Laws of Life Essay winners
Arielle DeVilla, winner
Shelby Duncan, winner and school winner
Brandy Jo Hafermalz
Kassidy Crowder, winner
Dalton Tierney, winner
Nearly a dozen Dawson County High School students were recognized on April 23 for sharing the challenges they have faced in their young lives during this year's Laws of Life essay contest.
Sponsored by the Rotary Club of Dawson County, the program challenges students to write an essay about their own Law of Life and encourages students to reflect on traits such as honesty, perseverance, generosity and compassion.
"This is an amazing opportunity for our kids. There are so many challenges these kids face in their daily lives that we never even seem to realize," said faculty co-advisor Mike Williams. "They really give us insight into their minds and souls. We are very fortunate to be here."
Senior class winner Dalton Tierney took pages from one of the most devastating experiences a young child could endure in his essay titled "One way to get the most out of life is to look at it as an adventure."
Standing before Rotary Club members, guests and his peers, Tierney recalled the morning of Sept. 4, 2004, a day he said started like any other, but ended in the life he knew being turned upside down.
"I walked down the stairs to my parents' room to see if they were awake. My dad wasn't there so I assumed he had went off to work," he said.
When he asked his mom to make him breakfast and got no response, he went about his "regular" morning by watching television.
After a while, he went back to his parents' room to ask again for breakfast. Once again she didn't answer. The third time he went to his mom, he saw the revolver lying on the bed "and blood dripping form her nose."
"This was the biggest turning points in my life. Before I knew it, I had moved in with my aunt and uncle in Dawsonville and my father was in custody for murder," he said.
The experience taught him that life is short and can change at any time, so make the most of it.
While he could continue to look back and question the past, Tierney said he wants to live life to the fullest and experience all that's out there for him.
"The sky is the limit. The only person that can stop you from doing what you want is yourself," he said, as the crowd exploded in applause.
There are similar laws of life contests across the nation and internationally, but the Georgia contest is the largest Laws of Life contest in the United States and the largest essay contest of any kind in North America.
Fully endorsed as a Rotary Character Education Program, more than 40,000 essays were submitted by Georgia high school students in 2015.
Each school winner receives $100, while each grade level winner receives $50 and an additional $25 from the Rotary Club.