter's big brown eyes it put a smile on my face because I see the reflection of my mother. My daughter often asks me, "Mother why do you smile when you look at me?" My answer is always the same, "Because you remind me of your grandmother. You have her big brown eyes, sweet smile and kind disposition." You see, my mother became ill in her late thirties. She was pregnant with me the youngest, of ten siblings, and suffered from multiple medical conditions. My mother's conditions ranged from diabetics to heart disease. Although she was feeling badly most of the time, she always made sure that all ten children were cared for properly.

My father is a hardworking man who took care of his family the best he could. He was not the kindest of men, but I can say he loved my mother very much. My father taught us to work hard, be honest, and love one another. To my father family means everything and he instilled in us that no matter what happened we should always stick together. .

Everything that we had been taught came into play when my mother became very ill. Her kidneys failed her and she had to take weekly dialysis treatments. Her treatments consisted of having to be driven forty miles from home to Columbus three times a week. My family who remained in my hometown took on this task. They took turns transporting my mother and helping my father care for her. On the weekends my sister and I would go home to help care for my mother and give my sisters a break. .

My mother continued to do well while taking dialysis treatments. But as time went on, she begin to show signs that her mind was deteriorating. The doctor explained to us that the chemicals used to filter out dialysis patient's kidneys could cause a person mind to exhibit sign similar to that of Alzheimer disease. She started getting restless. She would sleep very little, cry all the time, and refuse to eat. Everything that happened began to take its toll on the family. My father retired from his job to take care of my mother full time. It became very difficult to deal with the situation. .

My father called a family meeting to get everyone's opinion on how to deal with the situation. You see my mother had fallen a year earlier and broke her leg. Being a diabetic, her leg did not heal properly, leaving her unable to walk. She was confined to a wheelchair and had to be helped whenever, she needed to be transported. My father question to us was "Do you want to keep mother at home or put her in a nursing home?" Everyone in the family was in agreement that we would keep my mother at home and take turns caring for her. This would be a difficult task for everyone involved, but you see my mother was the sweetest, kindest, and most understanding person I knew. We all loved her so much that we had to keep her at home and show her the same care she had given us throughout the years. .

I know that in some cultures, the elderly are treated with the highest of respect, but in this country, too many of our elderly individuals are placed into nursing home by their children. I believe that if your parents raised and cared for you, then you owe them the same when they become elderly and unable to care for themselves. There was never a doubt in our minds what we would do for our mother. .

As my mother's condition worsened, the need for constant care became greater. When my mother couldn't sleep at night, someone would sit up with her to keep her from falling out of the chair. Her food would have to be fed to her each meal. When she went to dialysis treatments, we would have to sit with her and sing, to keep her calm down until the treatments were over. She even began to fight her family members. It took all we had to keep her calmed down. .

Since I was the baby of the family, my mother seemed to respond to my care more favorably then she would the rest of my family. I would go home on the weekend to help care for her. This consisted of feeding, bathing, giving her medicine, changing her diaper, sitting up with her all night, and most of all trying to make her smile. These weekend visits were very hard sometimes. I would stay awake with her all night on Saturday and drive 80 miles back to Atlanta on Sunday. Most of the time I was so sleepy that I know it was God's hands that brought me back home safety. I always stopped at this one restaurant in Moreland and ordered a big cup of lemonade. It was the only way I could stay awake. The ladies that worked there knew me well. .

During this time my daughter was eight years old. She loved her grandmother very much, but when we would go home and my mother would begin to act out, my daughter would become afraid of her. I tried to explain that her grandmother was ill, but she did not understand. The situation became so bad that I had to start leaving my daughter with my sister because she was afraid of her grandmother. .

My mother's condition continued to worsen and on March 05, 1996, she passed away. This time was devastating for my family, but we realized that my mother was in a better place, free of pain and suffering. Our decision to keep my mother at home was the best one we could have made. If we had to do it over again, we would. .

