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Northern Panhandle Students Win ‘I Am Thankful’ Contest

By Staff | Nov 28, 2018

Two Northern Panhandle high school seniors, Kailey Filben of John Marshall High School and Miranda Weekley of Tyler Consolidated High School, were among the 20 winners of an essay contest sponsored by West Virginia First Lady Cathy Justice. They were to write on the subject, “What you are most thankful for this year.”

Here are their winning essays:

This contest is the second installment of West Virginia First Lady Cathy Justice’s “Student Artist Series” initiative. All West Virginia students in the 12th grade were invited to submit an essay of five hundred words or less, telling “What you are most thankful for this year?”


Cheered Up by a Stranger

By Miranda Weekey

Albert Schweitzer said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into a flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” I am blessed with a pretty good life: great parents, family, and friends. There is very little that I sincerely wish for, and I am very grateful for this. However, like everyone else, I have days that things are not going my way. Therefore, you need people close to you to put you back on track, but sometimes the people that help you the most are not your parents, family, or friends but complete strangers.

The Thursday before prom, I was very stressed since I was president of the Prom Club. On top of that, my allergies decided to kick in full force that morning, resulting in uncontrollable sneezing. I was a waitress and thought it was extremely disgusting to be serving people food with as much snot as my nose was producing, so I decided to call off. However, no one was able to cover my shift; the manager said I would have to come in. Now, sometimes the waitresses are allowed to leave early if we are not busy, so I said, “As soon as I can, I’m leaving.” By this I meant that if we were not busy, I would like to leave early. However, my response was misunderstood by my manager, and as I was trying to resolve the misunderstanding, I reached my emotional limit and began to cry.

Even with my friends’ comfort, I could not stop the waterworks. Finally, I calmed myself down enough to drive to work. However, once I parked, the tears started up again. As I was getting out of the car, a lady who was weeding the garden of the library saw me and in a very concerned tone asked me what was wrong. I explained that it was nothing serious, yet she treated the situation like it was the most important thing in the world. She managed to calm me down with some encouraging words and a sincere hug. Without her, I don’t know how long it would have been until I was presentable for work.

Later that evening, she showed up with a gift bag. She had brought me the most encouraging card about smiling, and a little figurine that was Happy, one of the dwarfs from Snow White. The thought that a stranger would go to such lengths to brighten my day completely melted my heart. To this day, looking at my gift makes me smile. Whenever I am down, I think of the kindness this stranger showed me, and how even on yours worst day, you can still find a light. People who radiate this flame are what I am most thankful for! I strive to be a light to others. You never know who may be needing a little sunshine on a rainy day!


Listening to the Music

By Kailey Filben

I am thankful for my ability to hear the wonderful sounds around me. Although this is a simple sense that many takes for granted, I appreciate my hearing on a daily basis. As a musician, hearing is crucial to my fulfillment in life. I start out my day at school by playing with our phenomenal steel band. The sweet island sounds warm my heart and give me a sense of peace in my soul. In band class, I love hearing the sharp brassy sound of the trumpets, accompanied by the crisp rolls of the drumline. Without the aural gift that I have been given, I do not think my life would be nearly as amazing.

I started playing instruments at age 5, which was expected as the daughter of two band director parents. I fell in love with the feeling of smooth ivory under my little fingertips, and I knew that I was made to be a musician. As I grew up, I learned to appreciate the sound of new instruments. Everything from the saxophone to the African gyil (xylophone) was a welcomed sound to my young ears. I used music as an outlet without even realizing it. I managed to sit behind a piano every day and never tire of learning new tunes.

Later into my elementary school career, I was faced with bullying. I felt as if nothing could be done to make me feel happy again – but then I walked into choir class. Hearing the rounded vowels of the kind students that now surrounded me set me at ease, and I once again found a safe place in music.

In middle school, I transferred to a different county. With many new and unfamiliar faces in my school, I started to feel out of place. Yet again, music saved me from the hardships of loneliness; I quickly joined steel band and world drumming ensemble, making lifelong friends who all shared the universal love of music.

Here I stand today: one of many percussionists who has the dream of teaching those not as fortunate as I. Without my sense of hearing, none of the plans I have made would be possible. I could never study in a field where I do not get to create. My heart and soul lie within the beautiful melodies I can create with my friends, and I cannot imagine a life without such a form of creativity and expression. Hearing the finished masterpiece is what I life for, and I am so grateful that I have the ability to do so.