The Fantastic Five: Senior Essay Winners

June 2009

Fayette Woman asks graduating seniors: What do you expect the world to look like twenty-five years from now, and what do you imagine your role to be in it?

June 2009 Photos by Images by Rainy

June 2009 Photos by Images by Rainy

Okay, we’ll admit it: we had ulterior motives for this month’s cover story. Faced with a constant stream of depressing news about the nose-diving economy at home and war and violence abroad, we started looking for two things: a sense of the big picture and an infusion of youthful optimism. Thus our “Voices of the Future” essay contest was born. We challenged graduating seniors from the five public high schools of Fayette County to inspire us about what the world will look like twenty-five years from now, and what role they anticipate playing in it.

The result? An influx of essays from some of the county’s most intelligent and articulate young women. The entries we received spoke of the value of education and its power to improve society, of hope for improvements in environmental policy, of confidence in greater and more widespread opportunities for minorities and the poor, and of optimism for the possibilities of technology to transform our country from dependent on fossil fuels to a leader in clean energy. It was difficult to choose just five winners, and we are very proud to present their essays to you.

Maggie, Hannah, Kelly, Nikki and Jennifer have many different ideas about how they will contribute to the our nation over the next twenty-five years, but they also have much in common: each young woman is hopeful, ambitious, hardworking, and passionate, with a belief in the possibilities of the future and a clear, distinct voice to express her vision. Read on, and be as inspired and uplifted as we were.

Maggie Graham
Fayette County High School

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” – Margaret Thatcher
Maggie Graham

Maggie Graham

Maggie Graham is as well-rounded as they come, balancing her academic and extracurricular pursuits with giving back to the community. She currently serves as the president of the Select Chorus as well as of the Spanish National Honors Society. She participates in Beta Club, National Honors Society, P.A.L.S., and the Amigos Tutoring Program. Her hobbies include learning even more about the Spanish language, reading American literature, singing with the Select Chorus, cooking, and attending Providence United Methodist Church. After graduation from FCHS, she will be attending the University of Georgia with a major in Spanish and a minor in political science, with hopes to teach E.S.O.L. and one day become a superintendent of schools.

Maggie’s Essay

At age eighteen, picturing life in twenty-five years seems slightly surreal. With personal goals and hopes for our nation, my vision of myself as a forty-three year-old American woman shines brightly. Although the nightly news constantly reminds me of today’s realities, I still picture a nation where a successful future is readily attainable. With future generations in mind, America will turn right-side-up just as it always has. Some may call me naïve, but I know that a positive attitude is imperative for progression and a positive change is soon to come.
Primarily, my view of the world in twenty-five years centers on the continued advancement of America. Improved programs will have characterized America’s healthcare system as one of the most successful in the world. Politicians promise a more affordable system without limits on freedoms to see your doctor of choice. With these improvements, American families will experience less anxiety during times of medical need.
Secondly, I envision America as an energy independent nation. Through solar, wind, and hydroelectric power, America will have grown technologically and have become less dependent on our foreign enemies for gasoline. My vision of 2034 also includes improvements in our education programs. I imagine small town America on the path to higher literacy rates as a result of programs such as Teens to Tweens and Amigos. More children will view college as an option and reduce our unemployment rates.
Lastly, I view the American future as an equal playing field for all religions and races. Cultural barriers will continue to fall and will be replaced with equal opportunities in the school place, work field, and political realm. Recently, Barack Obama’s election symbolized the open-mindedness of the American voters. The possibility of his presidency also expanded the horizons for many minorities in our communities. From improved healthcare to racial equality, I imagine 2034 as a truly successful time for our lives here in America.
National dreams are mirrored by my personal dreams for 2034. I see myself with a doctorate degree and a career as an educator. I also dream of marrying a loving husband and having several children. Like many young women, I look to my older sister, my mom, and my grandma and aspire to join them in the long line of successful working women in my family. The future is a place where I will make a difference by teaching E.S.O.L. classes. I will share my passion for language with my students who will be new to the American lifestyle and the English language itself. I dream of inspiring them to conquer the language barrier and achieve all of their goals for their future lives here in America. I also imagine my home as a safe haven to return to each day after work. The completion of my contented life will depend on the unconditional love found within the home. With my family at my side, I feel confident that I will accomplish these goals and more.

Hannah Michael Skibiel
Whitewater High School

“To whom much is given, much is expected” – Luke 12:48

Hannah Skiebel

Hannah Skiebel

If there were an extra hour in every day, Hannah Skibiel would instantly find a use for it; she’s one of the busiest young ladies we’ve ever met! She has been dancing since she was three, and is a Senior Company member of the Georgia Youth Ballet. At Whitewater High School, she is president of the National Honor Society and a member of the Beta Club and the National Spanish Honor Society, a peer tutor, and a HOBY ambassador. She was honored to be selected as the 2008 Whitewater Homecoming Queen, and recently received the title of Miss Whitewater 2009. “I enjoy dancing, reading, hanging out with my five younger brothers and sisters, and going to sporting events. I could probably set a world record for my texting abilities, and of course I love shopping!” she tells us. After graduation, Hannah will be getting a jump-start on her academic career by taking summer classes at Georgia Tech, and then continuing in the fall as a Biochemistry and Spanish major. She plans to attend medical school and become a surgeon.