It is amazing how you think these things only happen to you. Earlier this year my co-worker's father became very ill. The doctor informed her family that he would need constant care. Her family had to make a difficult decision. They had to decide whether to keep her father at home or put him in a nursing home. She asked me for my opinion. I told her that she should listen to her heart and keep her father at home. Her family decided to keep her father at home and employ a full-time nurse to care for him. About two weeks later she came to me and said. "Thank you for being there when I needed you." It made me feel good being able to share my experiences with someone else. .

I have observed from individuals that I work with and people that I have come in contact with that there is a cultural difference when it comes to how people care for their elderly parents. African Americans tend to keep their parents at home and care for them. White Americans tend to place their elderly parents into nursing homes. Every family has to consider all the obstacles that come with caring for a disabled parent. Two of the biggest obstacles are time and money. Caring for a disabled parent requires a great deal of your time and energy. You have to be prepared to go the distance. Caring for a parent that does not have a great deal of money or a good insurance plan can be costly to the whole family. Medicine alone for my mother ranged into the hundreds of dollars. We had to split the cost of the hospital bill between all ten of the children. Every family has to do what they feel is right for them. .

My experience in caring for my mother made me realize how precious life is. My devotion and love for my mother would not have let me made any other decision. I know she is smiling down on me right now and that makes everything worthwhile. .

"Our Elders" by Bayo Kuranga

I grew up in Nigeria, in a large family with older family members, like my grandma, grandpa from my mother's side, and some other older family members on my father's side. Nigerians and Americans each treat their elderly in their own different and unique ways. Nigerians and Americans hold two distinct and different cultures and the two countries are located in two opposite sides of the globe. Nigeria is in West Africa (African continent), and America is in North America (American continent). Each of these two countries also hod different ethnic and moral values, which makes them treat their elderly differently. Finally, the two countries also enjoy different economic prosperity, which also contributes to how well they each treat their elderly citizens.

Growing up in Nigeria gave me an opportunity to see how my grandparents and other elderly members of my family were treated. I also saw how Nigerian society treats their elderly citizens. Because of our culture, ethnic, and moral values and our economic standard we Nigerians treat our elderly different from most of the western countries. We Nigerians have an utmost respect for elders in our society. Our elders are consider secret, most valuable and influential part of the community. Elderly people for the most part in Nigeria are well treated and cared for. For example, the Yorubas have a tradition of sending a grandchild to live with elderly member of the family; in a family without grandchildren, the elderly are moved to live with a family member who cares for them. The Ibos have a similar tradition and the same goes for the Hausas.

A good example of this happened in my family. My father was a missionary and when he had to move to Ghana, he left my oldest sister with his parents because they were getting old. The same thing happened when Grandpa passed and Grandma was getting too old to take care of herself; one of my brothers was sent to live with her and cared for her. Not too long ago, my father passed and a decision was made to send one of my sister's sons to live with mother at home. As a Yoruba saying goes, "You must take care of the hands that took care of you." In fact it's considered a curse to neglect the elderly members of your family; the Yorubas even consider this an unforgivable sin.

In contrast, Americans treat their elderly differently, due to their culture, ethnical moral values and economic standards. Most elderly here in America are sent to the nursing homes or halfway homes, to be cared for by strangers who sometimes do not care about the elderly, but consider this as an eight-hour day job. Sometimes these caretakers are not even qualified for the job; they are just there to earn a living. Although Americans have a high economic standard, mostly their elderly are neglected and, sadly, sometimes are taken advantage off by those who are hired to care for them. I have visited many nursing homes and have seen how badly the elderly are treated, I have also read many stories about how the elderly in this country are treated, horrible stories I may add.

In conclusion, Americans and Nigerians treat their elderly differently mostly because of their distinct and different cultures, because of their ethnic and moral values, and lastly, because of their different economic prosperity. Americans pay for their services, while Nigerians do the service themselves. If I have a choice, I would take the low economic standard of Nigeria and grow old with people who love and care for me, rather than Americans' high economic standards and very poor treatment of the elderly.

