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The Wall of Fame page features excellent writing from Diamond Middle School students.

The Diamond Middle School Student Council Short Story Contest was judged recently with eighth grader Alicia Bradley taking top honors. Her short story and those written by the runners-up are featured below.
By Alicia Bradley
   I was not like every other boy in my neighborhood.
   I was better than the others, smarter. Superior. I was never wrong. Fault in myself was not a thought, not an option. I scoffed at the others, with their dark hair and dark eyes. They would never be as perfect as I was. Their being could never match my own.
   These conclusions did not just come to me, though. I was taught by my father to know such things were true. That we, the Aryan Germans, were superior to all other lives. That is what I was taught to think, to believe, to be, never knowing the truth. I know better now.
   When I was nearly 12, my mother sent me every week to Mrs. Schwartz's to buy a chicken for dinner. Mrs. Schwartz was a Jew, and I hated her, as I hated all Jews. My mother despised her as well, and we would have gone somewhere else to get our chickens, but Mrs. Schwartz's store was the only one within walking distance. Nearly every week was the same. I entered the store, gave her a cold stare, and spat at her.
   "I need one chicken for my mother's dinner tonight. And it better be healthy- not like last time. I want my money's worth."
   She looked at me for a moment, then hurried into the back room. She wasn't afraid of me- I was only 12 years old- but she was afraid of my father. If she did anything rude to me, my father would hunt her down.
   "Hurry up Jew. I don't have all day."
   She came back with what appeared to be a good, large chicken. I looked it over, knowing that something was wrong with it, but it appeared to be fine.
   "Knowing you Jews, there's something wrong with it, but you hid it good this time." I spat on her counter and left.
   Mrs. Schwartz had never done me any wrong and her chickens were always the best. But she was a Jew, and Jews were inferior. Worthless. Just like the blacks and gypsies. They were not like us, they were different. They were not good.
   My actions went on in that manner for months. I glared at them, called them names, anything to make them understand I detested being near them and that I was superior. But that all stopped when I was 14. That was the day they came. Gestapo. They were German soldiers, members of the army I admired and longed to be a part of someday.
   My father opened the door, greeting the soldiers as he greeted any friend that came to our house. The man in front looked my father square in the eyes, as if trying to decide whether he would lie to him or be truthful. He glared at my mother and sister and me, like he was disgusted to be near the same room as us.
   "I have orders to take your wife and two children to Auschwitz."
   My father was indignant, outraged. "What have they done wrong? Are you mistaking them for...Jews?"
   I, too, was shocked. A concentration camp? Us? I thought those were only for Jews or criminals. And I, certainly, of all people, was not one.
   "Sir, we have sources proving that your wife is of Jewish blood. We're surprised you haven't heard this before. That would make your children Jewish as well. We will be taking them away immediately." The man had no expression on his face. I, on the other hand, was outraged.
   "You're a Jew?!" I screamed at my mother, horrified. "And I'm a Jew, too?"
   " never told me this! To think, for all these years, I was married to a...a...Jew!" He spit. He took off his wedding ring and threw it at my mother. My parents had always loved each other. Not anymore. My mother's head hung in shame of who she was. My father was right. She had lied to him. She had kept this terrible secret many years? The German soldier continued to speak.
   "If you remain obedient now and follow our instructions, it won't be as hard for you and your children. You admit that you are of Jewish descent, making your children Niklas and Marie Jewish as well?"
   My mother stood there, not knowing whether she should answer. She knew it was true, but was it really her fault who her parents were, and how they raised her? Silently, she nodded.
   "We must obey the rules. You are Jews, and you must leave immediately." One of them grabbed her by the arm and shoved her out the door. The other grabbed my sister Marie and me. My father lowered his head.
