Student Essay Contest Winners 2019

From left to right: Minh Nguyen, Josie Kinney, and Evolette LeBlanc. Photos: Stephen Brashear From left to right: Minh Nguyen, Josie Kinney, and Evolette LeBlanc. Photos: Stephen Brashear
What does Mary mean to you?

Answers from our student essay contest winners

Northwest Catholic’s sixth annual student essay contest asked students at Western Washington’s 74 Catholic schools to answer the question “What does Mary mean to you?”

The essays were judged by a panel drawn from the staffs of Northwest Catholic, the archdiocesan Office for Catholic Schools and the Fulcrum Foundation. We are proud to present the winning high school, middle school and elementary school essays.



The ultimate example

By Minh Nguyen

To me, Mary means Mother of the Church and mother of all. Every day, I see Mary in my mom.

My mom immigrated from Vietnam to America to seek a better life for her family and her children and to escape the communism in Vietnam. She got a job, got married, and had five kids. My family isn’t rich, but the little we have my mom gives to the church and the poor. Every August, there is a Vietnamese festival in Tukwila called “Hoi Cho He.” There, my mom and my family set up a booth where we sell food to raise money for Vietnamese Martyrs Parish. She takes time off work and out of her own free time to raise money that doesn’t benefit us, but the church.

My mom is very devoted to the church and to prayer. She loves the novena created by St. Faustina and she uses her beautiful voice to praise God, singing the rosary in Vietnamese and English. I see her say “Yes” to God every day, whether she is going to work, dropping us off at our practices and games, or taking us to church. My mom does everything with the brightest smile. As I write this, my mom is in Vietnam attending my great-uncle’s wedding, but right before she left, she made sure to pack a whole box full of water bottles, clothes and food for the poor in Vietnam.

I love my mom — she is my role model and my example to follow in life, just as Mary is the ultimate example for the whole world. I strive to be like my mom and ultimately like Mary by laying down my life for those less fortunate than me. My mom has sacrificed her whole life to make mine better by sending me to St. Anthony School in Renton and John F. Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien. Mary lived her full life supporting Jesus until the very end. For my whole life, my mom has supported my siblings and me in everything we ever wanted to achieve. She pushed us to be our very best, like Mary pushed Jesus to do his first miracle at the wedding at Cana. She drove us to basketball practice, soccer games and tennis matches and always said “Good luck” with a smile.

I hope to start a family of my own, and I hope I can be as good a parent as my mom is. My goal in life is to have kids and to be proud of who they become, watching and learning with them as they grow up to follow in my footsteps. I’m going to take care of my kids and teach them the faith, I’m going to send them to Catholic schools, and I am going to try my best to follow my mom and Mary.

Minh Nguyen is a junior at John F. Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien.



A light in the darkness

By Josie Kinney

I was lying alone in my bed, shaking as tears streamed down my face. So many thoughts ran through my head, but one pounded my brain, refusing to be forgotten. Would my sister die? At only 12 years, my older sister, Lauren, was rushed to the hospital. After doctors mistakenly sent her home multiple times because “nothing was wrong,” she was finally diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome. This is a rare disease that paralyzed her, and, if not treated immediately, would spread to her heart, lungs and brain, killing her within a week. My mom and dad stayed with her in the ICU 24-7, so I stayed with my aunt. Despite the constant support from the community, I felt like my life was falling apart.

Every night, I would lay in the dark and cry. I was so overwhelmed. I needed someone to hold me in their arms and whisper, “Everything is going to be OK.”

What happened next was indescribable. A tingle of warmth started in my chest, then began to consume me. My tears dried from my face. The warming intensified, slowly at first, but then faster and more prominent and warmer until it was so hot I had to throw off my covers.

The sensation left as quickly as it came.

Was it a dream? Did I imagine it all? Then I noticed my statue of Mary, sitting on my bookshelf across the room. Her open arms stretched out to me. I lay back down and cried. Not because I was lonely or scared or worried. I cried because I knew I was not alone that night. I never was, and I never will be. Mary was there every step of the way.

Mary is not just the mother of Jesus. Mary is the cards from my friends and my aunt’s care. She is praying the rosary every Tuesday morning. She is my mother, and Lauren’s mother, and a mother to anyone who seeks her guidance. She is a symbol of faith, trust, love, suffering, care and so much more.

Josie Kinney is an eighth-grader at St. Anne School in Seattle.



The feeling of joy

By Evolette LeBlanc

What Mary means to me is the feeling of joy I have about her in my heart. This joy is like a bond. It is a lasting connection that began as long ago as I can remember. It is like a chain that keeps us connected. I hope it keeps growing stronger!

This joy started when I was about 1 and playing with our family Nativity set. I wrapped baby Jesus in a blanket. Then I played with Mary. I asked my grown-ups to take pictures of me with statues of Mary we saw. Whenever I saw something about Mary I would practically shake with joy!

I asked my grown-ups for pictures and statues and books about Mary. When we moved, my grandma gave me a fancy framed picture of Mary for my room. It belonged to my great-grandmother and now it is mine! Today I have all kinds of Mary items, even an icon I found at a garage sale! I am learning about Mary at home, at school and at church.

My joy about Mary makes me feel all happy and tingly inside. Mary also makes me feel safe and that no one will harm me, especially my soul. As a fourth-grader, I pray Hail Marys that my bond with Mary will stay and she will help me take care of any problems and struggles that I have. Mary, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!

Evolette LeBlanc is a fourth-grader at Our Lady of Guadalupe School in Seattle.


Northwest Catholic - January/February 2019

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