"Christmas Memories" by Felix Osanu

Christians celebrate Christmas as the anniversary of Christ's birth. It is celebrated on the 25th of December every year. Christmas Day is usually a day filled with joy and merriment. Different people and cultures of the world celebrate it in various ways.

In my village, in Nigeria, both Christians and non-Christians observe Christmas. Christmas is so exciting back home because it blends together our native customs, which pre-date Christianity with other customs that came with the missionaries. Before the coming of the missionaries, we celebrated the 'Oso Ezi' festival every year on the eighth day before the New Year with cultural dances and acrobatic displays. The influence of Christianity on our culture led to the adoption of 25 December as the day for observing Oso Ezi festival. Christmas Day is the most interesting day of the year because special activities are lined up for the day. There is so much to eat, drink and share with family members and friends.

On most Christmas days, I wake up earlier than usual. I am awakened by the noise in the kitchen resulting from clattering of plates, pans, pots and silverware and the pounding of food in mortar with pestle. In most households, the first meal is pounded yam with soups containing big chunks of beef, goat meat or mutton. This is followed by the food of the day, which is rice served with chicken stew. After breakfast, I assist with preparation of our family meeting.

Christmas Day provides an opportunity for families to have a reunion because most family members live in big cities far away. My father has been the host of our family meeting for over twenty years. At the meeting, prayers are offered to the Almighty God, our ancestors and gods for provisions and protection. I am always delighted to meet, eat and drink with members of our family.

At noon, children from the ages of about five to thirteen wearing new clothes and well-polished shoes visit neighbors and relatives within the village. It is interesting to see most children dressed in their best outfits of the year. It is the tradition to offer food and a small amount of money to the kids as a sign of appreciation for their visit.

The big event of the day is the acrobatic display of masquerades. We have different types and groups of masquerades in my village. As a member of a masquerade group, I always look toward Christmas Day with happiness. We visit every household in the village, dancing and chanting songs of peace, love and unity. These are what Christmas and Oso Ezi festivals represent.

The cultural troupe usually entertains the villagers at the village hall. Their costumes include expensive and woven attire, beads and cowries worn on their necks, ankles and wrists. They dance until nightfall singing beautiful songs that remind us of our cultures, ancestors, importance, unity and selfless service to the community. At nightfall, as Christmas activities gradually come to an end, you can see the sadness on everyone's face, children and adults alike. I always wished Christmas could be celebrated more than once a year because of the joy and happiness it brings. In my village, it is the only day you temporarily forget your sorrows.

I have tried not to feel so nostalgic about my experience of Christmas at home. The truth is that the more I have tried not to think about it, the harder it becomes for me. In this country, Christmas is celebrated in a different way. Everyone in my neighborhood was indoors. I could not see children moving along the streets or visiting neighbors as it is done in my village and no masquerades or cultural dancers anywhere. I also missed my family meeting and friends too. I now realize that different people and cultures of the world celebrate Christmas in various ways, but I prefer the way we did it back home.

"The Breastfeeding Controversy" by Leea Holt

A topic of discussion among a lot of mothers is how long a mother should breastfeed her baby or young child. On an online discussion group, I was following a thread about a new mother who became upset when her friend gave her an ugly look after being told how long she planned on breastfeeding. Conversations about breastfeeding will always come up between expectant mothers or mothers with young children, so a mother or mother-to-be must always be prepared to defend herself and accept the opinion of others.