   "I can't believe you, Katharine."
   Those were his last words to my mother. He didn't care that we were being taken away, to be tortured and executed. He didn't say he would find a way to get us out. He didn't say he loved us, that being Jewish didn't matter, that race and heritage made no difference. He didn't even say goodbye. And when my mother looked back at him, my father heard the last words he would ever hear from his wife."
   "I'm sorry."
   A few hours later, we were thrown on a train with other Jews. Old people, babies, families, kids my own age. I realized for the first time that I had something in common with these people. Surprised that they were taken from their homes, wishing to be anywhere but here. My sister stared off into nowhere, tears streaming down her face. I just sat, watching the other people. My mother, too, was crying, and I heard her saying softly over and over to herself, "How could I have been so stupid?"
   Then I noticed someone else on the train. A little girl, younger than my sister. She was alone, no parents or siblings beside her. She was holding a toy rabbit, old, worn, stained, stuffing falling out. It looked like it had been in someone's trash. She was wearing ratty clothes, and shivering, because the train was cold. She was too thin, malnourished, like she hadn't eaten a decent meal in months. I stared at her, and a million questions flooded my mind. What is she doing here? What does Hitler want with her? What did she do wrong? That's when I think I realized, I was one of them. I was one of them, and were human and humans have one goal in life- to survive. And to that little girl, the goal would not stay accomplished much longer.
   We arrived at the concentration camp some hours later. The entire place smelt of sickness and death - rotting bodies, burning flesh. This was to be our home for the next several months. Day after day we were to stay there, cold, hungry, and tired. Eventually, my mother became sick. While Marie cared for her, she caught the illness as well. Both of them died in a matter of days. I was with my mother during her last moments, and she made me promise her to make it out of here alive, and to make a difference in the world, and not to hide my heritage. Marie died within the next few hours. I remember looking at my little sister's face, thinking about the whole life she could have lived, and all the things she never got to do.
   I continued to live, even after my mother and sister had died. I tried to live for them, but it was hard to in a camp. I was just a young boy, no power over anything. But I knew I was to die soon. That's why I was there. That's why all those people were there.
   One night I became more tired than I had ever been in my life. I needed to sit down, but once I sat I needed to lie down. But after you lie down, there's nothing to relieve the feeling. I was so cold. I could feel icicles on the tip of my nose, even though they weren't there. And I was hungry. The feeling was eating at my soul. I closed my eyes, and thought I couldn't go on much longer. Then a light came at the end of the dark tunnel.
   I heard a woman talking to me, a voice I recognized, but could not remember who it belonged to. At first, I thought it was an angel talking to me from heaven. She spoke softly.
   "Niklas, I'm going to bring you out of here." I had no words to speak so I listened to the angel, heard her voice and nodded, hoping she was telling the truth.
   She lifted me up, and I must have fallen asleep after that, because I don't remember being taken out of the camp. I was too tired to remember my own name.
   I woke up in a house, in a real bed, with blankets and a pillow. I opened my eyes to see a blurred woman looking down on me. She seemed concerned. My eyes slowly focused. Her face was clear, but I could not remember who she was.
   "Who are you? Where am I?" I asked.
   "Hush, Niklas. You are too tired. You need to rest."
   "'am, how do you know my name, or where to find me" Why did you rescue me?"
   "Niklas, people should be given second chances. Sometimes they are forced to think things they might not have believed under other circumstances. I forgive you. That is why I rescued you."
   I looked up. Standing before me, I suddenly recognized the woman. She was indeed an angel. That woman, the angel who saved me, was the chicken lady- Mrs. Schwartz.

