Skyline student Kamryn Stark took first place in the Pratt Optimist's Club essay contest.

A trio of students captured the three top spots at the Pratt Optimist Club's Essay Contest. Taking first place was Skyline senior Kamryn Stark, Pratt High School sophomore Jorja Elliott took the second slot while PHS student Lindsey Bergner captured third place.

Contest requirements were a 700-800 word essay on "Chasing Optimism in the Face of Challenges" and presented their essays to a panel of three judges: Annette Lough, Stacey Fisher and Monette DePew. The top three contestants were each presented an engraved medallion at the Feb. 24 Optimist Club meeting.

Stark will receive a $300 college scholarship while her teacher at Skyline will receive $200 for classroom use. The winning essay has been submitted to the state competition alone with other local club winners. A $2,500 scholarship will be awarded at the state level.

Stark said she was a little nervous about giving her speech but she was also honored to have the chance to give it and talk to the judges.

As far as her essay goes, Stark focused on relating her essay to her life and how she personally chases optimism. She looks to her faith a lot.

"God has good things waiting for me. If I pursue him, I will be rewarded," Stark said.

People need to be thankful for everyone and everything in their lives. They need to stop playing the victim game and blaming their peers for problems. Sometimes, life is unfair but with a positive attitude, they can recover.

"We can make our world better by staying positive," Stark said.

Stark is the daughter of Marla Stark of Pratt and Tom Stark of Wichita. Stark's Essay:

By Kamryn Stark
The world we live in is not a perfect place, nor should we expect it to be. However, as the media and news broadcasts are filled with negativity and horrors of what humans are doing to one another, it sometimes seems difficult to see any goodness at all. During my lifetime, and especially growing up in the midst of such challenges, I have to make a conscious decision to be positive and chase optimism, rather than let the hardships of life drag me down.
One way I do this is to look to my faith. I remind myself that God has greater things waiting for me, and if I am faithful to pursue goodness and positivity, I will soon be rewarded. This may mean I have to face adversity first. An example of this is my indecision regarding my future plans after I graduate from high school. I am struggling trying to decide where to go to college as well as what degree to pursue. I keep praying and I am keeping my options open, looking at each avenue as a potential opportunity for greatness. While I could get bogged down, stressed out, and depressed, I choose instead to chase optimism, and depend on my faith to keep me strong.
Although our country is struggling right now to stay positive and to get along, especially in regards to politics, there are many great things we are forgetting about the country we live in. We are forgetting that we have freedoms that allow us to wake up every morning with minimal stresses. Other countries are not as fortunate compared to the United States. We are free to choose where we work, we are free to vocalize our opinions, and we are free to worship as we please. However, we are forgetting to have open minds and respect each other regardless of politics or religion. While everyone is worrying about what is going to happen in the next four years of Donald Trump’s presidency, we are simply forgetting to chase optimism and to choose to be thankful for everything and everyone that we have in our lives.
Most of the time when things get rough, one instinct we have is to blame our peers, feel sorry for ourselves, and start to play the victim game. In a way, it is understandable why people choose to blame others when facing a state of crisis. Most of us were warned many times growing up about how terrible and chaotic this world would be as we got older. There was and still is someone or something to blame for this. As a country and as a world, we have been through natural disasters, political disasters, and corporate disasters. However, we have faced everything from 9/11 to the tech bubble to the global financial crisis and everything in between from global warming to the scare of ISIS taking over, to the threat of whooping cough, and yet we have survived. Along with that, tuition expenses have multiplied, insurance and healthcare costs have risen and unemployment rates are higher. All of this has happened, but yet we are still living and breathing. Blaming someone else for these difficulties accomplishes nothing. The biggest problem with living life with the perspective of “being the victim” is that we become our own biggest obstacle. Life is unfair sometimes, and our world seems like it will not ever recover from everything it has been through. None of this gives anyone the right to hold up the victim card at any opportunity. Instead of living life in the past, is it extremely important to encourage everyone from our grandparents, to our children’s kids, to chase optimism, look for a positive future, and make our world better day by day.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or we can rejoice because rose bushes have thorns.” Thorns in life serve a purpose. They make us stronger, but only if we let them. We have to make that conscious effort to chase optimism no matter the challenges life throws in our path. If we do that, we will learn from mistakes and ultimately make us, and the world, a better place.