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Daniela Morales:
2014 Winner
Long Island City High School

Daniela Morales

Winning Essay

Clarissa Harlowe Barton

“The door that nobody else will go in at, seems always to swing open widely for me.”

Heroes may never be forgotten. But legends never die. The word “hero” is often associated to bearers of supernatural abilities, tall men saving the world from their enemies. Legends and their actions extend beyond space and time within the confinements of human history. And while most heroes and legends are painted through fictional means, we should never forget that in the chronicles of our world’s history, we encounter heroes and legends of bone and flesh. They may not fly through buildings or, live in underground cities or hide behind masks, however, they do save the world without reimbursement. Their actions impact society deeply, that even after their passing, they remain with us.

Christmas day, 1821, North Oxford, Massachusetts, a hero and a legend is born. Clarissa Harlowe Barton, nicknamed Clara, was to become a polarizing figure of humanitarianism. If society were to establish an official check list for determining heroism, Mrs. Barton checks off every item. She was brave, determined, selfless and dedicated. Her sacrifices and valor were greater than any superpower a fictional hero may possess. Barton came from a low income family, the youngest of five children and a woman living in pre-civil war America, expected by society to restrict herself to only a family with children, unencouraged to obtain a real education or pursue a profession. However, circumstances of her life were anything but conditions holding her back. At age 15 she began teaching in nearby schools, and at age 29 she refused a salary in order to avoid charging tuition for her students. As such Barton established the first tuition free school in New Jersey and raised enrollment from six to 600 in Bordentown. By 1853 Barton became the first woman in America to be appointed as a copyist for the Patent Office in Washington, D.C. and in 1881 she incorporated the American Red Cross, self-appointing herself as president.

No doubt Barton’s accomplishments are astonishing. But what made this woman a hero? What is a hero? There’s always a light that people carry inside their soul. This light can be fed through life so that it lights up everything around it, or it can be let go, or it can simply be balanced. Through facing everything that scares us, thinking about everyone’s wellbeing beyond our own, having humility and being brave enough to know that all of our actions are worthy, is that we let this light highlight the hero in us. Barton did just that. She sacrificed profit over knowledge and instead taught for no salary. She was brave and determined to serve the Federal troops during the start of the Civil War, dedicating her time to aid those in need. Most importantly, Barton always believed that there was always a way in which someone – acquaintance or stranger– should use her help. Barton’s light shined because of her goodwill, impacting the lives of many who she didn’t know. Her ability to be a sister, a mother, a friend to humanity made her a hero. She didn’t have to know someone, she didn’t ask about a person’s background, all she ever knew was that if someone needed aid she was poised to assist, willing to let her light shine through.

Clara Barton’s heroic actions didn’t only impact the lives of those she touched. Her actions continue to make a difference long after her passing on April 12th, 1912. At this moment, as you read these words, Clara Barton and her light are still vivid, still impacting, still aiding, and still making a difference. There can never be another person named the first woman to be named copyist in the Patent Office in Washington, there won’t ever be another person who created the American Red Cross. There will simply never be another Clarissa Harlowe Barton and because of this she is a legend.

A legend lives beyond space and time and remains with us, even in physical absence. A legend defies mortality, their soul harnesses those of the people of present day. Isn’t this what Barton managed to do? Not one day passes by where Barton’s legacy is not alive through the many works of people she inspired, from members of the American Red Cross who continue to serve those in need just as she did, to teachers and social workers that saw Barton as a role model. Clara Barton may not be alive in a biological sense, but her legacy and her leadership have been living with us even after she was gone. This is exactly why Clarissa Harlowe Barton was not just a hero who brought only but good when present, but she is also a legend who continues to impact our future.

Unlike most fictional heroes and legends we read about, Barton didn’t help only those in her “underground city”. Her actions were performed all over the world. One of her greatest accomplishments was establishing Nurses of Mercy. The organization served and ministered wounded soldiers during the time of war, no matter the side of the battlefield they fought on. She made a great impact in the world and even more so, she made an everlasting impact in the United States after incorporating the American Red Cross. The organization now helps Americans from home fires to earthquakes that affect millions every day. Her profound dedication and hard work to helping those in need without expecting anything back and her careless attitude about personal comfort broke boundaries, state lines and crossed many oceans.

