Winning Essay - OOT & Altoona Mirror Essay Contest

Pictured from left to right:  Randy Feathers (OOT Board Member), Matthew Fownes (Owner, Dairy Queen Blair County), Ella Strawmier (Essay Contest Winner), Clyde Monahan (General Manager, Imler's Poultry), Melissa Farabaugh (Director of Operations, DQ Grill & Chill)

Congratulations to Ella Strawmier, an 8th grader at Altoona Area Junior High School, whose essay was chosen out of 233 entries as the winner of the Altoona Mirror and Operation Our Town Essay Contest!  Ella received over $250 in gift cards to DQ Grill & Chill located in Duncansville, Logan Town Centre Altoona, and Valley View Blvd. Altoona.  Co-sponsors of the Essay Contest were the Altoona Mirror, Imler’s Poultry, and DQ Grill & Chill.  Below is Ella's winning essay on why being drug and alcohol free is important to a student's success:


“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” Eleanor Roosevelt once said.  Futures are simply the outcomes of people’s lives.  Some people have good outcomes, while others do not.  If someone puts in the effort to be successful, it usually works out.  Being drug and alcohol free is important to a student’s success.  This is important because drugs and alcohol can cause problems with relationships and health.

The consumption of drugs and alcohol can cause problems with the relationships of family members.  The formal definition for the word family is “all the descendants of a common ancestor.”  Families are so much more than this.  They are people that look out for each other, promote success, or offer a shoulder to lean on.  When a person uses substances such as alcohol or drugs, they distance themselves from family members.  They put drugs over seeing their own family.  For example, there was once a father that told his son that he couldn’t come to his football game because he had to go to work.  This was not the truth.  He was actually going to make a drug deal.  This father put drugs higher on his priority list than watching his child play football.  Families also start to distance themselves from relatives who consume drugs and alcohol.  Clearly, families are a major factor in success.  Parents will help in any way they can to make sure their children do well in life.  They help motivate their children to do well in school so they can be accepted into college.  If a student’s relationship with other family members is broken, they will have no one to rely on for help when they need it.

Being drug and alcohol free is important to a student’s success because it affects a student’s health down the road.  Both drugs and alcohol have many awful long term effects.  For example, alcohol causes the death of brain cells.  The death of brain cells can lead to brain disorders and a lowered level of mental and physical functions, says  Liver damage is also caused by the consumption of alcohol which can eventually become cirrhosis.  Long term effects of using drugs include weakness and damage of the teeth and other parts of the mouth.  Short term effects of both drugs and alcohol consist of paranoia and mood swings.  All of the issues tie into a student’s success later in college and the workforce.  If a person is not in good health, they will not be hard workers.  Most health issues make people unqualified to work certain jobs.

Finally, staying clear of drugs and alcohol can promote a good future.  Substance use can destroy a family’s relationship.  Drugs and alcohol can turn a healthy person into someone who is sick.  Next time your peers try to persuade you to take drugs or drink alcohol, think about the consequences.  You will have problems with relationships and health.  Is the high really worth the lows?