Scholarship Essay by Shanelle From Valor Christian High School

April 16, 2018

graduate certificate and graduate cap on a stack of books isolated on whiteThis essay, by Shanelle from Valor Christian High School, is one of the top five finalists for our scholarship. Be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below this post!

9:00 pm Nostalgia & 6:00 am Rain
(a poem about Highlands Ranch)

Lavender and cerulean frost
Cumulonimbus clouds:
puffed and irritated eyes pour out
ultramarine pupils.
Regretful memories well up in
those water lily eyes,
for pouted lips prophesied drowning
in the propaganda.
Violet, cerulean bright! The rain
left cirrus clouds behind
and dried, slumped, exhausted tear ducts paused
in retrospective blur.
Clarity. Nostalgia. Haunted street
lamps burning eyes to tears.
Everyone here brought me to weeping.
Everyone lost themselves.

In Response

I am a Colorado native. Growing up, I remained in the state but moved from area to area. Through this, I developed a rounded sense of everything East of the Rocky Mountains. When my family and I were deciding which high school I should attend, we discovered Valor Christian. After receiving scholarships and financial aid, my parents decided to take the financial risks posed and relocate to Highlands Ranch. Valor Christian and Highlands Ranch are inseparable in my mind, as they both were essential aspects of my high school experience. For this reason, my understanding of Highlands Ranch may be different than others because it is entirely tainted by my school and peers.

Therefore, moving to Highlands Ranch may have been the right decision for my family and me as far as academia is concerned. However, while the academic and social pressures here were beneficial to my education, my health was boldly threatened by a toxic subculture that isn’t immediately apparent to the eye. Furthermore, not only did my emotional health suffer but so did that of my peers. In my above poem, “9:00 pm Nostalgia and 6:00 am Rain,” I reveal a glimpse of my emotional experience within the part of the culture here that camouflages mental illness in order to maintain appearances and ultimately value outward success over inward happiness. The poem begins with a statement about clouds. Cumulonimbus clouds are the towering clouds that bring intense rainstorms which, in Highlands Ranch, often follow beautiful lavender and light blue sunrises. This paradox of gentle skies precipitating heavy storms reflects the fierce waves of emotions and tears that always come after rare moments of genuine happiness here. In this way, a danger of Highlands Ranch is that it doesn’t always present its flaws openly, but hides them away from the public eye. This upholding of pretenses harms its children, forcing them to suffer in their emotional and mental pains alone and in silence.

The poem then introduces the idea of regret. In the beginning, it is hard to detect the negative aspects of Highlands Ranch, and many new people who aren’t used to those parts of the culture hurt themselves in the process of figuring it out. For this reason, relationships in Highlands Ranch can often be shallow and short-lived. Therefore, many people they cannot trust anyone because the pressures to be the best often cause people to have alternative motives. A void of deep relationships ultimately causes people to seek approval and make regrettable decisions in their quest for acceptance. This regret is one of the many consequences of living here and a reason why Highlands Ranch can be both mentally and emotionally unhealthy for its residents. Finally, the poem closes by highlighting the disappointment of watching people you loved become people you no longer know. The toxicity of a subculture solely focused on outward appearance drives many to lose the authentic pieces of their identities and cope with their confusion using unhealthy behaviors. This loss of self within a community that constantly asks its citizens to be better often leads to overall feelings of sadness, loneliness, and regret. In conclusion, while this city does offer safe, clean neighborhoods and beautiful sunrises, I don’t like Highlands Ranch because it pressures its citizens to be people who they aren’t and lose authenticity.

Read the Other Entries

Posted In: Office News

125 thoughts on “Scholarship Essay by Shanelle From Valor Christian High School

  1. Dave Matthews

    Shanelle Wolfe’s poem and essay are excellently written. I have taught English and creative writing, and she stands out as way above what I have read from others. Her choice of words are sublime. She will go far!

    1. Patty

      Really enjoyed reading this. I used to live in Highlands Ranch and your description is on point! Good luck with everything!!!

    2. Keri McGregor

      Shanelle- this was beautifully written! You are a talented young lady in so many ways- wishing you all the best!

  2. Annie Wolfe


    Love the poem and the way you describe Highlands Ranch. You are such an excellent writer and I am proud of you. Thank you for being so open and honest about your feelings towards Highlands Ranch. It shines light on some of the negative aspects of living in such a clean and safe place. You rock! 🙂

  3. Emily and Tommy

    A well thought out piece of writing. I’m sorry you had to experience this so young. Just stay true to yourself, embracing your strengths and weaknesses (often intertwined) as well as those of the people whom you love and the people that love you.

