Back in April, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, together with Teen Ink, a national magazine written by teens and for teens, asked for essays about “bullying, being bullied, witnessing bullying or ideas about how to address this issue.” His goal, in addition to awareness, was to allow the experts – teenagers – to explain the problem of bullying to adults through their own experiences. He received over 1,200 essays, which were then narrowed down to 59 finalists. Yesterday, Mr. Kristof announced the winning essays, and out of the four winners, Montclair High School junior, Lena Rawley came away with the grand prize-winning essay: Teenage Girls; the Cruel Super Humans from Outer Space.
In her essay, Lena admits to having been a “teenage mean girl” and bystander to bullying herself. And, as those who watched Heathers in a previous generation will recognize, she was later targeted by the same girls as the “weakest link” or “the wounded gazelle.”
As Mr. Kristof explains in his column, in addition to explaining and condemning bullying, Lena’s essay also offers a powerful response to being bullied. Her essay ends with : I don’t see [being bullied] as a stain upon the fabric of my life, but more like an embellishment. A decorative brooch I wear with pride, a brooch that cries, I overcame bullying, so can you.
Please go to Nicholas Kristof’s blog “On the Ground,” to read Lena’s essay, as well as all the winning essays. And congratulations to Lena Rawley! Even though Mr. Kristof warned that he could only offer “eternal glory” as the prize for winning this essay contest, at Barista Kids, we think that Lena and the other winners have shared a great prize with all of us: insight, compassion, strength, and perseverance. Well done!