One of Our Favorite Scholarship Essays

This month's Food for Thought column is an essay from the scholarship contest written by Heleena K., a high school senior from Tennessee. Heleena received an honorarium and special mention from our Board for this essay.

It is senior year and it is a stressful time for my friends and me, but we find a way to overcome our struggles together. Whether it be applying for scholarships, keeping up with our GPA or even making sure that senioritis does not get the best of us, we all have each other in one way or another.

One specific struggle that my friends and I experienced this year is the dreaded ACT. Since this test is known to make or break our future, it definitely gave us a lot of concerns and anxiety. My friends and I are a group of four and on the morning our ACT, we got into one car together and began to do some last-minute studying. We went over formulas for math and specific grammar rules for English, but our last method of preparation was prayer.

The most interesting factor about my friend group is that we have diversity. One of us is an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, the other is Hindu, and two of us are Baptist. This didn't matter to us because we just wanted to come together. We wanted some sort of relief from our stress for this test and prayer was our best tactic. So, the four of us looked at each other  and grabbed hands; then the thought occurred to us that we were all not a part of the same faith. The look of confusion on our faces was so amusing because we did not know how to begin. The debate began on which one of us should start the prayer. One person would say, "You start", and someone else would say, "No, you start". I said, "I don't even know how to pray in English!" Quietly giggling at each other, eventually we closed our eyes and bowed our heads as one friend began to pray. The dynamic later changed because instead of only praying in English so we could all understand, another friend began to pray in Nepali. She did not let a language and religion barrier get in the way of wishing the best for all of us. Later, to my surprise, I began to pray in Amharic, my secondary language. Even if my friends did not understand what I was saying word for word, they knew that I wanted them to have the best results they could possibly obtain.

Although prayer is not a joking matter, for us it was a way to get one with our faith and it showed how truly comfortable we were with each other. Even though we had all come from different backgrounds, we were able to come together so we could support each other. Once we had finished praying, we looked up and we were ready to walk in and take the ACT.

On our way into the building we were laughing hysterically because we could not believe that we actually prayed in three different languages and represented different religions. For my friends and me, prayer was not a challenge or a hindrance for our friendship; we were not worried that we would be insulted, or even feel judged. Praying together the way we did opened a new path that strengthened our relationship even more. It made us all feel comforted to know that we were being taken care of by whatever each of us believed in. This prayer experience was one that we will not forget; it showed that we were all open-minded to the different cultures and religions one may be a part of. Instead of just silently praying to ourselves, being able to pray aloud demonstrated that we all are supportive no matter what we endeavor.