    Best of luck!

  4. Randi

    I love your poem and explanation, as the bravery you’ve illustrated depicts realism, which is hard for humans to admit to and accept. People tend to romanticize their lives and experiences. It is refreshing to hear the truth. Thank you!

  5. Janis A

    Shanelle, your poem is amazing. And you definitely made me think! Your writing portrays a sensitive maturity. Congratulations on being a finalist!

  6. Km Matthews

    You’ve learned a lot about how you want to live your life in these short years of high school at Highlands Ranch, Shanelle. If I could put a moral to your story, it would be to always be yourself. You have learned well!

  7. Aaron Matthews

    Your one of the most talented people I know! Nothing but great things in your future! Glad I can say your my niece😀

  8. Kai

    This essay is thoughtful and profound. I’ve been here in Denver for ten years myself, and Shanelle’s thoughts helped me articulate some concerns I’ve had for our suburban and higher echelon communities. I hope this bright young woman goes on to benefit this city in all the rich ways we need.

  9. Jessica S Lopez

    Shanelle, this is a beautifully written paper. You bring up some important points that are not mentioned enough in today’s culture. I loved your reference to the symbolism in your poem. I especially related to this line –
    “culture here that camouflages mental illness in order to maintain appearances and ultimately value outward success over inward happiness.”
    It is very relevant in our society where kids (and adult) can appear happy and content with life on social media, but are crying out for help inside. Thank you for this thoughtful and provocative paper!

  10. Luke Korner

    Shanelle, both kudos and congrats. The level of creativity and thought required to produce this work is impressive. Best of luck in the competition, although, I suppose the others will need the luck!

  11. Katy McFadden

    From the heart, Shanelle. We’ll written and touching…you are one who stands tall.

  12. Hope Morgan

    Love this. Totally agree. I wish more people were willing to go against the norm and live authentic lives and give up on this idea of normal and appearances. Well written.

  13. S Kristine

    I am so, so proud of what you’ve accomplish! Representing your community as a strong, smart you lady. This essay truly showcases your critical thinking and creative writing skills so well. Bravo, well done! My vote for the winner for sure!

  14. Desiree

    This essay was very well writen, with a mature voice. I’m sure this young lady will go far.

  15. Kärin Bishop

    Your prom is beautiful. It so refreshing to hear such kindness! Good luck in your upcoming years!!!

  16. Debbie

    Shanelle…you are wise beyond your years…you will go far in life just stay true to who you are 👍

  17. Sarah P.

    Beautifully written. The poem is fantastic and your explanation is thoughtfully presented. Great work!

  18. Ellen Connor

    You are so amazing! I’m so sorry that your high experience was heartbreaking. I admire how you stuck it it out and continued on to achieve your education and grow into the beautiful woman you have become. Please be as proud of yourself as I am of you!

  19. David

    You are one of the strongest people I know, great insight on your experiences. Just keep being exactly who you are.

  20. Cassie

    What a very heartfelt poem. Shanelle you are an amazing writer and a very mature person to have such a grasp on your emotions.

    1. Neal Mc

      Very well written and open. Love your attitude and honesty! Be who you are and the rest will fall into place.

  21. Ari

    Very well written essay! You are very talented and smart young lady, you mother raised you very well. I hope you will be awarded for this scholarship to expands your bright future and great talents.

  22. Cathy Blakeman

    Your poem and essay are both very well thought out and insightful. You are an engaging writer that draws your reader in. Congratulations on a job well done.

  23. Ry'ann Irvin

    Coming from a small Colorado town your poem and essay really spoke to the way I grew up myself. I thank you for voicing yourself in a hush hush environment. Lovely written, I’m so excited to see Shanelle further her journey in life.

  24. Karol

    Shanelle, what a poised, raw and well written observation of Highlands Ranch and your experiences. Best wishes for your future endeavors. Any university will be blessed to have you as a student. Karol

  25. Kiana

    This is an amazing reflection on a challenging experience. Not only did you capture the emotions that you felt, but also those you saw in others. The word choice was extremely powerful and moving. An incredible poem and reflection!

  26. Glenda Lanik

    Your poem is colorful and colors are beautiful but hidden under the colors is the sadness and the tears that are also hidden by the rain. I particularly like that you incorporated the poem into your essay. You have a gift of insightfulness and expression. Embrace it. I think your poem and essay are outstanding.

