Kent State Student Liz Schmidt Writes About Compassion to End Injustice, Takes Top Honors
When you first meet Liz Schmidt, an instant friendship emerges, filled with conversation illuminated with respect and kindness. Her friendly disposition and welcoming nature, coupled with her sense of adventure, reflects the social responsibility she lives by: “foster relationships and value people that you run into every day.”
Schmidt is a sophomore majoring in conflict management in Kent State University’s College of Arts and Sciences. She is also Yes! Magazine’s online “Justice For All” University Winner.
Every quarter, the magazine puts on an essay competition that challenges students to write about making a positive change in the world — specifically, how they can treat people more justly and how such treatment can make a difference. Schmidt wrote “Compassionate Communities: Where Mindfulness Starts, Injustice Ends.” The essay encourages readers to explore their feelings so they can better connect to the world and respond with sensitivity.
For the premise of her essay, Schmidt looks back to the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Oct. 1, 2015. She dives into her own response to the tragedy and ponders how dismissiveness breeds injustice.
“Although it is not always clear how, we all contribute to that dismissal,” she wrote. “I gave the beast the opportunity to strike when I turned the radio off and continued my daily business like nothing had happened.”
Schmidt points out that the first response to the violent shootings should have been to “regain the depth in our feelings,” to grieve, even for complete strangers, followed by action with the hope of preventing it from happening again.
She goes on to write, “The end of injustice starts with ending our tolerance to it.
The essay originated as an assignment from Karen Cunningham, associate professor in Kent State’s Center for Applied Conflict Management. Each semester, Cunningham submits the top essays to Yes! Magazine.
“I received some excellent essays for this assignment, but the minute I read Liz’s essay, I knew that I had to submit it to YES! Magazine for the contest,” Cunningham says. “Her essay was beautifully written, and very thoughtful, with some powerful insights. I am so proud of the work that Liz did, and I was so excited when her essay was selected as the winner and published online. It’s a message worth sharing, and I would encourage everyone to go online and read it.”
Schmidt grew up on an organic farm in Medina, Ohio. After high school, she lived abroad in Senegal, West Africa, learning the culture, language and ultimately about herself. Through her experience, she gained a passion to foster communication and make a positive impact in the world.
What Schmidt took away from her experience, she incorporated into her essay. As a result, she hopes readers will start to notice small differences, appreciate them and allow them to give meaning to everyday activities that often appear meaningless.
For Schmidt, that means paying a little more money for locally grown organic products, making amends with someone she has wronged, putting aside stereotypes that she was not aware of, and “recognizing individuality.”
Schmidt credits her upbringing for inspiration.
“I’ve had a lot of love in my life that I’m grateful for, from my family and the wonderful support of friends who have modeled a really, beautiful way to live and interact,” Schmidt says.
As for the essay, she is excited to be published in an online magazine where she can share her thoughts.
“It’s good to know that what I’m saying is resonating with other people, and that I’m on a track that I’m reaching out and communicating, especially to people who may not think the same thing I do,” Schmidt says.
To read Schmidt’s winning essay, visit www.yesmagazine.org/for-teachers/writing-competition-essays/fall-2015-student-writing-competition-winners/justice-for-all-university-winner-elizabeth-schmidt.