Two local students win ‘Listen to a Life’ contestTwo students at Cloquet High School were honored in The Legacy Project’s “Listen to a Life” national writing contest.
Two students at Cloquet High School were honored in The Legacy Project’s “Listen to a Life” national writing contest.
Becca Hammond, a sophomore, was selected as grand prize winner for her entry, “Materialism, Motorcycles, and Leather.” Rachel Willgohs, also a sophomore, was selected as one of 20 runners-up for her entry, “The Pick Up.”
The premise for the Listen to a Life Contest is for a young person, 8-18 years old, to interview an older adult 50 years or over about their life experiences – their dreams and goals, obstacles they overcame, pivotal moments, how they found hope – and submit a 300-word essay.
“According to Brian Puppa, director of programs, thousands of entries from across the country were submitted to The Legacy Project in Washington, D.C.,” said Cloquet High School English teacher Jason Richardson. “There have never been two winners from the same school. In fact, it’s rare to have two winners from the same state.”
Richardson encourages students to enter the Listen to a Life Contest every year. He works with students to help them understand various writing devices and study past winners.
“Becca rewrote her winning essay so many times that she started to wonder whether it was any good at all!” said Richardson.
Hammond is an avid reader and plays soccer. She enjoys writing song lyrics – in fact, she hopes to become a singer/songwriter. As grand prize winner, she received a Lenovo ThinkCentre all-in-one computer plus over $25,000 of EdOptions’ products for the school, a framed keepsake award certificate from Frame USA and an autographed copy of the bestseller, “Dream.”
Hammond wrote her essay about her grandfriend Curt Jensen, 65. Her essay follows:
MATERIALISM, MOTORCYCLES, AND LEATHER
The engine revved. The smell of oil hung in the air. Anticipation clung to Curt’s leather jacket. “After I bought one bike, it wasn’t enough.” The wind picked up speed and so did the jet black Harley. Flying by fast, he was invincible: part man, part machine – oblivious to the troubles of the surrounding world. This is enjoying life, he thought. This is love.
But no matter how hard he tried, happiness wouldn’t come. The world gave him none of the promises of plenty, and skepticism was Curt’s best friend.
Curt Jensen, a family friend for many years, loved motorcycles and California’s highway. After buying one bike, he bought another and another and another... That sleek black, shiny finish, the oil and gasoline, the grime underneath your fingernails: perfection. In his mind, life was a highway, and a filthy one at that. A drunk and a clown, he dedicated his life to motorcycles – and ruined it. The love of his life was a Harley and a bottle of booze. Until he met Debbie.
They fell in love, got married, moved a hundred times, and were miserable. Curt’s alcoholism drove Debbie to leave. But she fought for him, knowing her love was stronger than Curt’s abuse. And since God had another plan in mind for them, opportunity poked its nose out of his gasoline can. And the direction of his life took a U-turn.
Curt said good-bye to alcohol and went through school, becoming a medical technician. The couple’s marriage was restored and their love for each other grew. For Curt, drugs, depression, and booze had blanketed his life like a thick fog – but he conquered. He realized that “having stuff is okay, but not stuff having you.” And he forever holds onto that.
As a runner-up, Willgohs received an MP3 player from EdOptions and $400-plus of EdOptions’ products. She also received a framed keepsake award certificate from Frame USA and an autographed copy of the bestseller “Dream.” Willgohs interviewed her great-grandfather, Loyal Busby, 86. Her winning essay follows:
THE PICK UP
Love comes and goes, and can come again. Once you know true love, you are never too old to find that love again – even at 85 years of age.
My Great-Grandpa Loyal proved this. After 63 years of marriage and ten children, his first love passed away. With no one to share the daily chores and to sit in the shade with, he says, “I was awful damn lonesome.”
Then Loyal got a call from a cousin wanting to “hook him up” with Ida. He hadn’t given much thought to dating, but decided to accept the challenge. He knew of this “young” 79-year-old lady. Ida was a schoolteacher when he was a member of the Hitterdal, MN School Board.
For their first date, Loyal took Ida to dinner at the Senior Center. Although the meal cost them “three bucks each,” Ida says, “The companionship was worth every penny.”
As the affair fueled, Loyal’s children noticed the spring in his step. For Loyal, the proposal came with ease – why wouldn’t it? After all, she loved his little red pickup! The engaged couple blew a gasket when they found out a discount on their license would mean taking pre-marriage counseling classes. Between them, they had 113 years of marriage experience – amply qualified. They “reckoned” they could run the class.
Loyal and Ida got hitched under Elmer, an elm tree on Loyal’s farm. They would spend their future enjoying the shade of Elmer. Loyal’s ten children, Ida’s twelve children, and their families were all there to witness the two become husband and wife.
They both agree they mesh pretty well. Loyal adds, with a grin, “He makes the ‘mesh’ and she cleans it up.” They are still in love today, and still enjoy their red pickup joy rides.