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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Pen is Mightier than the Sword (04/08/10)

TITLE: Dying to be Heard
By Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom


I canít tell you how many times Iíve heard that high school is the best time of life. I was encouraged by counselors, teachers, and family members to enjoy life while I was still young, and worry-free. I prayed for a carefree life. But my story is not an idyllic fairy tale.

One day, I logged on to face book and found a page called, ĒRiley Ronnikers Must Die.Ē I knew I should have ignored it, but I couldnít help myself. The page had postings from people calling me a freak, or telling stories about embarrassing moments. Secrets that I thought were safe were right next to unbelievable lies. There was even a section about horrible and painful ways for me to die.

Iím sure as you read this you are thinking this is a bizarre college admission essay. This crazy girl needs to be bragging about her 97.6 average, or her ranking in the 10th percentile on her SATs. Wouldnít it be more impressive if we knew she was a varsity swimmer, ran track, and performed in the school play?

All of those statements above are true, but thatís not what I will remember when I look back on my teen years. Instead, Iíll picture how my former best friend took a photo of me in the locker room on her cell phone. Then she forwarded it to everyone on her call list. Someone thought it would be hilarious to print posters of the degrading picture and post it on every pole in town. Once, at a swim team sleepover, the girls wrote vile names on my forehead in permanent marker while I was asleep.

Iíll remember begging Mom not to tell the principal what happened because it would only make things worse. She didnít believe me. Things got so much worse. Text messages were sent several times a day telling everyone atrocities Iíd committed. Many teachers saw the kids laughing and reading the messages aloud; most just looked the other way.

My mom went to the school board and told them everything that had been done to me. Their answer was, ďTell Riley, sticks and stones may break her bones, but words will never hurt her.Ē That was their brilliant solution, to tell me to toughen up.

After months of torture, I finally decided I couldnít take it anymore. Hell couldnít be as bad as the life I was living. I wanted my mom to know I loved her and it wasnít her fault. She cried as much as I did. I heard her telling a friend that she was the worst mom ever, because she couldnít keep her daughter safe.

I believed the only solution was to kill myself. Other than my mom, no one would care or even notice. But I wanted to make sure Mom didnít blame herself; so I wrote a letter telling her what a great mom she really is and how much I love her. I really believed her life would be easier without me in it.

After I had written the letter, I wanted to make sure someone found it before Mom came home from work and found my cold body. I put it in the mailbox of the only teacher who had ever tried to help me. I knew she would find it in the morning. I thought that would be plenty of time for my teacher to call the police before Mom came home from her night shift to find me dead from an overdose.

Thank God, the teacher had a late meeting that day. She found my letter and called 911 immediately. The paramedics made it to my house just in time. I started going to therapy; legal action was taken against 3 of the girls that were cyber-bullying me.

I almost had to die before anyone would listen. I wasnít the only one who was being bullied. The investigation found other kids who were contemplating suicide, too. We started a support group and together we learned how to heal.

I hope you will find me worthy to be a student here. I want to become a teacher. I promise I wonít look the other way when one of my students is being bullied. I will be that teacher who might save someoneís life some day. Please give me the chance- not just for me- but for all of my future students. I will make a difference in the world.

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This article has been read 864 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Barbara Lynn Culler04/15/10
Wow! This is good. Is it based on a real situation?
Jackie Wilson04/16/10
This was very raw and real. Great job with the voice of the narrator. Wonderful writing and flow!
Patricia Herchenroether04/16/10
Wow. We know this thing is going on, but it gives one chills to hear this in 1st person.
Joan Campbell04/18/10
This is very powerful writing, from the title to the last paragraph, and so very relevant to all we're hearing about teen suicides caused by bullying. Riley's voice makes it very personal and real. Well done on tackling such a painful, topical subject.
Karlene Jacobsen04/19/10
WOW! This is great writing! It brought me to tears. POWERFUL!
Gerald Shuler 04/19/10
The entire piece is rivetting but the most powerful line for me was "we learned how to heal."

Well written.
Mona Purvis04/19/10
Written with conviction and passion. I love it when someone speaks up for the wounded souls. You did that very well here. Makes an impact.

Carol Penhorwood 04/19/10
A very difficult subject to tackle, but so well done! Great writing.
Loren T. Lowery04/20/10
Eloquently written and so relevant in today's world. I recently returned from a funeral of a girl who was very much like the one you so vividly described. Her intervention, however, did not come soon enough. Maybe by your story here, it will help others.
Maria Egilsson04/20/10
powerful and gutwrenching. This has a message everyone should hear... too many young lives broken by words that wound... too many who are made to feel worthless. too many who take their lives because of the pain.
Sarah Elisabeth 04/20/10
Whew, what an inside out look. You really pulled me into Riley's shoes, and what a place. A true illustration of the power of words.
Verna Cole Mitchell 04/20/10
Excellent storytelling that illustrates a powerful message. Well done.
Kimberly Russell04/20/10
Powerful, riveting writing. Good job for a tough take on the subject. Like the title.
angelos2 wark04/20/10
Just by reading all of the above comments, you have obviously touched hearts with a well written message.

I believe surviving this experience will help to make you a compassionate and caring teacher.

I pray that all of your aspirations come to fruition!

Keep writing from your heart!
Beth LaBuff 04/20/10
This could be a story on the front page of today's newspaper. This is gripping and your message compelling. So sad, but filled with hope!
harvestgal Ndaguba04/20/10
Wow, this hit my heart. Very powerful message here. Very sincere. A heart gripper.
AnneRene' Capp04/21/10
Excellent touching and gut wrenching!

My respects for your courageous endurance to expose yourself in order to help others. BRAVO!
Joshua Janoski04/22/10
You did an excellent job of bringing me into your character. I felt the pain she was feeling while I was reading. I was sad for her.

You also did an excellent job demonstarting the topic through the suicide note.

This was gripping and a great example of pulling the reader into the story.
Gregory Kane04/22/10
You have excelled yourself here. Wrapping it all up inside a college application essay was a touch of genius
Sarah Elisabeth 04/23/10
Shann, congrats on making the top ten in Advanced! Hope you are doing well *hugs*