Youth Honor Awards 2003
As I walked along the side of the road, I remembered the crumpled candy wrappers in my hand. Crumbs of chocolate sticking to the inside of the wrappers had melted all over my hand since I had eaten those chocolate bars. My hand was hot and sticky.
I tossed the candy wrappers into the street and started to whistle a tune as I walked to the front steps to my house.
"Anybody home?" I called as I opened the door. My voice echoed through the empty house.
"Dad must be gone," I thought as I strolled into the kitchen. I opened the refrigerator door and grabbed a boysenberry-lime yogurt, my favorite.
I left the door open, as I knew I would be wanting one of the bottles of root beer in it later.
As I found a spoon, I recalled my messy hands. There were chocolate smears all over the handle of the the refrigerator. The thought of root beer slipping my mind, I went to wash my hands. The cool water that poured over my hands felt so refreshing. I splashed some onto my face.
I heard my dad's voice call to me. "Natalie?"
"Just washing my hands," I replied.
I ran to meet him, forgetting about the water I left running in the bathroom.
"Hi, Dad!" I said.
"Hi Honey," he said, "all packed for the trip?"
"Uh... not quite," I said.
"Well you'd better get moving; we're leaving soon."
"Oh, and Natalie, close the refrigerator door, and don't leave the faucet on."
I went to my room and yanked my suitcase out of the closet. I shoved a few t-shirts and shorts into it. I hastily added my toiletries bag, my cell phone, and a pair of PJs. I couldn't think of anything else I would need for a three night camping trip, so I put the suitcase at the foot of my bed and went to the kitchen to finish my snack.
Time flew by as the day of the camping trip arrived. Before I knew it, my dad and I were in the old, red, rusted pickup truck and off to Yellowstone National Park.
We stopped to eat in a big city about halfway to Yellowstone. The air was thick and cloudy. A layer of grime coated most surfaces. I stepped into something black and greasy. "What the...," I began.
"Used oil," my dad said.
The restaurant was located by a toxic waste dump. I made a disgusted face and plugged my nose to block out the foul smell. In the distance, I saw many towers of smoke billowing upwards, then disappearing in to the air.
"Dad!" I cried, "It's a forest fire!"
"First of all," my dad said, "there are no forests anywhere near here. Secondly, that's not smoke from a fire. That smoke is from a factory."
"Oh," I said. "But why is this city...the way it is?"
"It's all the pollution -- people not being concerned about the environment."
I was shocked. "Like leaving refrigerators open and littering?"
"Yep, even small things like that contribute to the problem."
"How can we stop this from happening?"
"Well, there are organizations and such. But it's also important for us not to pollute or waste."
I was silent for a moment, then I said, "Dad, we need to turn around. I have to go home."
That was the day I started conserving resources and stopped littering. I joined an organization to save the environment and promoted environmental sensitivity wherever I went.
One day, I caught my dad just after he had washed his face.
"Dad?" I asked.
"Don't leave the faucet on!"
-- Allison Tesch, 11, Seattle, Washington. She writes, "I was born in Los Angeles, California, and I know what it's like being in a polluted city."