"Strong I'll Be:" The Winner of the 2017 Nashville Reads Writing Contest, Youth Category

We're proud to present this essay, which received 1st prize in our youth category of the 2017 Nashville Reads Writing Contest. Congratulations, Veronica, and keep writing!

Strong I'll Be

I stayed up on election night, nervous about the next day. I finally had to go to bed without knowing the winner. The next morning, it was gray. I heard my mother come into the room. “Did he win?” I asked nervously. There was a pause. “Yes,” she said. I burst into tears. She persuaded me to go to my brother’s room, where everyone was waiting. Donald Trump would be president. I had many reasons to dislike him. He had called women pigs, he had sexually assaulted women, he had mocked disabled people, and he wanted to kick innocent immigrants out of America.

We had a family meeting to talk about it. “We’re moving to Ireland,” I said. “No,” my mother said. “We are going to stand for our rights and be brave.”

Maybe the worst thing about the news for me was that it happened on a school day. I had been for Hillary Clinton, and many of my classmates had been for Trump. I absolutely love Hillary Clinton because she understands what women mean to this world. When we arrived at school, some classmates started teasing me. They called me names like Little Hillary. Most of them were boys.

A few months before the election, I had been invited to go to a Presidential Inauguration Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. in January. When the time arrived, I felt ready to conquer anything. I had realized since the election that what my classmates said did not matter. They just wanted to make me mad. “You’re just a girl!” they said. I didn’t care. I knew that to be a girl is a privilege. I knew that to be a girl is an opportunity. I knew that girls can do anything that boys can do. I knew that this world could never survive without girls.

I arrived at the summit and met my team. I had signed up for the group that focused on, you guessed it, Women in Leadership. What startled me was that, in addition to girls, there were three boys on the team. This gave me hope because boys my age cared about women’s rights too. Also, all of us were different colors. But still we were all the same because we believed in the importance of women. I loved it!

The best part of the summit occurred the second day when Malala Yousafzai called on video chat from England. Ever since I had read Malala’s book I had wanted to be like her. When she came on screen, the crowd exploded with applause. Malala talked about how women are just as strong as men. She told us that some of her friends had been married as children. I was astonished. It was scary to think about being in her friends’ shoes. Malala said child marriage was wrong. She talked about the importance of girls’ education, and how she fights for girls who cannot go to school. It was an emotional and amazing speech.

At one point, I noticed that Malala, THE Malala, was looking straight at me. I felt courage and pride. I held my breath and looked right back into her eyes.

Some people from the summit went to the inauguration, but I decided to visit the home of our first president, Mt. Vernon, with my family instead. The next day, I went to the Women’s March. I saw all kinds of people: people of different color, people speaking different languages, and elderly women who had been standing for women’s rights for years. It was like a family. We chanted outside the White House: “Welcome to your first day, we will not go away!” That memory will stick with me forever. “Take it in honey. You are now part of history,” my mother said. I knew she was right.

When I returned home, I wrote a letter of advice to Trump saying he should be careful about the choices he makes as president. I have been talking to some of my classmates and friends about women’s rights and have ignored the comments of boys at my school.  I have big plans for my future and for other girls’ futures.

To all girls who are being teased: stay strong. It doesn’t matter what other people say. You are your own person, and you can be whatever you want to be. This is my story. I am going to continue to stand up for women’s rights. How about you?

Veronica Pierce is the daughter of Amy Seigenthaler and Tim Pierce, and she attends Overbrook School. She has a brother and a sister who are eleven-year-old twins. She loves to write stories, poems, and papers that talk about her beliefs and opinions. She takes ballet, plays basketball, plays softball, sings with the Blair Chorus, and writes for the Overbrook newspaper. She is very grateful to The Porch for hosting this contest.