By Sarah Sweet
   (The following short story placed second in the Diamond Middle School Student Council Short Story Contest.)
   "Here we go again," I thought. We were pulling out of the house we'd lived in long enough for my two brothers and I to finish school. "Mom," said Travis, my younger brother, "Why are we moving again?"
   "Because of your dad's job," she said for the millionth time.
   "Well," said Ian, my other brother, "we could stay here with sis. She's old enough to stay here."
   "No," came a growl from the front seat. "Your sis isn't mature enough to take care of herself."
   I shut up, many words running through my mind that I couldn't say. My "dad" had said a lot of things like that before. He was an army guy, I couldn't tell you what because I don't care. He said stuff like that about me because I'm not his biological kid, but I'm not Mom's either. I was adopted after my parents lost their first child. Then they had Ian and Travis about, oh, three years after my adoption. "Dad" or Mark as I now call him, makes sure to remind me that I'm a 17-year-old that really has no "REAL" parents.
   Anyway, back to the car conversation. As I told you, Mark was an army guy, with a few bad habits. I knew the real reason why we were leaving. Mark made himself known as a bad drinker again. This is why we'd been leaving other places, but no one wanted to say the truth, except me. "Mom," I spoke loudly, "Tell Trav the truth. We're leaving because everyone thinks Mark is a drunk, which he is."
   This just made things worse between Mark and I, worse enough he pulled over and stopped. Then he said something I'll never forget he said. "Fine. You get your stuff out of the car and walk. I'll give you enough money to buy a car, but that's it. I don't care what happens to you. You're not my real kid anyway."
   Well, I walked the 10 miles back into town and found a car dealership. The salesman must have felt sorry for me or something because he let me buy a pretty good truck for $200. So I got in the truck and hit the road, looking for the Explorer that my parents owned. I found it, but not how I expected it to look. That blue SUV that had the only family I'd ever known was in a wreck, and a bad one.
   I don't remember much for those few minutes. I heard the SUV horn blaring uncontrollably, and the semi driver yelling at me to move. I went and smacked him in the face, and told him that was my family and if any of them were dead, he would get worse than a slap. I ran to the car and saw Trav standing there. He said, "Ian's stuck, Mom is bleeding and Dad isn't moving."
   I gave Trav my cell so he could call 911 and ran to Ian. I could get him out of there. I had to. I went to him and said, "Ian, it's Kel, how you doing?"
   Keeping up his spirits, he said, "How do you think I'm doing?"
   "Okay," I said, keeping myself calm. I opened his door. His seatbelt was jammed so that he couldn't get it undone. I said a small prayer, thankful that it wasn't worse, and asked, "Where's your pocketknife?"
   "In my pocket," he said.
   So I took it and began cutting the belt off. It took about five minutes, but it finally came undone. I pulled him out and told him to go stand with Travis.
   Next was Mom. I remember seeing the glass that had shattered on her beautiful face and body and said softly, "Mom," while trying not to cry.
   "Hey," she said. "How are the boys?"
   "They are trying to be tough, but let's try to get you outta here." So I opened her door and took off her seatbelt. I pulled her out easy because her leg looked broken and carried her to my truck. Ian opened the door and I placed her inside. "Be right back," I said, smiling the happiest smile I could manage.
   Now I walked to the driver's side and looked at Mark.He wasn't moving, but it sounded like he was breathing. I walked to him and said, "Dad, can you hear me." From somewhere, I heard a "yes," so I said, "Can you move?'
   "Maybe," he said, and I saw his head moving slightly. Suddenly, he jerked his head up and said, "Where's the ambulance?"
   "I'm the best you've got right now," I said. So I opened his car door and saw my dad's body. His upper half looked fine, but I didn't see his legs. They were trapped under the hood.
   He said, "How bad is it?" He didn't want to look down.
   "Well, I can't move ya," I said, trying to make it sound like he was going to be okay. He laughed and asked if I got a car bought. "It's a truck," I said. "Mom and the boys are in there now."
   He said, "Well, are they okay?"
   "Never better," I said, trying to make it sound like it was the truth.
   There was silence for about five minutes, until we heard the sirens of the fire trucks and ambulances. I backed away whenever they came to get him out. I was just staring, staring at the man that I was just starting to call dad. When they pulled him out, I couldn't look. His legs looked awful. Suddenly his 6-8 stature didn't look all that big.
   My brothers, Dad, and Mom were all being taken to the hospital, so I got in my truck and headed that way. I met them in the emergency room and they never looked better. They were alive and smiling. I walked over and said, "Guess that it's a good thing that you kicked me out." For some strange reason, we all laughed.
   Mark was lying in a bed beside us and he looked at me like he never had, like he was actually proud of me. He said, "Hey, Kel, do you want to come back and live with us?"
   I said, "Sure, but do I have to give up the truck?"
   "For a while. By the way, how did you get out there so quick?"
   I grinned and said, "I followed the only people that I knew as family."
   Mom rolled her eyes and said, "We are a family, aren't we," looking at Mark.
   "Why not? Kel has definitely earned the title of big sister."
   "Does that mean that we have to move? asked Trav innocently.
   "Nope," said Dad. "We don't have to move."

