[Layout Image: No Content]
Gallaudet Univeristy
Decorative Graphic: No content.

Judges' Award Essay: 15-19 Age Group

"Pay It Forward"

Matt Campbell
Kansas State School for the Deaf
Olathe, KS

There are so many ways to improve the community that it's hard to think of just one. I'll tell you some very simple, free or cheap, and some environmentally friendly ways I can improve my community by helping others.

"What did you ever do to change the world?" is a quote from the 2000 motion picture film Pay It forward.

One way is to help other people in need. I can give other people a home to stay in or give a homeless guy or woman some money when I walk by him or her. It is simple; I just walk up to them and hand them a five or a one hundred dollar bill and just walk away. I could invest some money in improving a homeless shelter or start a chain of homeless shelters where people can come and feel safe and call at least some place home. That would help make your city or town not look like trash. I could even just sit there for ten minutes and talk to that person, or even just take off my jacket and say, "Here, please accept this; keep warm; you need it a lot more than I do." Then I could give it to them and walk away.

Jerry: You ever been on the street?
Arley: My mom took us pretty close.
Jerry: Well, you can't know. Not until you look at a dumpster. But when you climb into that thing for the first time and you pull those newspapers over you, that's when you know you've messed your life up.
(Dialog from the 2000 motion picture Pay It Forward)

Another thing I can do is instead of driving my car everywhere I go. I can take a walk to the store or take a walk to the park with my family. Taking a walk with the kids to school, to the store, to the park, or to the babysitters is a great way to spend just a little more time with your kids and grab some fresh, clean air. Plus that's thirty to forty dollars of cash in you pocket.

Another free way to improve your community is to have a trash sack in your car, tied to the arm of the seat where you can reach it. Then you can put all the trash in your car in that sack, instead of out on the street. Or, it could be tied to your waist when you go walking if you're walking on the street and you see some trash put it into that sack, What's the reward you get? You get a safer, plus cleaner play place for the kids. That way you can stay inside your house and cook or clean  and not have to worry about the kid running and tripping  over  a piece of metal or getting cut by a  shard of glass sticking out of the ground. You also get a nice bonus of working out as well.

Also, instead of improving a supercenter or a gas station, why not improve parks and play places. Replace the swings, add cheap, but new play sets, make additional play parts, or plant $1,500-$20,000 worth of trees, flowers, and grass. Do this instead of spending $1,500-$20,000 on adding a new room to a supercenter or laying down a new McDonalds. Sure, planting plants don't benefit you now, but look at the benefits for the future. Your kid's kids get to open their eyes to a whole new world that's green and smells good, Better yet, it's safe. And they get to breathe in fresh, clean air; wouldn't you like that?

Another way is to recycle EVERYTHING. If you're thinking about throwing away an old stereo set that still is in good shape, DON'T throw it away; go sell it to a pawn shop and get a little green in your pocket. If you're planning on throwing away your old clothes that you don't want anymore, but they are still wearable, DON'T do that. Go take them to a church or a place that donates to poor people. I think it'd be worth it if you saw a person who was walking down the street, with what used to be rags and plastic sacks, but is now wearing your old clothes. It might make you smile and say "Go get that job buddy!" At the end of the day that person is thinking, "Who ever was kind enough to donate these clothes, well thank god for them, because that little out- of -their way effort gave me the job I need to help my family." In the end, you're helping save the world, Sure, you're out of money by now, but ...look how many people are out of homeless shelters; look how many people are helping each other. The stairway to heaven isn't reached by going to church every Sunday. It's reached by helping people you don't even know, by just doing kind things daily for no reason at all.

I guess it's hard for people who are so used to things the way they are - even if they're bad - to change. Cause they kind of give up. And when they do, everybody kind of loses. From the 2000 motion picture film PIF