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Commentary: Some Wonderful Young Writers

By Jim Schneegold

Buffalo, NY – I recently had the privilege to be a judge for Williamsville's Mill Middle School "Reflections Program." Student writers, artists, photographers and musicians were asked to contribute their interpretation of "Signs of Courage." I was asked to evaluate the fifth through eighth grade writers who wrote about what that subject meant to them.

Now when I was their age I loved expressing my thoughts on paper. It was an escape for me to say things I might not feel comfortable saying out loud. So when I read and graded the 15 entries, I was expecting a bunch of cute little stories about courage that I might have written at 12 years old.

Boy, was I wrong!

They were heartwarming, articulate and much deeper than anything I could have come up with at their age. Maybe the fact that I'm not a parent makes me unaware of how bright kids can be. But what I am aware of is that writing can take a shy child and illuminate the brilliance that hides inside.

At the awards ceremony, I watched every participant in all four categories make that 30 foot walk to the front of the class for their medal. As the teacher took her time to tell the audience the quality of each entry, you could see the child's shoulders begin to rise as they returned, in honor, back to their seats to thunderous applause. I felt the same honor to have read each story in its entirety. I remember being a child and feeling that same pride to be noticed and the center of attention, if only for a fleeting moment. I pretended to act cool like I was no big deal but on the inside I was saying, I knew I could do this. I just knew it."

What a luxury to be a part of this night. And it wasn't just the winners that earned their 45 seconds of fame in front of their classmates and parents. Every student that entered got to make that walk and be acknowledged - not for winning, but simply contributing.

When my opportunity to be a judge presented itself, much like the students, it would have been easy to sit on the sidelines and say, "I'm much too busy." But who are we not to be a contribution if we have something to offer? Who are we not to share our hidden talents in the face of possible embarrassment? The children found their opportunity and ran with it. I came out of my writing world and got to see the kid's for who they can be.

I was proud to be a part of a positive experience at Mill Middle. I wish Cable-TV would televise these events sometime instead of the Town Council meetings where the politicians bicker and argue about budget deficits and sinking properties. Let the subscribers witness the true spirit of what happens on a Thursday evening in the heart of Amherst.

To me, this "Reflections Program" would be a more appropriate meaning of, "Reality TV."

Listener-Commentator Jim Schneegold is a local writer whose was published in "A Sixth Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul."