Option #3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
650 words maximum
Walking into the room I was immediately blinded by pink, glitter, and perfectly pressed princess costumes. I looked down at my black, spider web sleeves and green-tinted skin and my excitement quickly dissipated into self-consciousness. Clearly there had been a memo that I had missed as Cinderella's and Sleeping Beauty's walked past me giggling and pointing. On Halloween, a holiday meant to inspire creativity, all I wanted to do was don a pink dress and become invisible within the masses. I was only four.
That Halloween marked the beginning of my conformism. I entered grade school and quickly discovered that wearing different clothes and being one's self was only acceptable within the confines of a supportive, peer-free environment. I began to suppress my individuality and I soon became just another pink princess in a crowd. I fit in, I had friends, I was just like all of the other walking robots of society. As high school rolled around, I recognized what an asset my chameleon blending capabilities were. My invisibility was a protective blanket from judgment and stereotypes and, as a freshman, I welcomed it.
I was a junior when I finally shirked these deeply-ingrained ideals. Our school is split between those desperately struggling to fit in, and those who strive to obtain unconditional uniqueness. As is the nature of high school, these students were quarantined on the bus ramp and given a name that befitted such: the BRK's, also known as the Bus Ramp Kids. The term was so ubiquitous that teachers and students were desensitized to its implications. One day, taking a risk, I dropped my invisibility and stepped out of bounds. I asked, "Why are they called that?" The response was narrow-minded and predictable. "They like to be called that." I didn't buy it, and it bothered me that so many others did. At lunch I decided to sit down with some of the kids on the bus ramp and ask them directly.
The response I received was incredible. These kids were outraged at this label and found it discriminatory. This stereotype was so prevalent and so demeaning that a student's parent had even told him he wasn't allowed to hang out on the bus ramp. Listening to their stories I felt ashamed that, for three years, I had tossed the term around like everyone else. I wanted change for these students whose only indiscretion was that they weren't afraid to be the witches in a sea of princesses.
As a member of my school's newspaper, I took initiative and pursued the story. This went beyond the typical news we covered, and I devoted myself to exposing the injustice. I was done following the status-quo and, idealistically, I hoped the rest of the student body would feel the same after my article was published.
The story turned out to be a double-edged sword. From some, I received praise for unmasking a rampant misconception. From others, I only provided fuel for their fire and they continued to mock these students with fresh resolve. I was irritated that people could be so callous, but I focused on the good I had accomplished. My biggest reward came during elections for student body president. One student, out of the four hundred and forty present, stood up and asked the candidates, "What are you planning to do about the Bus Ramp Kid stereotypes?"
This was when I realized that I had made the right decision.
I didn't change the minds of everyone in the school, but I had managed to reach out to someone who was willing to stand up in front of his entire grade and address an issue he believed in.
From then onwards I have tasted the sweet feeling of being different. I have discovered contentment that had always existed, but was just waiting a few steps outside of the bounds that society had set. My insecurities have not entirely fled, but I now relish in the liberty of being myself. Besides, witches are so much cooler than princesses, anyways.