The Firefighter Christopher Santora Educational Scholarship Fund Website

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Simone Wright:
2012 Winner
Townsend Harris High School

Simone Wright

Winning Essay

In an age of instant gratification, it is rare to find a force like the Occupy Wall Street movement. The sheer number of Occupiers across the globe underlines the idea that people are still willing to fight for causes greater than themselves. Occupy Wall Street has demanded much of its participants, some of whom left their homes to stand among their comrades for social and economic equality. The movement, however, has done more than assert the need for the “1%” to pay their fair share. Occupy Wall Street has reignited the fire within everyday citizens in pursuit of basic rights and inspired them to enact social reform through their occupation.

Although I criticize our generation’s preoccupation with the individual, I would be remiss to ignore the fact that I often play into the obsession. That said, the Occupy Wall Street movement has urged me to become more active in my community. The concept of direct action resonated with me and throughout the process of the movement, I came to admire the sense of community that arose from the initiative of Occupiers. At the start of the movement, critics claimed that Occupy was a trendy way for twenty-something year olds to gain recognition from social networking sites. On the contrary, Occupy Wall Street is supported by students, blue-collar workers, the homeless, and everyday citizens alike. Each Occupier brings different perspective to the movement and together, the group understand that only as a collective entity can we change our world. Today, we are far from obtaining the social freedom that was promised with the founding of our nation, but with movements like Occupy Wall Street we inch closer to this goal. Occupiers are dedicated people who care about the futures of their families and friends, and I am proud to be a supporter of this grassroots movement.

The current economic climate is far from sound. Corporations get away with crimes for which ordinary citizens would be incarcerated.  Tax evasions, worker mistreatment, and embezzlement by large businesses are a few examples of these corporate offenses. With court decisions such as Citizens United that promise corporation the same first amendment rights as average citizens, a Pandora’s box for greater misdeeds stealthily opens. Unfortunately, citizens won’t respond to corporations actions until these schemes are presented as direct threats. At this rate, these crimes will remain secretive and nothing will change. As my time to plunge into the work force nears, I don’t doubt that corporate crimes will continue. My fear is that Americans will continue to allow these offenses to occur. Lax enforcement of laws against businesses and the passive attitude of the public continually allow corporations to get away with murder. It will take a great deal of work to mend this system and I can only hope that with our determination, we will prevail.

When the movement began in September 2011, Occupiers sought to combat the injustices of the economic system through protests. Now, the movement has spread beyond New York to states across the nation and countries around the globe. United by the desire for justice, members of the Occupy Wall Street movement speak out to have their ideas heard. Participants in the movement were hesitant to develop a rigid list of goals to avoid misrepresenting the cause. Occupy Wall Street focuses on obtaining social and economic justice and the movement’s signature occupations of various areas asserts the power of the public. Today, we can find Occupy encampments in nearly every corner of the globe and a great deal of people have heard of the movement. Occupiers are prevalent around the world and because of this simple fact, I know that Occupy Wall Street has been a success.

Occupy Wall Street developed alongside the power of the Internet, one of the strongest tools through which we communicate today. Accessibility became one of the movement’s largest assets. This spread of information amplified the voice of Occupiers, who were able to protest in large numbers, gathering in crowds and chanting for their cause. The vocal aspect of the movement was essential in its growth and longevity. Had the movement remained an online effort, it may not have been taken as a serious issue. Similarly, if the movement had comprised of angry letters and phone calls to local and national representatives, the public would have never been alerted. Even though Occupy Wall Street protests were bold and dangerous at times, the rallies rocketed the movement to a worldwide audience. I would have liked to see Occupy protesters take their message to schools, however. Outlets such as “Career Day” would have proved to be a wonderful platform for dedicated protesters to show students the true power of unified, nonviolent action. In retrospect of the movement thus far, I don’t believe that Occupy Wall Street would have established itself as the massive force that it has become today without in-your-face rallying and community efforts. The movement has made its name through joint efforts by strangers who are elated by the prospect of living in a just world.

As I followed the Occupy Wall Street movement this year, I was struck by an emotion that I had never experienced before. The spirit of the Occupiers was more than a political effort in my eyes; for the first time, I felt like a piece of a force greater than myself. When the Occupy Wall Street movement is taught in history books decades from now, I hope that it inspires students to make their mark in as small a venue as their schools to as grand a platform as the world.

Biography

Inspiration arises from the most unexpected places, be they specific locations that stir emotions or photos of a loved one that take you back in time. For example, have you ever been to a beach after a snowstorm? The bluish-grey of the sky is so calming and the immediate contrast between the coarse sand and soft snow teases the senses. Without the iconic summer crowds, the beach becomes a new, enlightening place during the chilly season. So many overlook its beauty, but its hidden majesty is what makes it so special to me.

My name is Simone Wright and I often try to find beauty in my surroundings. It seem that as I observe the things and people around me, I learn a bit more about myself. Currently, those surroundings are Fresh Meadows, New York where I’ve lived all 17 years of my life. The furthest I’ve ever been from home is Fairbanks, Alaska and I’ve never been away from my parents for more than a week. I am an only child amidst a large family, and as a result I’ve been struck with what I would describe as Restless Child Syndrome. My interests have swayed like tree branches in the wind: I can still remember the days when I had aspirations of being a professional break dancer and an English teacher who studied cartography in her spare time. Today, my hobbies are just as unrelated, and my dreams are equally ambitious. Although I’m not yet able to answer to the question of what I want to be when I “grow up,” I have a good idea of who I would like to be. My four years at Townsend Harris High School have provided me with the knowledge to understand the world around us. As I make the transition into college next year, I hope to gain a greater understanding of myself.

The Santora family has made something beautiful out of an unfortunate tragedy. By honoring the legacy of Christopher Santora, they’ve found a way to bring light back into the heart of darkness. Thank you to you the Santora family for sharing both your story and your kindness with students like myself. I’ve never been a great storyteller, but I’d like to leave you with a suggestion and a bit of wisdom. Scour the world for that unique place, person, or belief and hold on to it. Find your own wintry beach and once you do, hold onto the memories of it. Let them become your inspiration as Christopher Santora became an inspiration to his family, his friends, and all of those with whom he came in contact. Then, you’ll understand what it means to live for something.

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