By Michelle Nickolaisen
   The sun was shining, Eirene was skipping, and everything was wonderful. Almost unbelievably wonderful, Eirene thought as she came home from school, skipping down the sidewalk out of pure pleasure. She was making friends at school, her parents were talking about staying here, and Justin was coming home in a week.
   She couldn't wait to tell her older brother about how great things were going. He had never had trouble fitting in when they moved, unlike her, and was always okay with letting her hang out with him and his friends. Everyone loved Justin, he was a terrific older brother, excelling at everything he tried. Eirene adored her older brother, but he was gone on a trip to some island off the coast of Florida, part of one of those traveling student tours.
   Then things would be really perfect. Too perfect to believe, Eirene thought as she walked up to the door of their average two-story house. Then she stopped and frowned. The calm before the storm, the light before the dark. A feeling of foreboding came over her as she stood at the threshold of the door. No. Mustn't think that way. Shaking her head, she stepped through the door into the kitchen.
   "Hi, Mom, I'm home."
   Her voice echoed eerily throughout the house. She tossed her backpack on the kitchen table, then stood still and listened. A muffled noise that she didn't recognize was coming from the living room. The strong feeling of foreboding that she had felt at the door came back full force as she slowly walked into the living room.
   "Mom? Mom, what's the matter? Why are you crying?"
   Her mother, who was sitting on the floor and sobbing helplessly, said nothing.
   Eireme saw a tearstained letter sitting on the couch. Waves of dread washed over her as she thought of all the horrible things that could have happened. her hand shaking, she picked up the letter and began to skim. Words and phrases jumped out at her. "Horrible accident...sincerest condolences..." and then her eyes settled on a phrase, the worst one of all.
   "No survivors."
   Hot, humid, forest. Crumbling ruins. Forest again, then a glimpse of ruins. Stupid car, stupid road, stupid holes in the stupid road.
   I sighed, then looked away from the window to the front of the car where my parents were sitting in icy silence. They'd had another fight, over whether we should move again or not. My mom said that moving so often was damaging my social development. Gee, Mom, you only figured it out about five years too late. My dad countered that with the fact that he earns the money and some interesting ruins have been discovered, it was his big chance, blah blah blah. Hence, the icy silence.
   Thank God it was summer. No struggling to find a school, no trying to fit in, no moving in two months, losing whatever friends I had struggled to make.
   We bounced in yet another pothole in the dirt track. Everything around me rattled violently. The car slowed as the road turned abruptly, following the terrain as it dropped off into a stunning view of what looked like a ruinous temple surrounded by rain forest. A few minutes later, the small car shuddered to a stop. My mom and dad got out, still maintaining the silence and managing to shoot daggers at each other while they were at it. I rolled my eyes. This summer was going to be a joy.
   Gathering some of my belongings, which were shoved haphazardly into a backpack (my work) or stacked neatly in boxes (my mom's work).
   After getting an armful of boxes and slinging my backpack over my shoulder, I walked up to the porch of the house. Well, it wasn't much of a house. Small, one-story affair. Looked to be made out of logs, but at least it had running water. Of course, we weren't much of a family either. Dad had always been slightly distant from the rest of us, but things had gone nowhere but worse since Justin had died. Mom had fallen completely apart. Dad has shut himself off from everyone and everything and thrown himself into his work.
   Which left me alone. Without my beloved big brother, my only friend.
   I snapped out of my reverie. Shaking my head to clear away depressing thoughts, I walked into the little house. My mom was standing by a table in what I assumed was the kitchen, a dimly lit room with a small refrigerator and a tiny white counter. Then my mom pulled apart the blinds. Bright, buttery sunlight spilled through the slightly grimy windows, illuminating every corner of the small kitchen. I looked around and sighed. This was going to be great, a summer in a small house in a hot, bug-ridden rain forest, with no people for miles around except for my fighting parents. At least the house had air conditioning.
   "Your room is that way," my mom said tartly, pointing to the entry of the kitchen. I nodded, then walked through the door, to see a small living room with a tiny couch sitting in one corner, facing huge windows that looked like they hadn't been cleaned in years. How long has it been since someone's lived here? I wondered.
   "Eirene, stop daydreaming and help unload the boxes."
   "Okay, Mom, just let me put these ones up in my room first."
   I untangled myself from my thoughts and walked into the hallway on the other side of the living room. My worn flip-flops made a thwacking noise on the hardwood floor, a change from the worn carpeting of the kitchen and living room. The short hallway had two doors on the right, one at the end of the hallway, and one directly to my left. I opened that one and stuck my head in. Tiny, slightly crowded room, empty bookshelf, dusty desk. Dad's study. I closed that door and opened the one across from it. Big bed. Two small dressers. Mom and Dad's bedroom. I walked to the end of the hall and stuck my head in that door. Bathroom. Which left me with the last door to the right as my room.
   I walked in and tossed the boxes and my backpack on the bed, which was small but serviceable and bare of any blankets, pillows, or sheets. I sat on it and looked around my new room. It had a small closet in one corner, the bed I was sitting on now in the center of the room, and a window with a seat by it. I strolled over to the window and looked out. I had a great view of the forest, and the clearing with that temple. I'd have to go down and look at it. Dad would probably love to take me there.
   Turning away from the window, I glanced around my room. Wait. I whirled back around and opened the window for a better view. The heat flowed in, along with probably more than a few bugs, but I didn't care. Leaning out the window as far as possible without falling, I stared at the temple. When turning away, I could have sworn that I had seen a creepy black-robed figure standing on the huge pyramid-shaped temple. Staring. At me. I shuddered.
   "The heat's getting to you, Eirene," I muttered to myself as I pulled myself out of the window and shut it. Shaking my head, I left the room and helped my parents get the multiple boxes out of the car and then started unloading some of the boxes.
   Late that night, I flopped down on my bed, newly outfitted with blankets, sheets, and a pillow, I was exhausted, but I knew I wouldn't be able to fall asleep. It always took me ages. I sat up and got off of the bed, weaving through boxes to get to the closet. I slid the door open, revealing the few clothes I had managed to get on hangers and a full-length mirror, me staring back at myself. Shorts and a t-shirt, curly brown hair, blue eyes, and the locket I always wore. It was unique, a birthday gift from my father when we had been living in Egypt. A small, bright blue scarab, carved out of stone, that had a tiny latch on the side. When opened, it showed a picture of my family, about two and a half years ago. I had been so happy, a bouncy 12-year-old finally fitting in someplace. Then everything came apart.
   But this summer would be different. I could feel it in my bones. Something was going to happen this summer. I might even be happy for all of five minutes. Things were going to change, at least for me, at least for a while. I had the entire summer to look forward to, to anticipate, to do something with.
   I sighed, scooted some boxes out of my way to make a straight path, and lay down on my bed. To my surprise, I found myself drifting off almost immediately. I closed my eyes and descended into darkness.
   Tomorrow is a different day.