The mother that started the discussion was talking to a friend about breastfeeding the day before. The friend asked the mother how long did she plan on breastfeeding her thirteen-day-old daughter? The mother replied by saying, "As long as possible." The friend gave the mother an ugly look and told the mother she would only breastfeed for eight weeks at the most. The mother was so upset about the reaction she had received from her friend and wanted to know if it had happened to someone else. One mother in the discussion group reassured the new mother that she was not the only mother who would like to breastfeed their child for a long period of time. The friend had also told the mother not only would she breastfeed for only eight weeks but that she plans on feeding the baby every three hours or longer for twenty minutes on one breast. The other mothers in the discussion were more concerned with the friend because they felt she would be neglecting her baby.

Before I became pregnant with my second daughter, I decided that I would breastfeed my next child. I read a lot of books and pamphlets about breastfeeding. I also talked to a few lactation nurses. All of the books, pamphlets, and nurses that I had obtained information from told me the same thing. They told me to feed my daughter every two hours for at least fifteen minutes on each breast. It sounded pretty easy. When my daughter was born, I found it was not as easy as I thought. One of the mothers in the discussion group told the other mothers something that was never told to me. She told the other mothers that every mother and baby is different. Her baby only wanted to be fed every three hours or more for only fifteen to twenty minutes on only one breast. In my case my daughter wanted to be fed more often than what was considered normal. She wanted to be fed every hour. I could not produce enough milk to keep my daughter happily fed. I would love to breastfeed my daughter until her first birthday, but my body will not allow it. My cousin, like the majority of the other mothers used to belittle me because I could not satisfy my child. I learned to ignore her criticism and do the best that my body would allow.

Another mother in the discussion group said that she thinks the friend will change her mind after the baby arrives. It is the decision of the friend how long and how often she decides to breastfeed her baby. The new mother needs to learn to accept criticism and do what she wants to do for her child. The friend will probably change her mind once she sees the beautiful life she has created, but it is her decision. I doubt if she could look into her hungry child's eyes and let the child starve.

"Shacking Up" by Makeba Holcomb

While living in the nineties it is common to see couples living together before they are married. Older people would call this "shacking up". Most of the time when people "shack-up" it is for their convenience. It is usually for financial growth or for the convenience of intimacy. However, I feel that shacking up with a person before marriage should not take place because of the amount of commitment that is involved. When you are sharing your space, finances, and intimate feelings with someone, they should be your husband or wife.

My younger cousin Tonia mentioned to me that she and her fiancé have decided they are going to live together before they get married. I immediately objected to this because this may ruin the amount of intimacy and respect that her fiancé has for her. She could get pregnant while she is living with him on this trial basis. Then if he turns out to be the type of person that does not handle his responsibilities she would be stuck with the financial part of raising this child alone. I reminded my cousin that it is also a sin to live with someone before marriage. I continued to tell her that he could start to procrastinate and take his time marrying her. My biggest thing was what if he start to take her for granted and does not believe that she will leave him. I believe she will have a hard time leaving him because of the attachment that have grown between them and the possibility of financial dependence.

Tonia opposed everything that I had to say. She felt that this was an excellent opportunity to get to know the real Steve, to see if he was the person that she would want to spend her whole life with. She wanted to know more about his cleaning habits, the way he budget his money, his likes and dislikes, and most of all how responsible he was when it came to paying the bills.

On the other hand, Steve would like the two of them to get a house together. I am in strong disagreement with this proposal because if Tonia is good enough to purchase a house with, she should be good enough to marry. At least this way there would be a commitment between them and an oath that they have been taken before God. In my discussion to Tonia I referred to a cliché` "why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free". I explained that it is an old saying but very true and that she should give this more thought.

I took this issue to Dr. Rosalyn Harper, sociology expert of eighteen years. She stated, "Statistically most people that live together before marriage end up in divorce." I was in total agreement with Dr. Harper and took this piece of information back to my cousin as well. When we are older and wiser we have a tendency to look back on live at the way we lived it versus how we would have lived it. It is natural to try to convince someone we love that they are making a mistake, especially when they are making the same one that you made. All you can do is hope that they will listen to you and save themselves the heartache and agony that you suffered.

In conclusion, I do not feel that it would be beneficial to live with someone before marriage, regardless of what you can learn about that person. Because they are a clean person now does not mean they will be clean afterwards. The same applies for finances'; they may pay their bills good at first but as time goes on and they come into a hardship who knows how they may handle things. All you can do is pray and ask God to bless you with someone that will have the same interests and goals as you and be a good communicator as well. That way you can discuss all these things openly before you consider marrying. But never move in with someone without them being your spouse. Remember that life is a gamble.

"Who's Raising Isaiah?" by Lisa Northington

Mrs. Johnson, the caseworker, gently lowered the carrier onto the kitchen table. As she slowly began to fold back the multicolored blanket that covered it, my younger brother and I quickly nudged our way through the crowd of on looking adults to get a closer look at the tiny bundle that lay hidden beneath. Mrs. Johnson, whom we now considered a family friend, had visited our home several times in previous months but never had she possessed such a precious cargo. Today's visit was much different, and for that very reason my mother had arranged a family celebration. Today was the day that she and Mrs. Johnson had worked so diligently to achieve, for tucked safely in the carrier, silently sleeping was our little Angel. When the blanket was completely removed everyone released a simultaneous sigh. I had never seen anything so small, so beautiful. I marveled at the endless amount of hair that framed her tiny little face, coal black curls that interlocked and coiled in every possible direction. My Aunt Carolyn commented on how her eyelashes seemed to sprawl across her entire face. She was breathtaking, and she was definitely my Aunt Marsha's child.

Angel up until then had been like many African American children in the US, a ward of the state. My Aunt Marsha, a habitual drug user and career criminal, had once again managed to get pregnant during one of her short-term stints of freedom. It wasn't unusual for us not to hear from her for months, sometimes years at a time. So when I say we had no idea she was pregnant, we had absolutely no idea she was about to have a baby. Angel was born October 29,1988, while my Aunt was incarcerated in a Fulton County jail; and because my aunt had neglected to tell anyone she had relatives that would take her newborn, Angel instantly became a ward of the state. It was not until Angel was eight months old, and about to be adopted by a "well to do" white couple that we even knew she existed.

During a visit with my aunt, Angel's caseworker, Mrs. Johnson asked her before she signed the papers to begin the adoption procedures if there were any relatives that may be able to take care of Angel. Finally awakened for her narcotic slumber my aunt gave Mrs. Johnson my mother's name and telephone number. The months that followed were hell.

In cases such as Angel's, it is up to the state to decide what is in the child's best interest. In most instances it is to be with a blood relative, but there are cases when a child of color is placed in a home where both parents are white. Should this happen? Is it possible for an African American child to receive the love and nurturing needed from a white family? Will that child be given the opportunity to explore and learn about his or her rich culture and history? Should white families be allowed to adopt our children?

The fact of the matter is that a disproportionate number of our children are being left on the doorsteps of the government. Seventy-one percent of the children waiting to be adopted are children of color. Nearly ninety percent of the applicants wanting to adopt a child are white. African Americans are not beating down the doors of these institutions asking to adopt our children, yet we frown upon the thought of "white folks" doing it. Our children need homes. The effects of living in an institution or being carted from foster home to foster home are far more debilitating than being raised by white parents. A very large percent of the men incarcerated grew up in institutions and foster homes. The statistics are overwhelming. Why then is it still considered taboo for a black child to be adopted by a white couple?

Many feel as my mother and aunts did. A black couple will not be able to so easily adopt a white child, so why should they be allowed to adopt ours? Some even go so far as to say that our children are being hand picked and that only the fair skinned children with "good hair" are being adopted by white couples. Then there's the biggest issue, will the child be exposed to other people of color? Can this new white family teach them the true meaning of being black growing up in America? These are all valid questions that all of us have raised when confronted with this issue.

