A Meyersdale Area High School student, Whitney Thomas was selected as a finalist in The National School Climate Center BullyBust “Defying Gravity” essay contest.
“I was ecstatic when I heard that I was a finalist!” Thomas said in an e-mail. “I was out shoveling snow and when I came inside, my brother said ‘You won!’ I asked what he was referring to and my mom explained that she had just gotten the phone call. I was one of the three finalists out of about 1,000 schools. I feel so honored and privileged to be a finalist in this contest. I have never entered anything like this before and it means a lot to me.”
The contest was promoted in the Daily American NIE’s Stand Up To Bullying tab sponsored by the Behavioral Health Services of Somerset and Bedford Counties Inc. in October and sent to middle and high school students.
For the contest, students were invited to write an essay about a time when they defied gravity by standing up to bullying, by stopping their own bullying behavior or by not letting teasing and harassment from others bring them down.
“One day at school, they announced that the newspaper had details of a contest and the grand prize was a trip to New York City. I went to the office right away and picked up a paper. I love New York City, so I had to give it a shot,” Thomas said. “I read the article and found out the contest was about bullying. I knew it was a great contest for me to enter because I knew I had a lot to say about it.”
But Thomas had a few reservations about entering.
“When I found out it was nationwide, that’s when I started to question myself. In the end, I did enter because I liked the idea of the grand prize and I wanted to let people know my side of the story and spread the word of the epidemic of bullying in our small town of Meyersdale,” she said.
Thomas is the 17-year-old daughter of Paul and Brenda Thomas and a junior at Meyersdale. She has a younger brother in seventh grade. She is a straight A student who is actively involved in her school, church and community. Thomas plays the flute in the marching and concert bands. She is also a member of the SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) club, prom committee and she is a student tutor in the elementary school.
Thomas enjoys teaching preschool and helping out in the nursery at Cornerstone Assembly of God in Boynton, and is in Chosen Youth. Two summers ago she attended a missions trip with her youth to Virginia Beach.
She volunteers during the Pennsylvania Maple Festival where she serves pancakes and sausage at the Pancake Shack, participates in the Legend of the Magic Water Pageant and helps out wherever she is needed at Festival Park.
Thomas is a part-time employee of McDonald’s where she is a cashier. In her spare time, she loves baby-sitting, spending time with her family and best friends, shopping and traveling to New York City.
After graduation, Thomas hopes to attend John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York or Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania to major in criminal justice. Her dream is to one day be an NYPD police officer and detective.
Thomas’ essay, “Bullying is Wicked,” connects bullying to the Wicked Witch of the West or Cinderella’s wicked stepmother. She said she prefers to stand up to bullies, whether it is for herself or someone else. In particular she helped an autistic classmate by being a friend, a helpful classmate and by standing up for him against those who made fun of him.
She said by listening to the lyrics to “Defying Gravity” from the play “Wicked,” a person could change his attitude and outlook on life. The lyrics encourage people to stop such behavior just to fit in or because someone said they should act like that, Thomas wrote. She encourages the nation’s youth to change bullying by making a difference now.
“When I found out about the contest, I really wanted to enter but I was questioning myself. I don’t know if I should enter because I know I’m never going to win and I don’t want to be disappointed. This contest is nationwide and I don’t have a chance,” Thomas said. “My mom talked me into it. She told me ‘what is there to lose? Just try and see what happens. You’ll do fine.’