Reflection is a critical part of fostering students’ deep understanding of what it means to display good character.  This year, Imagine Schools hosted its 5th Annual Character Essay Contest to encourage just that.  Students chose a maxim or quotation that they found particularly meaningful and reflected in an essay on how that maxim applied to their lives and/or the world around them.

This year, we received 700 essays from 61 Imagine schools across the country!  It was wonderful to gain insight into how some of these students were connecting truths about character to situations in their own lives, especially through their most difficult experiences.

Awards were given to First Prize winners and Honorable Mentions in each grade level category from third-eighth, with a separate category for High School.  Click on the 1st place winners’ name in each grade level below to read the winning essays!

Third Grade Notable Quotes:

“Sometimes courage is hard because something is new. But, the more you use courage to face your fears, the easier it is to try new things.”
1st Place Winner
Enzo Strahm
, Imagine MASTer Academy (IN)
Writing on the Maxim: “Just tell the truth. It will save you every time.” – Oprah Winfrey

“God created us all equal and teaches us to live our lives leading by example.”
Honorable Mention – Angelique Caouette, Imagine School at North Manatee (FL)

Fourth Grade Notable Quotes:

“If you get hurt physically or emotionally, you should not just take the pain, but keep going; if you fail in an election, or your business fails, it should make you stronger and more determined to do better.”
1st Place Winner – Ilan Douglas, Imagine Wesley International Academy (GA)
Writing on the Maxim: “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese Proverb

“Now I do and I can help my mom even more. Being able to take care of my brother makes me more responsible. My mom can trust me more.”
2nd Place Winner – Jeremyah Belcher, Imagine Clay Avenue (OH)

“I learned a lot from this quote about how I should live my life. I should always look for people who need help, try and help them and this of ways to help the poor and homeless get what they need.”
3rd Place Winner – Gavyn Mortensen, Imagine Schools at West Gilbert (AZ)

“Helping others makes you learn new things. When we help each other we can gain knowledge and new experiences.”
Honorable Mention – Moet Tharpe, Imagine Clay Ave (OH)

“When I usher to get to greet people and smile at them so they will have a good time at church. When I help others I gain strength in sharing my talents. I use my talents to pass strength to others, so that they will feel happy.”
Honorable Mention – Autymn Epps, Imagine Discovery Public Charter School (MO)

Fifth Grade Notable Quotes:

“From Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s, to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s, all the way up to me, we can see courage is something everyone is born with, but that not everyone demonstrates. Courage is something that can really bring the best out of yourself and can tell how much you care if your life is in danger. I hope that I can continue to show courage and set an example for others throughout my life. ‘Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.’ and I hope my horse keeps riding.”
1st Place Winner – Mikaila Jones, Imagine Hope Community Charter School, Tolson Campus (DC)
Writing on the Maxim: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway” – John Wayne

“I think that everyone can have courage, that you don’t have to be special or strong, but you have to want to do things that you are scared of. All it takes is a belief that you can do it, and the willpower to try. Any one from the President, to my mom, can be courageous every day, and you can too.”
2nd Place Winner – Alex Johnston, Imagine Schools at East Mesa (AZ)

“John Wayne said, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.’ This quote meant a lot to me, because John Wayne has been a hero to me and I was surprised to learn that he had fear. John Wayne faced his fears throughout his life head-on, just like the heroes he played in his movies.”
3rd Place Winner – Dawson Clifton, Imagine Rosefield (AZ)

Sixth Grade Notable Quotes:

“‘The trusth us like the sun, you can cover it up but it ain’t goin’ away’ is a powerful statement. Rock-and-roll icon Elvis Presley could not have said it any better. Many people may twist the words to suit themselves, but it means that one can cover up a lie but the guilt is still there. No matter how deeply the lie is hidden, someone will stumble upon it. I discovered this at the ripe old age of three!”
2nd Place Winner – Will Norris, Imagine Schools at Town Center (FL)

“The radiance of truth will at some point shatter the storm of lies.”
Honorable Mention – Emily L. Lukens, Imagine Renaissance Public School Academy (MI)

“Like my very close friend Macayla. She might as well be honest Abe’s daughter, for the low number of falsehoods that escape her lips. She is the best friend known to man-kind: she is very trustworthy. Never has a lie tainted her words.”
Honorable Mention – Renary Walczuk, Imagine Kissimmee Charter Academy (FL)

“When we begin to picture possibilities, we imagine that we can do it. Then we are willing to be patient, and wings of imagination lift us past that obstacle. Troubles such as these will come up, but imagination can lift us above all of them.”
Honorable Mention – Katri Miles, The Imagine Classical Academy at Indigo Ranch (CO)

“Trust is as fragile as a porcelain doll. Don’t make the mistake of breaking it. ‘The trust us like the sun. You can shut it out for a time but it ain’t going away.’”
Honorable Mention – Caitlin Cronin, Imagine Rosefield (AZ)

Seventh Grade Notable Quotes:

“My whole family, including myself, has struggled with weight our whole lives. Weight issues have gone back as far as we can remember on both sides of our family. My dad has struggled with being really overweight for a long time. It started that he was in a lot of pain, but it turned into something else. He became depressed, and that just made him want to eat more, he was blinded to what was right in front of him. He had a loving family, a two story house to live in, and a God that has always loved him and will never stop. He was in this slump for about a year, I don’t know what happened after that, but he snapped out of it all of a sudden. He is now going to the gym every day, and has lost a huge amount of weight. He went from being full of misery to feeling pain but having a positive attitude about it. I think that what my dad realized is that, even if you fall sometimes, you will have the strength to rise through God, and that is exactly what he is doing, rising to the top.”
Honorable Mention – Victoria Juillet, Imagine Prep at Surprise (AZ)

“It happens all the time; people notice the world is a dark place. I wish that sometimes we could just climb out of the hole we dug ourselves in. But after contemplating this quote, it made me realize that I’m not the only one who wishes that; everybody does. The people of Egypt are protesting about their government and want their president to resign; the people of Egypt are taking action. In Egypt, the people have acted on this quote. They believe that ‘Pain is inevitable, misery is a choice.”
Honorable Mention – Benny Ndgewa, Imagine Schools at East Mesa (AZ)

Eighth Grade Notable Quotes:

“‘You know, I was a kid once too. And  there wasn’t a think you guys have done that I haven’t. But when you tell a lie, you have to own up to it. And once you tell a lie, you need a whole bodyguard of lies to protect it. So you’re never really lying to someone only once.’ Hearing that, I knew that I had to stand up to my mistakes. The officer got out of the car, and opened our door to let us out. We walked up to the door and the first person I saw was my mom, in tears. I took a deep breath and walked forward. I knew what I had to do.”
1st Place Winner – Alyssa Womack, Imagine Schools at Coolidge (AZ)
Maxim: “Once you tell a lie, you need a whole bodyguard of lies to protect it.” – Winston Churchill

“Leigh Mitchell Hodges said: ‘Failure is often that early morning hour of darkness which precedes the dawning of the day . . .’ To this day, the realization will suddenly blindside me. I am better than I used to be. I am stronger-mentally, physically, and academically. I can handle what life throws at me, because I know not only what I stand for but what I’m made of. And that is more important than any piece of advice or criticism anyone has ever given. These days, I make straight As. I went to my regional science fair. Several clubs and teams vie for my time and energy after school. The greatest passion in my life – writing – is finally something I am working on. Looking back I can only pray that I can help someone else to not give up on life. It improves.”
3rd Place Winner – Raven Fawcett, Imagine Prep at Surprise (AZ)

High School Notable Quotes:

“Facing fears is the hardest part in life. Though our fears do protect us, they also limit us. If we live everyday in fear, we don’t really live to our full potential.”
1st Place Winner – Emily Scattergood, Imagine Prep at Surprise (AZ)
Writing on the Maxim: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence, by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

“The most notable architects have always displayed courage in their designs. The dreams Lawrence speaks of require similar courage. While it is not difficult to be creative, one must have courage to begin. The mind is a powerful tool that can create the wildest of dreams, yet these dreams can be so wild that they seem impossible or daunting upon which to embark. Only a person with courage knows that his dreams may fail and chooses to begin them anyway.”
2nd Place Winner – Victoria Howell, Imagine Prep Superstition (AZ)

“The age of innocence and youth is cherished and missed as it passes into age of adulthood which is full of responsibility and authority. With the increase of age comes  the increase of responsibilities and pressure to live up to those responsibilities. Responsibilities such as driving, setting your own bed time, and turning in your homework on time are all juggled during young adulthood. Although responsibilities can be highly rewarding, they are often burdensome and take time before your can see the prize. Within Imagine Schools, high school students are prepared for the responsibilities they will face as adults and encouraged as they take on responsibilities during high school. . . Responsibility has become a burden in today’s society, but Imagine Prep at Surprise and Imagine Schools are changing that, by teaching young adults to embrace responsibility instead of dread it.”
Honorable Mention – Katy Harding, Imagine Prep at Surprise (AZ)

Other Essay Quotes from Participants:

“Failure means many different things to each individual person. Leigh Mitchell Hodges, a poet who lived from 1876 to 1954, is known for the famous quote: ‘Failue is often that early morning hour of darkness which precedes the dawning of the day of success.’ Failure is inevitable. It is as much a part of life as is breathing oxygen. It can be a never-ending cycle that can spiral the person involved down to nothing if they let it. Although failure can often go hand-in-hand with success, the perspective from which the event is perceived is often the precursor to the outcome. There is no real in between for many: black and white are the only choices. In the end, people can overcome dramatic odds against them with hard work and faith, and a strong belief that success is on the horizon. But left to simmer, the lit fire can not only affect the individual, but their family also.”
Emily Arthur, 8th grader at Imagine Schools at Lakewood Ranch (FL)

“In the world today, it seems that people just want to have fun today and put off working ’til tomorrow. But people who are successful . . . understand that all the hard work they do today will pay off tomorrow.”
Jonah Cragun, 4th grader at Imagine Avondale (AZ)

“I think I’m becoming a wiser person by becoming a more honest person. My friends respect me, my teacher respects me, and my parents respect me because they know that they can expect me to be honest and trustworthy.”
Jasmine Cruz, 5th grader at Imagine Avondale (AZ)

“Once I had gotten a taste of success, I just kept giving my 100% best. Now I realize it can always get better, if you keep trying, and that is exactly what I am still doing.”
Brittany Brown, 8th graders at Imagine Avondale (AZ)