Now let's look at the facts. There is not a demand for black children. Most applicants are seeking healthy white babies. Our children are being chosen as alternatives. Therefore, if we were adopting our own children there would not be a need for any other race to take up our responsibility. Our children need homes. How long must they sit in those cold government institutions waiting for their chance at a normal suitable life? Who are they waiting for? There is no long line of African American applicants wanting to adopt black children.

There has also been no evidence of hand picking. It's a ridiculous argument used to shift the blame. The light skin, dark skin issue has been a prejudice lurking within our own communities for decades, and the terminology "good hair" was coined amongst blacks long before interracial adoption became acceptable. Do we fear that the very prejudice that we have inflicted upon our own women and children is now the being used against us?

Finally the question raised most often: will the children of interracial adoption be somehow stripped of their identity? I feel it is more likely the adopting parents will make a special effort to expose them to their African American culture because of the stigma society has placed on them. They may even be at an advantage and subject to receive a little more than black children growing up in a customary setting.

Angel will be eleven years old soon. Although I cannot imagine my life without my baby sister, I believe had she been adopted by the white couple who so desperately wanted her, she would have received the love and care she needed to become a productive well rounded adult. Parenting is universal. The love felt by a child knows no colors, accepts no barriers, and is returned unconditionally.

"Prescription Medicine Can Be Addictive" by Dawn Bowden

I grew up in a decent family surrounding. My mother was full time parent, and my father worked to support my mother, my sister, my brother and myself. I never knew it was bad until it was too late. My dad worked in an environment where medicine was easily accessed. He was sick one day, and because he worked at a clinic he was able to get medication without being seen. I was young and didn't notice anything wrong. Dad had started taking cough syrup to get high. He started to hang with the wrong people and began to take pain pills. Though it wasn't marijuana or cocaine it was a drug he was addicted to. However, he later turned to the drug that weren't legal, the marijuana and cocaine. He would sometimes take all the drugs and medicine together and fall asleep anywhere he pleased, standing up watching television or sitting up holding a conversation with you. Dad would fall asleep in a flick of a light. It may should funny but it was really sad. He soon left the cocaine and marijuana alone, but the pills were his best friend until the day he died.

Prescribed medication can become addictive. It will sometimes lead you to taking stronger drugs. Medications such as valiums, Prozac, and Ritalin to name a few, can cause harm rather cure a patient. I have a girlfriend who had been in the hospital for surgery because her intestines were messed up. She had several operations and of course she was given medication to ease the pain. She enjoyed the way it made her feel, and would ask the nurse for more. She had pursued cocaine, marijuana, and continued taking the pill given to her by her doctor. She finally committed herself into a rehabilitation center for about three months. Two months later she was doing it again.

You have to have will power and support from your family and friends when you're put in a situation that seems to be taking over you. Once you start, it is sometimes hard to stop. My mom thought she had to take valiums. She thought her nerves were so bad these pills were going to help her. She had to have a pill everyday and when she was no longer able to get them she didn't say anything else about a valium. In my friend's case she had become a victim of a prescribed medication.

A good doctor would keep track of the medication given to his patients, but it can sometimes get out of hand if not monitored closely. When I had my second child, I was in so much pain I needed more pain reliever in my IV. I didn't want to have an epidermal so the nurse gave me more medication before time, maybe because I was screaming at the top of my lungs or she knew what I was going through. I was still in pain; therefore, it didn't help me. But it did do something to my baby; she was drowsy and they had to watch her for a couple of minutes to make sure she was all right.

While I've experienced the effect of prescription medication, the prolonged use of any drug obviously can be overwhelming. It is sometimes an amazing high some cannot control. Because of the experience my family, my friend and I have had, I am reluctant to taking any type of medication. If I have a headache I basically deal with it. You should be careful and strong minded when taking medication. If you find yourself losing control try to get help.

