Students win Rotary essay contest

Five students answered a question about violent video games in an essay for a chance to win the 2013 Herb Sharp Scholarship available through the Buckhannon Rotary Club.

The five winning students are all classmates in an advanced placement literature course taught by Angie Westfall at Buckhannon-Upshur High School.

Vocational Service Chairwoman Kathy McMurray said it was difficult to select from the essays, so two students tied for first place, two students tied for second place and one student was awarded third place.

“They deserve it,” McMurray said.

The scholarships were announced and awarded during Buckhannon Rotary Club’s regular meeting Tuesday. First-place winners Briea St. Clair and Marlene Ridgway each were presented with a check for $500. Second-place winners Meghan Bouhmer and Danielle Perry each were presented with a check for $350. Caroline Nanners, the third-place winner, was awarded with a check for $250.

The applicants wrote an essay about whether they thought violent video games were responsible for bullying or bad behavior. The top five students read their essays to the club.

“Certainly for children who still have a developing mind and are susceptible to forming lifelong habits, this is a dangerous form of entertainment,” Ridgway said when reading her essay.

St. Clair said, “Bloodshed, annihilation, gunshot wounds and murder. It used to be that these words were only heard in relation to war and times of serious strife. Now, all of that violence, hatred, bitterness toward the world and desire to kill is transferred onto a compact disc, stuffed into a plastic case and placed on a shelf for the whole world to buy.”

Ridgway and St. Clair were not the only students to write about the harmful effects of violence in video games.

“Traditional values of kindness and compassion have almost completely vanished from today’s society,” Perry wrote, saying some people believe these games are “harmless extracurricular activities.”

Bouhmer wrote that, “children and adults are exposed to relentless violence every time they play. This much exposure to violence synthesizes an individual into thinking that it is easy and acceptable to hurt and kill others for personal gain.”

“Millions of people all over the world play video games, and not all of them act as I have previously described. I, myself, play video games and do not go around town stealing cars and robbing my local Chinese restaurant. The mind has to determine between what is real and what is in the fantasy of the game world.”

Not all the winning students appeared to believe that violent video games were responsible for criminal acts and bullying behaviors. Nanners said she doesn’t personally play video games, but her brothers play video games that can be violent.

“In my opinion, I do not think video games play a significant role in violence occurring in schools,” Nanners said. “Schools are trying to blame bullying and violence on something that is totally wrong and not focusing on the true reasons behind bullying, which I think are poor self-esteem, home life. Most people can discern from video games that they’re not realistic.”

Nanners said people who could not discern video games from real life may need professional help. She said she does not feel that schools are dealing with the right area when it comes to the cause of bullying.

“Life is not a video game, and it should not be blamed for violence in schools and the workplace,” Nanners said.