Smile. You’re Beautiful.

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Of all of the graffiti I’ve seen written in bathroom stalls, “Smile. You’re Beautiful.” is my favorite. Just three bold words written neatly in Sharpie against a grey background. Untouched by a scrubbing brush and a deterrent of the paint that would otherwise be used to cover it up. These words could mean the world to someone. They could show someone that life isn’t always that bad. I hope that as the years go by and others continue to scratch their names and scribble insensitive comments, these words remain to bring sunshine instead of rain.

So why is it so hard to say something nice to others every now and then? Sometimes I wonder. I wonder about a lot of things. Like does perfect actually exist? Personally, I think individuality is more important and perfect is a matter of perspective that everybody can decide on for themselves. Unfortunately, there are those out there who don’t think they’re good enough. Good enough for who? For others who judge and degrade to make themselves feel better? I have a friend, she lives over a thousand miles away at the moment, who I know struggles with her self-esteem. She’s an extremely smart individual who can be quite funny when she wants to. I try to be motivational when I can, but she is actually the one who inspired me to write this. Everybody has something significant to offer this world; some people just need a little extra push from people who really care about them to see that.

That being said, I would like to offer this quote up to everyone out there (not just the girls) who needs a little bit of, or a lot of, motivation and inspiration, as well as someone to believe in and never give up on them:

“Hey, girls, you’re beautiful. Don’t look at those stupid magazines with stick-like models. Eat healthy and exercise. That’s all. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough. You’re good enough, you are too good. Love your family with all your heart and listen to it. You are gorgeous, whether you’re a size 4 or 14. It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside, as long as you’re a good person, as long as you respect others. I know it’s been told hundreds of times before, but it’s true. Hey, girls, you are beautiful.”
― Gerard Way

Never change who you are because of what someone else says or thinks. Be yourself and love yourself. Stay strong as you weather the storm because there will always be a light to shine through and there might even be a rainbow in the end. There is always hope. Embrace it.

How Will You Spend Your Summer?

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One of my summer chores: Walking the dog around the block every single day. I think he’s looking forward to it and I could use the fresh air.

School is officially over this year or will be very soon for most of you. Final exams are finished and you can’t wait to escape your school and walk in the sunshine, right? I’m sure a lot of you have plans, set in stone or not, of what you’re going to do and I’m sure most of those involve hanging out with friends and traveling. Those two things are fine and good, but you have to keep your future in mind as well.

I am now officially a senior in high school. My junior year ended this morning at 9:30 as I left the school after taking my last exam of the year, American Government. I collected some letters of recommendation from my teachers and hopped in the car that was waiting for me. I’d love to say I drove off into the sunset, everything faded to black as the credits rolled, and my favorite song played, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I wound up at Burger King for my first ever interview. I was nervous, but it went very well and I’m now feeling confident about my next interview tomorrow. After only two previous days of job hunting, I’ve filled out six applications, scheduled two interviews, and I am currently working on three to four more applications. Apply, apply, apply. The more applications you fill out, the better your chances of getting a summer job. Another thing, in today’s economy you can’t afford to be picky, especially if you are a teenager just entering the workforce. Be open about your options and take advantage of any opportunities that cross your path.

I was also inducted into my school’s chapter of the National Honor Society this year. One of the requirements to retain membership is the six hours of community service I have to serve this summer. In a small town, their are not a lot of choices. Sometimes you have to be creative and sometimes your chance isn’t just going to jump in your face and say, “Hey! Look at me!” You have to actually go in and ask organizations in your community because not all of them advertise the need for volunteers. For example, the local library is a great choice. At least, it is for me. I love reading and I’ve helped in some of my previous schools’ libraries. I enjoy the work that’s involved and that’s what matters. If you plan on or need to do some volunteering this summer, do something you’ll enjoy because, chances are, you’ll put more effort into the work you’re doing and the experience will be more memorable.

Remember, always keep an open mind, never do something you’ll regret, and be safe this summer!

Florence Scherer Brunner Achievement in Writing Award

It can be exhausting searching site after site after site of scholarship databases and the like. Did you ever think to stop by your school’s guidance office or ask your teachers to aid you in your search for college money? I recently entered and won a scholarship through my school. I almost didn’t write the essay, but I’m certainly glad I did. I hope my experiences help to motivate others.

Here is my winning essay; maybe it can offer you some pointers on writing your next scholarship essay:

Personal privacy has long been and will continue to be a rather delicate topic because many people have different points of view on where the line should be drawn. For example, the employed population is split on whether routine drug testing is the right thing to do or if it is an invasion of a person’s right to privacy. The way I look at it is if you don’t have anything to hide, you won’t have anything to worry about. So, I agree that routine drug testing should occur in the workplace because it’s very similar to drug testing at schools, it can help to create a safer work environment, and both companies and employees can benefit from the practice.

Essentially, routine drug testing in the workplace is very similar to routine drug testing at high schools. One could argue that teenagers are employed as students; therefore the workplace isn’t that different from a school in this case. One of the few differences is that the employees in question are receiving income, thus it seems even more important for companies to check who is receiving their money. A business wouldn’t want someone under the influence of illegal drugs working for them, much less receiving a paycheck from them. However, a written version of the policy should be given to each employee as well as an acknowledgment for them to sign stating that they received a copy and that they understand and consent to the drug testing. Employees should also be made well aware that dismissal can result from a refusal to sign said document.

Additionally, the workplace is a setting that demands a safe environment and responsible workers to function properly. Routine drug testing can help contribute to that ideal image. According to the United States Department of Labor “more than six percent of the population over 12 years of age (13.9 million people) has used drugs within the past thirty days” and the usage rate remains “highest among persons aged 16 to 25 – the age group entering the work force most rapidly.” This statistic sheds light on the urgency of finding those employees who are substance abusers. By randomly picking a group of employees, say every month, it makes it easier to catch anyone who maybe using illegal drugs because the users won’t know exactly if, or possibly even when, they might get caught. The fear of getting caught combined with the prospect of being punished and having to face a severe penalty in the case of a zero tolerance policy makes routine drug testing a good practice to implement into the workplace.

Finally, there are benefits to be reaped by companies as well as their employees. Referencing the United States Department of Labor, “Only four years after implementing a workplace substance abuse program which included drug testing, Jerry Moland of Turfscape Landscape Care, Inc., in Chandler, AZ, says that his company is saving over $50,000 a year due to increased productivity, fewer accidents, and less absenteeism and turnover.” This is proof that companies can indeed save money by carrying out routine drug testing. Companies that have promoted a drug free environment have also seen increased worker morale as the result of improved workplace conditions which, in turn, leads to higher customer satisfaction. By creating an informed workforce, companies are reducing illegal substance abuse in the workplace and are potentially reaching their employees’ families and communities as well.

Given these points, I strongly believe that businesses should implement routine drug testing into their company policies. First, this procedure benefits companies, employees, and sometimes beyond by saving money, decreasing the chance of workplace accidents, and improving workplace conditions. Also, this practice promotes responsible workers and a safer environment, both of which are vital factors if a company is to run smoothly and operate properly. Furthermore, routine drug testing is comparable to the drug testing that is used in high schools, although one major difference is that paychecks are involved which should make the need to eliminate illegal drug use in the workplace even more critical.