"Making a Change" by Juan Butler

Sometimes we feel a need for a change in our lives. The change for me is I no longer want to be an electrician. It is not that being an electrician is not for me, because I really enjoyed what the trade had to offer. You work in different places, meet different people all the time, and the pay is good. However, my passion for electrical work has died.

Electrical work used to be a challenge, learning and doing something new and exciting everyday. The first time I installed a light fixture and it worked, my eyes lit-up as bright as the fixture itself. I was so proud that I wanted to wire everything. But after fifteen years, that joy has gone and there has not been anything to replace the joy that I used to have for this trade.

I am a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 613 (hereinafter IBEW), a union of electrical workers. Electricians who are members of the IBEW are sent to various job sites through the union. Once a job is complete, the electrician then returns to the IBEW to seek placement at another job site. Prior to being placed at another site, you must first go to the union hall and sign the work book and wait until your name is reached to be placed on another job. Because of this practice, and depending on work availability, you may be out of work for two or three weeks, or more. However, the electrical union is a nation wide organization and you can go anywhere in the United States, walk in the electrical union in that jurisdiction and get a job, after signing the work book and waiting until your name is reached.

However, in my case, after finishing the apprentice program things started to change. Work was slow and there were only a few jobs in Atlanta. Therefore, in 1993, after being out of work for three months with over six hundred men on the union's work book ahead of me waiting for work, I decided to travel to another jurisdiction to seek work. I decided to go to Denver, Colorado, to get a job because they had a lot of work there and needed some help. I worked there for one full year before there was any work in Atlanta. This kind of unstable life is not good for a man with a family.

Electrical work is also dangerous, and you could get seriously hurt or killed if you do not have respect for electricity at all times. One day on the job I received a shock from a two hundred seventy seven volts power source. I was working on a fluorescent light fixture changing the ballast, and I had turned off the circuit breaker before I started working on it. Another worker came in and turned the circuit breaker back on without checking to see whether or not anyone was still working with the breaker, or whether or not it was safe to do so. I had my hands on the wires when the power came on and it felt like a ball of lightning penetrating and stiffening my body. I lost my balance and fell off the twelve feet ladder I was working on. It was a blessing from God that I was not really hurt just a little shaken up. After this incident, I began to think about how your life can be taken away from you in a matter of seconds. I also began to think about all the things that I always wanted to do but never made the time to do. At that moment I realized that I must live my life now and try to reach as many of my dreams and goals as possible.

I started working on opening an electrical company, but I had lost the love and dedication for electrical work that I once had. Because I believe you must have a passion for your work to run a successful business, opening my own electrical company never came to fruition.

I have always been interested in the law and for the last six years I have been thinking about becoming an attorney. But my life was settled and I thought that it was too late to make it happen. One day at work I was speaking with an older gentleman about my wanting to go to college and change my career. He asked me what was stopping me from going after my dream, I told him that it would take six or seven years. Then he told me that the years are going to come and go anyway, and if I really want to make a change in my life, I should not wait another day to start on it. The next day I applied for college and started on making a career change.

"Volunteer Service" by Emma Ferguson

We can sometimes become disillusioned because our society tends to look the other way when someone is in need. However, there are quite a number of individuals who truly enjoy helping others and offer this assistance without the expectation of any type of reciprocity. Most people are genuinely motivated to provide assistance because doing good makes them feel good. They are living the Golden Rule to "do unto others." Some of these same people are motivated to assist through volunteering because they may have been in need and someone gave them a hand.

These angels in action can be seen at work during catastrophic disasters, such as the recent Hurricane Floyd, which ravaged the eastern coast of the United States. This hurricane left thousands of people homeless, without food, clothing and basic everyday items. Thousands of volunteers from all across the United States arrived in North Carolina, South Carolina and other coastal states. With them, they provided a smile and a pat on the back to assure those left with only the clothes on their backs that everything will be okay. In addition to the reassurance of their presence, these volunteers also provided water, hot meals, blankets and mental health counseling where necessary. This unselfish act took countless hours, days and weeks of their time, and the "payment" was the thousands of notes received from the recipients of the volunteers' tireless efforts.