Why exactly did I choose to write about Clara Barton? Perhaps it is the fact that I didn’t want to write about an obvious hero and legend or finding her upon researching about the least mention heroes and legends in history, was her own way of being my personal hero. It could have also been that I admire her power and humility. Exactly why I chose to write about her can be answered very differently, any answer valid. A better question would be; who wouldn’t write about her? Or who wouldn’t consider her a hero and a legend? As I thought how to answer the first question, it finally came to me. Barton’s light touched my soul like no other public figure has ever been able to touch it. Knowing that a human being is able to put aside any selfish feelings – sometimes consider foundational of human nature – and that someone can ignore personal suffering in order to aid the pain of others, is spectacular.

Clara Barton spoke about her experiences to others before her voice failed in 1868. Before writing to a founder of the International Red Cross, offering to lead an American branch, she was semi-invalid. She waived her salary as a teacher so students with low income would be able to learn from her. She suffered a crisis of nervous illness due to uncertainty about her own future, yet she never doubt to help others in order to better their future and she put herself in the dangerous of war. So, why exactly did I choose to write about her? I chose to write about her because she didn’t only help those during her time. She managed to help me.

Clarissa Harlowe Barton born one hundred and ninety-three years ago helped me realized that heroes are brave, they never give up, they are selfless and courageous and they never ask for anything in return. She also taught me that legends never die, they go beyond space and time. She left a better world for me and many generations to come. Her actions are praised and fortunately so grand that many have use them as inspiration. Like a great legend she left a better world to live in. Her legacy continues. Now, take a look at where you are, who you’re with, who is close to you at heart. Think about everyone who you have yet to meet, think about those who are in need, think about strangers looking for help. If you can love those close to your heart as much as you love those you are yet to meet, then just like Mrs. Barton you’re feeding that light in your soul. No superpowers, no flying ability, no masks are needed. Being a hero and becoming a legend is just letting the light in our soul cut through the surface. That is something that even the best fictional writers are incapable of creating.



I was given the name of Daniela Morales-Bernal on October 30th, 1994 in Colombia. Ever since I could remember my happiness has come in the forms of reading, writing and acting. After moving to New York City when I was a toddler, I used my writing skills to create my own world and expand my imagination. I attended P.S 92Q, graduated to I.S 145Q and now I am currently a senior in Long Island City High School.

When I was in the fourth grade my teacher (whose name I wish I could remember) told me that she knew I was going to become a writer, and that she expected to receive a sign copy of my first book. Those words have never left my mind. In the seventh grade I began writing a story…I have yet to finish it. Not because of lack of commitment, but because I have become too attached to it and have yet to find the desire to let go of the characters. While attending Junior High School I got the chance to attend a meeting at the United Nations with certain other classmates who were also chosen to go.

I can’t think of a time where I haven’t had the need to write or read. I hope that in the near future I can help those younger or those my age, realize the power of words. For now I am working as a writer for a pop-culture blog called The-Wonderist.

Besides writing and reading I am also passionate in the performing arts. I began acting at a young age, have been an extra for Nickelodeon and in 2014 I will be seen in the independent film Moon and Sun. Aside from film, I also have a passion for theater. I performed in Repertorio Espanol in Manhattan and wrote and directed a play for my school’s SING competition during my junior year. In my last year of High School I have been president of a community service group called ASPIRA of Long Island City High School.

Throughout my life I have learned that the most important part of life is the path and the process of becoming your truthful self. In the end I am just a girl with a love for all kinds of music, from rock to pop to jazz and rock n’ roll. I live for being sarcastic and for watching horror or really bad movies. I don’t know where life will take me, I don’t know where I will end up. However, I do know that I will fight for being the only one responsible for my own life.

I will like to take this opportunity to give special attention to certain people in my life, this wouldn’t be my biography without them. My mother for being my best friend and the greatest warrior in the world; “I love you darling.” My mentor, teacher and theater director Mrs. Agudelo. Thank you for being a great human being. Finally, my friend Edgar for keeping up with my craziness, we both know is a hard thing to do.

Be somebody who makes YOU happy.

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