Hannah’s Essay

As I sit and write this at the age of eighteen, turning forty-three years old in 2034 seems like such a far way off. In twenty-five years, I’ll look back on this essay and see if my predictions for the world and my goals became reality. It is predicted that by 2034, one in five Americans will have diabetes. If gas prices increase according to their trends in the last five years, a gallon of gas could potentially cost $25.47 by the year 2034. The Mayans predict that we will never even reach 2034, as they believe the world will end on December 12, 2034 due to increased galactic activity. These statistics are all incredibly pessimistic and alarming to anyone who may read them, but I maintain more faith and optimism. Life is what we make of it, and for this, I do not believe that anyone should waste time worrying about what will become of the world, because as human beings, we have all been given the power to shape or at least manipulate our futures. With some positivity and hard work, we can beat these appalling projected statistics.
After witnessing and living through our current economic situation, I foresee that beginning with my generation, young people realize the true value of an education, and realize the difference obtaining a higher education makes in one’s life. In the future, children will begin to take their education more seriously, which will send more qualified students to college, and more will seek graduate degrees. As the quality and level of education exponentially increases, competition will also increase, making it more important than ever to be highly motivated and goal-oriented. In turn, this growth in education will build a more skilled, competitive workforce. This all will hopefully collaborate to create a beneficial rise in things such as exports, corporate America, and medicine.
Twenty-five years from now, I hope to witness a renewal of American trust in the economy. While events in the past have scarred our views and influenced our activity, but we should all realize that knowledge emerges from mistakes and misfortune. By 2034, I predict that our economy will be completely healed and have grown a great deal. If we are able to place faith and invest in our market, we will inevitably experience greater prosperity.
Inspired by my grandfather, I would like to become a doctor. After graduating from Georgia Tech in 2013, I aspire to attend medical school. In 2034, I will have a strong, developed career in the medical field. I hope to become an attending surgeon at a large research hospital, and I want to make a significant discovery in medicine. I hope get married and have children, because after growing up with five younger siblings, having a quiet house would be a bore! I have danced for sixteen years, and I see myself continuing to make contributions to the arts. I want to become actively involved in many charity organizations, because I believe that giving to others is the greatest form of gratitude a person can express for the kind of blessings I have received.

Kelly Michelle Jones
Fayette County High Schoo

“Always be open to new ideas and experiences; do not limit yourself by rejecting beliefs different than your own.”

Kelly Michelle Jones

Kelly Michelle Jones

We love Kelly Jones’s intellectual curiosity, work ethic, and commitment to her ideals. Kelly spends most of her time studying for her four AP classes (psychology, chemistry, literature, and calculus) and working at a local bookstore. She loves to read, listen to music, and learn about different cultures and religions. Her interests are sociology, psychology, chemistry, and animal rights. A vegetarian and self-described ‘tree hugger,’ Kelly is planning to attend Agnes Scott College and major in biochemistry before going to medical school to become a psychiatrist working with Doctors Without Borders or another nonprofit organization.

Kelly’s Essay

Speaking for myself and other females of my generation, I can easily say that we live in a fast-paced and easily influenced time. So, when I imagine myself and my peers twenty five years in the future, I envision a life full of opportunities and experiences that would have not normally been available to women of previous generations. Women are no longer staying at home and dedicating all of their time to cleaning and cooking for their husbands, they are going out into the world and partaking in a brilliant array of occupations. The assumption that women are not able to perform tasks at the same standard that men do is slowly fading, and the strength of the “fairer” sex is being realized. I imagine a future where people no longer assume that doctors, lawyers, and scientists are all males. I believe all of the so-called “masculine” careers will be flooded with the brilliant and capable minds of females around the world. It will be my generation that will be able to live to their fullest and meet every expectation set by those born before us.
Not only will females overcome seemingly unconquerable boundaries, but there will also be great strides made in technology, science, and medicine. Questions that millions have previously asked will be answered, and diseases that have baffled scientists will be cured. At the current rate of growth, technology will expand beyond what any of us could possibly imagine, while new and interesting inventions will be created in order to make our standard of living improve. I foresee a world where fossil fuels are no longer a reason to start wars over, but merely a market for the few that own gasoline powered automobiles. The conflicts that are currently causing much bloodshed and strife will fade and leave a better and more peaceful world in their wake. People will gain back their faith in the American government and strive to erase the debts and destruction left behind by the choices of previous administrations.
While some may say that my vision is too idealistic and full of false hope, I cannot help but question what they would choose to believe. Those that can only picture a future of war and monotony are the ones that do nothing to implement the change needed in our world. It is through people who hope for a better future and act upon those hopes that the world is capable of furthering itself and providing relief those in need. All I ask of those who may read this is that you allow yourself to become optimistic about your own future and attempt to bring life to your dreams. Do not let mistakes of the past cloud your future; instead, live for a better and brighter tomorrow.

