Colleen C.

Second Place Winner

Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Piccoult, is the captivating and tragic story of high schooled Peter Houghton. Peter, a teen who had been bullied since early childhood, hits his breaking point and comes to school with a shotgun and several bombs. He ends the lives of nine students and one teacher. This story models the many tragic stories of school shootings. This fictional story perfectly models the real-life accounts of Columbine and Virginia Tech; these shootings are prime examples of why this world needs a change, and that is exactly what my life goal is. In reading through Peter Houghton's point of view, the reader finds out that he was tortured by his classmates. It was heartbreaking to read. Nineteen Minutes helped me to realize that I want make a difference in someone's life, more than anything in this world.

I was a gawky eleven-year-old. I had what my family had affectionately entitled "bird legs," I was short, and I had serious orthodontia issues. The teeth that I had not yet grown into were extremely crooked, and my mouth was not large enough to accommodate the still growing teeth. My orthodontist's solution was a crank-able expander that would widen my mouth. The downside to that solution would be a very obvious lisp. Who knew consonant blends could be so difficult? More importantly, who knew kids could be so cruel? I was bullied for my looks, my height, my speech impediment, and for the fact that I excelled in school. I was smart; I loved books and I liked participating in class—obviously something "uncool." These kids went to the extreme of following me while I was walking home and throwing pieces of food at me. The bullying continued until I graduated the eighth grade. It was devastating. The bullies nearly put me in therapy at the age of 13. The worst thing about it was the school knew about it and never did anything! In Nineteen Minutes, the teachers knew Peter was being tortured by his classmates. He was driven to the point of no return; he was cornered into feeling that there was no way out, that the cycle would never end. So he ended the lives of nine students, one teacher, and then took his own life.

This book may be fictional, but the events are based off actual school shootings. Seung-Hui Cho, from Virginia Tech, ended the lives of thirty-two people before he took his own. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, seniors from Columbine, ended the lives of thirteen people before ending their own lives. This should never, ever have happened. I want to end the vicious, violent cycle of bullying. If I can't accomplish that, I want to at least make a difference in people's lives. I want to let them know that things get better. I want them to know that violence never ends violence. I want to make a change.