FROM READERS: Kids' winning essays address overcoming adversity

Tuesday, June 10, 2014 | 9:44 a.m. CDT; updated 11:05 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 16, 2014

UPDATE: One of the essays has been removed because too much of the writing duplicated other published work.

Fourth-graders in Columbia Public Schools participated in the annual Blind Boone Essay Contest, and three winners were chosen this year out of 39 entries.

The fourth-graders were asked to write one page on the life of John William "Blind" Boone and a second page about a person or a situation that best exemplifies Blind Boone's famous motto, "merit not sympathy wins."

Here are two of the winning essays about people who exemplify his motto.


Avrill Phipps of Grant Elementary wrote about a girl she knows. (We suggest you read to the end.)

Have you ever heard of Blind Boone? Have you heard of his famous motto, "merit not sympathy wins"? This simply means you don't want anyone feeling sorry for you and you keep on going with a smile on your face.

I know someone who is like that. Most of her life she has lived in poverty due to horrible men and her father has been out of her life seven years, but she has a loving family. She is still one of the smartest students in her class and has had many achievements.

Do you know why this fourth grader is like this? Because she does not let any of this get in her way, just like Blind Boone didn't let racism get in his way or let blindness hold him back.

The first reason I believe that she follows Blind Boone's motto is because she has lived in poverty most of her life and didn't let that stop her. She was just like her mother. She didn't want anyone to feel sorry for her. Her family has slept in cars, lived in shelters, and even slept at a friend's house due to horrible men. She said it was very hard to find a home and for her mother to find a good job.

When they did find a house, it was small and her mom worked full-time and when her and her brother came home they did chores while her mother's boyfriend sat and played video games. She said it is very frustrating.

The second reason I believe that she follows his motto is because her father has been out of her life seven years. He was arrested when she was three years old. After that her family struggled to stay on their feet and find a home. they had found a small house to stay at. She has told me that it is horrible not to see her father. Her family just didn't have the time and the money.

She has gone through a lot throughout her life. I know how she feels because that person is me.

Olivia Johnson of Grant Elementary wrote about Wilma Rudolph

When you hear the name Wilma Rudolph you probably don't think of a small sickly baby. You probably think of a fast little kid. If you do think that, you are wrong. Read on to find out what Wilma was like as a baby.

Wilma Rudolph exemplifies Blind Boone's famous motto, "merit not sympathy wins," because she overcame polio, double pneumonia, and scarlet fever as a kid and went on to be in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Wilma was born premature in 1940. She was always a sickly baby. If one of her brothers or sisters got a cold, she got double pneumonia. When she was five, she got polio and scarlet fever. Wilma's left leg twisted inward, and Wilma couldn't move it back. She did a bunch of exercises to help her leg and finally got a brace.

One Sunday during church she went outside and took her brace off. She walked back into church without her brace.

In 1960 she went to the Rome Olympics. She won the 100-meter dash. She also won two other medals.

Now do you think that she exemplifies Blind Boone's motto?

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We are happy to publish student writing or art, and we hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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