(Alicia Bradley's essay, "The Silent Killer," took first place in the annual Diamond Middle School Student Council Essay Contest in May. Other winning essays will be printed on this page sometime over the next couple of weeks.)

"The Silent Killer"


I wonder if it hurts to live And if they have to try And whether, could they choose between, They would not rather die. -- Emily Dickinson

   Depression - all of us will battle it at some point in our lives. It goes beyond the blanket of sadness - its the insomnia, the hopelessness, the loss of interest in once-loved activities.

   Depression is a serious mental illness that affects one in every five teenagers - more common than pregnancy or HIV. With a problem this great, schools should be more concerned with helping students affected by depression. Most, unfortunately, aren't. If the only thoughts in your mind dealt with suicide or hurting yourself, would you know where to turn for help? Were told where to go should we become pregnant, but what about depression? Who can you talk to about it? The few people you trust may hear, but they don't always listen; besides, no one wants to be around a downer all the time.

   Where can you go to get help? Few actually know these answers. Not many schools have depression support groups. A handful more than that make an effort to tell their students where to go if they're constantly down. If the educational system would start educating students about how to deal with depression, anxiety, cutting, and suicidal thoughts, 25 million teenagers could go through life with less pain.

   Regrettably, the schools that should be helping students often hurt them. Teachers ridicule students, deriding them in front of their classmates because of their grades, their family, even their clothes. Depressed students are told to just "snap out of it," that their problem is simply a weakness they need to overcome. These types of obloquy and bullying often lead to deeper depression.

   Amazingly enough, some teenagers don't even know they have a problem. Theyre not normal for being so sad all the time, they wont just get over it and get on with life. Their depression is no fault but their own. Cutting is okay too - they're not hurting anyone else, and in a sadistic way it's a form of therapy, of relieving pain. They're never told they actually do have a problem, that their actions aren't okay.

   Schools could do a lot in simply teaching students what depression is. Depression is a disorder of mood caused by a chemical imbalance. It makes no rational sense to the emotionally healthy, so all attempts to explain it rationally are doomed to fail. Serious depression cannot easily be conquered, especially when disregarded. Two-thirds of depressed teenagers will never be treated for their mental disorder. They go through life, waiting to just "snap out of it" and be normal. Some retreat into their own world. Others decide to quit life entirely. Depression is the foundation of almost all suicides, and suicide is second leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds.

   Many of these deaths could have been avoided had they known where to turn for help through their tough time. Sometimes the signs of depression are easy to spot - irritability, decreased energy and appetite levels, a lost interest in activities that were once favorites. But other times it's harder to tell. Some victims of this illness bear their burden alone, silently - only they know the kind of pain they're going through. Severe depression can lead to self-injury, such as cutting, overdosing, and drug abuse.

   Because schools often see only what they want to see, depression and suicide cries are often overlooked. Teachers have enough problems already with students that won't do their homework, girls that are cat-fighting, boys that are hugging each other - PDA! PDA! - that they just dont want to hear about depression.

   After spending the entire day dealing with all of the other problems common to middle school and high school, many teachers see suicide as pushing it too far. Administration doesn't want to mess with it, and counselors are more for arranging tests than real counseling. When no one listens, no one wants to hear how despondent you feel, depression worsens. Only a small number of teenagers know the phone numbers of suicide hotlines, or where they can go to get professional help for depression and self-injury.

   Twenty-five million teenagers are depressed, and one will commit suicide every 18 minutes. So much pain could be prevented - lives could be saved - if schools would do more to help students battling depression.

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