Back in June, Notre Dame set a challenge for our year 11 applicants: to write an essay reflecting on the virtues and positive habits they had developed during lockdown. This Stella Maris Essay Competition was launched by the college in collaboration with Leeds Trinity University.
Many entries to this competition were received, and after long deliberation by a panel of judges that included the college principal Mrs. Justine Barlow and our newly appointed Director of Catholic Life Mrs. Catherine Herring, an overall winner and two runners-up were chosen.
These three students, who have now joined the college community as part of lower sixth, were selected for their clear communication regarding the virtue or virtues of their choice. Mrs. Barlow was impressed both by their writing and also by how they had developed as individuals despite the issues caused by the impact of COVID-19. Mrs. Barlow presented each student with a certificate and Amazon voucher, and they will also receive a commendation that will count towards the college’s flagship award for Catholic education, the Stella Maris Leadership Award.
We’d like to congratulate the overall winner, Zsofia Iyizoba. You can read her honest and emotive essay in full below.
We’d also like to say well done to the two runners-up. They were: Hermani Day, who wrote about service, community, compassion and empathy; and Simran Bahia, who wrote about awareness of and care for the environment. We are very proud to have welcomed all three of them to our college.
Winning essay by Zsofia Iyizoba, writing about the virtue of courage
Prior to lockdown I have often succumbed to fear. The fear of being acknowledged by my peers and therefore open to judgement, it was much easier for me to hide behind my friends. Happy to be in my comfort zone. However, I would find myself unable to raise my hand up to answer questions in class, my legs would begin to tremble and a tightness in my throat would begin to form.
Consequently, with my friends who share the same passion to spread awareness on the topic of racism, we decided to walk the streets of our local area in protest of police brutality and racism. As I reached out for my ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner my hands were shaking, my heart racing. The fear was inching up my body. The idea of staying at home, in my comfort zone, away from judgement travelled across my mind. I was ready to give in.
During lockdown not only have I learnt that being courageous is a battle I have to face every day, but most importantly that we need to do better as a society. Let us create a world where love for one another rules despite our differences. As Audre Lord said, “it is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognise, accept, and celebrate those differences.”