Nikki Shelton
Starr’s Mill High School

“I’m going to be free, I’m going to be brave, I’m going to live each day as if it were my last… fantastically, courageously, with grace.” -from the film Me and You and Everyone We Know

Nikki Shelton

Nikki Shelton

It’s not easy to find a balancing act between school, family, activities and community service, but Nikki Shelton seems to have done just that. Nikki has been a part of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America for the past 3 years. She is currently the co-president of Georgia’s V.P. of Individual Projects. She is also involved in Beta Club and the National Technical Honor Society. She attends a girls’ senior high group every Wednesday at Providence United Methodist church. In her free time, Nikki enjoys watching “Dancing with the Stars,” going to Starbucks with her friends, reading books by Augusten Burroughs, going to Braves games and driving out to Lake Horton to take walks. After graduation, Nikki will attend the University of Southern Mississippi in her hometown of Hattiesburg. She will major in political science and radio, television and film production, and hopes to be an intern for a senator or representative during a semester.

Nikki’s Essay

Oh, how our world has changed! The past twenty-five years has brought us cell phones, iPods, flat screen televisions, computers and faster forms of travel that allow us to zip from one end of the world to another in a relatively short period of time. Our world has shrunk in size with all this technology to bring people and places closer together. Can the next twenty-five years top that?
I believe we will surpass all these great achievements. Our focus is changing. We are looking at NOT what we can take from the world, but what we can give back. I foresee new technology to help us take care of the environment, yet still meet the needs of the people. There will be more affordable, alternative fuel vehicles and more solar and wind power to generate electricity to millions. With these advancements, under-developed nations will be able to provide basic services to their citizens, thus enabling them to move toward becoming developed nations.
In health, the next twenty-five years will bring about cures to cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and diabetes. Scientists will unlock the mysteries behind these diseases and treatments will be found. We will also continue to eradicate the treatable diseases that face third world countries. I also see men and women in uniform around the world still fighting for the innocent and the oppressed. We will have to continue our diligence in fighting terrorism where ever it may raise its ugly head. We will continue to feed the hungry around the world, and America will be the leader of the humanitarian effort, for we are a giving nation.
My contribution to the world and our great nation will be in the political arena. By upholding the ideals of our founding fathers, I want to work in government and do what is in the best interest of America and its melting pot of people. I believe getting back to the basics of family and faith will allow us to restore reason and sensibility to our government and our world. Whether it is front and center or behind the scenes, I want to be the voice for the people in the great state of Georgia and also for the citizens of Fayette County. This school year I served as a Georgia state officer for the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. During my tenure, I have learned that there are “doers” and there are “bystanders,” and we must choose which one we want to be. It is a high hope of mine to lead change and make a difference in the world. And to my fellow Fayette women, I challenge you to do the same.

Jennifer Johnson
Fayette County High School

“Bottom line is, even if you see them coming, you’re not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So, what are we, helpless? Nah. The big moments are gonna come, you can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that count. That’s when you find out who you are.” – Joss Whedon

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson is a girl after our own heart: a great student, gifted athlete (volleyball and track) and talented writer. She is a member of the National Beta Club and National Honor Society. She is also the president of the journalism honor society Quill and Scroll and Editor-in-Chief of the Golden Memories production annual. She will attend Georgia State University and major in journalism, with plans to work for either a yearbook publishing company or a magazine.

Jennifer’s Essay

Life as we know it today will change. It will be that way for every generation as they head on into the future. Life has always, is always, and will always experience an element of alteration. Without such adjustments, mankind would remain still as stagnant water waiting for ripples to move it along. In twenty-five years from now, women will flow through the waters of society and achieve true equality.
To predict the future, one must first look into the past. When we do this, we see women of all variations aspiring to greatness. Senator Hillary Clinton came close, during the Democratic race for nomination, to having a true chance at becoming America’s first female president. Even though Barack Obama pulled out with the most votes at the convention, the race for the White House took a pull towards women empowerment once again. Senator John McCain ran for the presidency with Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin at his side as the Republican nominee for Vice President. Despite their loss to the Obama/Biden duo, the election gave females hope for the future. With each elected appointment, women are taking their places as equals in our governmental system. Within years, I predict that America will experience the guidance from the executive branch that only a woman can give. We will stand up and rejoice with a new face of the future representing everything that women involved in the political system have been fighting for; impartiality.
As the world will be changing around me, I will be there to preserve it. It will be my role as a journalist to witness the accomplishments that women in every field will make. The responsibility of recording the events in a truthful manner will fall upon both my shoulders and those of my fellow reporters. Every step that women take forward is one that I will write about. With every higher position they fill, I will capture that moment. With every struggle they overcome, I will stand in arms with them and pass down the memories of our battles. The light of truth shall fill the closed minds of anti-female equal opportunists. Together, women will make great strides and stir the male-dominated waters of the time. Females in generations of the distant future will learn of our doings through my works. I will be there to witness. We will remember our actions. They will receive the egalitarianism that we will finally achieve.

Kristin Girard

Kristin Girard is the editor of Fayette Woman magazine.