Essay Contest Winner

Pictured from left to right:
Joe Meadows (Partner, The Meadows Original Frozen Custard of Hollidaysburg), Cullen Lloyd (Essay Contest Winner), Barb Harpster (Media Consultant, Altoona Mirror), Fred Imler Sr. (President, Imler's Poultry)

Congratulations to Cullen Lloyd from Martinsburg (8th grade, homeschool) whose essay was chosen out of 509 entries as the winner of the Altoona Mirror and Operation Our Town Essay Contest!  Cullen received $250 in gift cards to The Meadows Original Frozen Custard in Hollidaysburg.  Co-sponsors of the Essay Contest were the Altoona Mirror, Imler’s Poultry, and The Meadows Original Frozen Custard in Hollidaysburg.

Below is Cullen's winning essay on why being drug and alcohol free is important to a student's success:

** Please note: this story is a work of fiction. **

               Drugs destroyed my family. More specifically, they destroyed my brother’s life.

               My brother Joe was three years older than me, and I thought he was the coolest brother on the planet. He was smart, funny, athletic, talented, and always succeeded at anything he tried. Ranked fifth in his class for GPA, he was a member of the National Honor Society and was a class officer. After high school, he wanted to major in business and play college football. His last season, as a star receiver on the football team, Joe had 500 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He was well liked by his classmates and teachers alike. It was safe to say he had everything going for him.

                And then he got in the car accident.

                Joe was coming home from football practice when another driver ran a red light and plowed into his car. Joe was knocked unconscious and rushed to the hospital. He suffered a severe back injury and the doctor prescribed oxycodone. Although the prescription was only for a couple of weeks, Joe quickly became addicted. Our family was oblivious to the addiction, but we noticed changes in him that we thought were due to stress from his injury and school. Joe’s grades started falling and he lost his membership in the National Honor Society. He began losing weight and was moodier than usual. This went on for a month.

                After that, major red flags started popping up. We noticed him hanging out with some questionable friends. Money from my parents’ wallets went missing. One night Joe didn’t come home, and that really caught my parents’ attention. The next day Mom and Dad confronted him and he admitted that he was addicted to painkillers. My parents sent him to drug rehab where he spent a couple of months, but unfortunately it was too late.

                Because of what happened to Joe, I learned that drugs are detrimental to a student’s success. Drugs keep you from thinking straight and making good decisions. Joe made many poor choices because of his addiction. Drugs can ruin your dreams because once you’re addicted, all you think about is your next high. They ended Joe’s dreams of playing college football and becoming a businessman. Drugs cause your body to become weaker physically. Joe lost a lot of weight and wasn’t healthy the last few months of his life. I am determined to stay away from all drugs, even if they are legal, and I will make it my life’s purpose to encourage others to do the same.