Winning Essay by Henrietta R. from Kentucky
On my first day of awkwardly bouncing into middle school, I remember being lost and confused much like everyone else. This confusion wasn’t just in where to go or how to open my locker, but it ran essentially along the line of, “who am I going to be?” 
 This was the transitional question that led me to meet Mr. Rodney Holt. Mr. Holt was the academic team coach at our middle school that helped in many departments. His work extended from the mental and physical disability unit where he was a teacher, to the academic team, to demonstrations on Veterans day about his time in the Navy. Mr. Holt was always found around the corner with a smile and abundant knowledge on whatever you could possibly need. 
 Through the academic team, Mr. Holt quickly became like a second dad to me. He would greet me at practice every other day with a smile and fun puns, but would also lead the charge in cracking down to business on studying. Our ongoing tradition of watching a Llamas with Hats cartoon carries over into today before academic team matches as he now serves as the high school coach. He’s provided so many resources and opportunities to the team always putting us first. When the funding for our team was unexpectedly cut this year, he paid $3,000 out of pocket to make sure our team would be able to go to our state competition. Now fundraising in our community to pay him back, our team couldn’t be more grateful for Mr. Holt’s immense act of kindness. 
 Mr. Holt’s role in my life has been so significant, I couldn’t imagine who I’d be without him. He guided me through middle school with wisdom and an academically challenging path that has led me to the level I’m at today. From interests I’ve developed in the academic team, I’ve begun sociological research on protest and dissent in American society that I could’ve never even fathomed without his guidance. 
 Now in the high school he’s still there to give hugs and words of advice on the days where I need a friend, and that can mean more than anyone can realize sometimes. After seven years, Mr. Holt is still there to impact my life and open my eyes to the great roads that lie ahead. Whether it’s at Cafeteria Advisory Council meetings where we sample new foods, to History Day testing preparation, to Llamas with Hats marathons, Mr. Holt has inspired me to be the most educated involved person I can.
Looking towards the future, the admiration I have for Mr. Holt’s service to our country, kindness to his family, hard work in our school, contributions to our team, and compassion to me, is far more than I could ever explain in an essay. I take with me the optimism and lessons I’ve learned from him into the future with the mission above all to give back to the place and people I love.

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