Some people are motivated to provided voluntary assistance to others because they were once in need, and someone was there for them. Volunteers at homeless shelters and food banks are helping people in these environments displaced for a variety of reasons. These unfortunate individuals may have lost their residence due to a fire or because they were without employment. Other individuals receiving assistance from these institutions may have experienced an addiction, alcohol or drugs, resulting also in the loss of their place of residence. Quite often, people volunteering at these facilities have experienced these types of displacements and are eager to provide testimonials of encouragement to people in need by letting them know that they were once in their shoes. This encouragement is vital to allow those displaced individuals to continue to strive for the next step, so that they may once again become self-sufficient contributors to society. The motivation to volunteer because of self-experience still provides the same type of feeling that what is being done is for the good of someone else.

I can understand how people can freely give of their time because it makes them feel good in that I've experienced first-hand this feeling. I have had the honor and privilege to volunteer in a food bank, which provided groceries to people who could not afford them for any number of reasons. I experienced a tremendous feeling of exhilaration in that the long hours spent bagging the groceries would truly help someone. Although I did not get to witness the face-to-face encounter with the recipients of these groceries, the feeling in my heart that I was freely helping someone without being compensated, except for this feeling in my heart, was all of the motivation I needed.

The "volunteer force" is comprised of individuals who volunteer for a number of institutions for extended periods of time. Quite a number start to volunteer consistently as young adults and continue to do so as senior citizens, stopping only when forced to due to physical limitations. The unselfish act to consistently work long hours, often under stressful and dire living conditions, makes it inherently obvious that these volunteers were fanned with the "do unto others" wand. It is heartwarming to know that a large number of people in our society do not always look the other way and that they experience pure joy in knowing that their deeds provide a light of encouragement to what could be a dark, hopeless day.

"Say Goodbye" by Franklin Strong

Today is a time when people die every day for all types of reasons and causes. It could be that you are in the wrong place at the wrong time or you got a call from the doctor saying you only have a short time to live. No matter what the situation may be, everyone or everything that walks this wonderful circle called planet Earth will face that dark, cold, monster known as death. If I were the person who answered the phone with news of only a short time to live, I would alter my life in a number of places.

I am the type of person who truly believes that family is the number two thing in life. Family means love, anger, good, or bad depending on the situation. So with death clawing on my back I would enjoy them while I could. For example, I would have fun and not being the rich man I dream to be, I would simply take long walks with the family, visit and get to know the ones I see only once or twice a year. And I would make it a job to forgive the ones who hurt me and love the ones I hurt as well. Remember my days are numbered so I would have to move fast in order to complete the ring of love known as my family ties.

Ever since I was a little boy I would always give thanks to God, not as much as I should but I did not forget him. So I would alter my church life and relationship with God. I would simply ask him to forgive me for my sins and for the people I have hurt in the past. I would try my best to get to know the all mighty himself in a personal way. And of course I would help others in the church with problems big or small and pray that he would watch over my friends and family while I laugh about the silly things they do from the view above.

As my time would run away slowly I would need time alone. This time I feel is very well needed because it would keep my family from watching me cry. I have never been the guy to say that I was sad, I am more like the so called hard type, but death alone can bring the Green Giant to his knees. This would be time to place my head upon my shoulders not for myself, but for the love of my family. Take a trip with me on my time alone. I could see myself sitting down at a huge lake with a mass of trees and snow white ducks following each other in search of food to fill their hollow tummies and a home to crawl away from the rafts of mother nature. I could hear birds singing and feel the wind brush against the hairs on my arms and legs. That would be my time alone just enjoy the pretty side of the world.

To close, life is given and also taken away so enjoy it while you can because you may never know when it your turn to pick up that phone.

Outstanding papers from previous years may be found here.