It’s been nearly two decades, yet I can still remember sitting in Mr. Thomas’ fifth-grade classroom with my D.A.R.E. essay contest entry ready to read it aloud.
I can’t tell you what it said (outside of the fact that it was anti-drug and anti-alcohol), but knowing my mother, she probably still has it stashed somewhere in her closet or the storage room.
What I do know is that the plaque I received for winning the contest still hangs on the wall in my apartment. It is the only award that hangs on a wall in my apartment, and it’s visible from the first step you take through the door.
Some people have asked why I keep a middle school award hanging on the wall. The answer is simple: It was the first time that something I wrote truly resonated with someone. In a way, it was the start of my writing career.
Seventeen years later, I’m practically a poster child for the D.A.R.E. program, but what the program stands for has little to do with why this award is so meaningful to me (sorry, Det. Collazo).
It was first major (for the time being, that is) award I had ever won. It was the first time that I realized I was capable of doing great things. It was the first time I realized that writing could be a path for me somewhere down the road.
It was the first time I realized that you should dare to be great.