  27. Jimmy

    Eloquent writing. I loved your poem due in part to its emotional nature and creativity. The critique of Highlands Ranch is very insightful.

  28. Eric

    This poem is well articulated with profound and provocative insight to core feelings and beliefs. You have magically Vocalized a societal dilemma too often overlooked. Well done.

  29. Angelique Steadman

    Shanelle’s words, from poem to response, confirm my belief that we have only just begun to see the potential of the newest generation of voters. When given the opportunity, they are choosing to speak loudly and boldly about issues that the adults in their lives have been complacent about. Thank you Shanelle, for adding your voice to the conversation about mental illness.

  30. Frances DeVore

    Your essay was extremely well written Shanelle. But more importantly, it was written from the heart and from life experience which gives it so much power. Your essay reminded me of the movie “Pleasantville.” Everything is not always as it seems. Thank you for your openess and for reminding us to always be true to ourselves and to allow others to do the same.

  31. Anna Clifton

    What a heartbreaking insight into your experience. Thank you for sharing, that takes a great deal of courage!

  32. norell

    Shanelle’s poem and essay are brilliant and the authenticity shines from both them and from the person she is in real life.

  33. Nichole Guthrie

    Shanelle is an amazing writer and I absolutely love reading her beautiful words. She speaks creatively from the heart. It’s easy to see she naturally puts her heart and soul into her vision, writings and work. Thank you so much for sharing.

  34. Vicki Korner

    Your writing reflects the sensitive, compassionate young woman you are.
    You bring LIGHT to us all. Gratitude!

  35. Craig Burrows

    Nicely done Shanelle. A rare gift to put an honest emotional appraisal of difficult times into thoughtful
    elegance. I hope you entertain the thought of writing as an element of further endeavors.

  36. Karen Fedrizzi

    Very very well written, congratulations
    on being a finalist. You will be successful
    in whatever you choose to do.

  37. Julie McGowan

    What a wonderfully written and well thought out poem and essay! Stay true to yourself and you will go far! My vote is for you.

  38. Julie

    Your poem and essay are well written and thought out. Stay true to yourself and you will go far! You get my vote!

  39. Susanne Valdez

    Good for you! I hope with this knowledge, you can take care of yourself and rise above.

  40. Angela G

    Excellent writing skills! Moreover, the bravery it took to speak the truth about Highlands Ranch is more compelling. I’ve lived in Highlands Ranch for 13 years and am moving back to the Midwest this summer…cannot wait! Shanelle keep using your artistic gifts, they will take you many places in life. Best wishes!

  41. Tige Stromire

    Having had to make similar decisions on my kids education I enjoyed the essay and it was very well written

  42. Due Hall

    My career spanned many years with the University of Colorado School of Medicine Anchutz Campus. Interviewing and selecting medical and dental students for awards and residency positions. Your sensitivity and insight into your peers and community will take you far in whatever field you choose, is it art or science?-/ you have it all! Best in all that challenges you! You would be at the top of our pick!

  43. Tod Hayano

    The poem is beautifully written. It evokes a lot of inner turmoil and feelings. The essay does an excellent job of describing Shanelle’s journey. This young lady will go far in her journey of life. Best wishes!

  44. Adrian Matthews

    Unfortunately you’ll find that your experience is not limited too that single area or time. Society has moved in this direction for many years and has only accelerated in the last decade. Take what you’ve learned and always remember it, it will serve you well.

  45. Laura M

    Growing up in Kansas and now a 10 year “native” of Colorado, I can appreciate every word of this essay. Weather has always had a major impact on my life and I love the parallels she draws here. Beautifully written Shanelle!

  46. Janey

    It takes courage to take an experience so raw and be able to write so eloquently about it. High school is hard as so many of us know. Glad you made it to the other side.

  47. April Jelinek

    I love the honesty in your essay and was written very well! The poem was excellent! Great job Shanelle

  48. Maynard Hardel

    Some great work Shanelle, you share of yourself in such expressive words. It is a shame to live in an area that you end up not caring for after years of being there. As words from Reba McEntire sang and as Shakespeare had written, “To thine owns self, be true”. You are very smart and beautiful and with your own power, you will go far. Live long and prosper.

  49. Katy

    This poem is beautifully written and I’m sure wasn’t easy to write. You will go so far Shanelle! I can’t wait to see what your future holds!

  50. Hailey Stromire

    The way Shanelle describes Highlands Ranch is exactly the impression we get in Aurora. Good luck and great writing!

  51. Jan Langley

    Thoughtful and heartfelt, Shanelle. It brought back memories as my high school years were winding down. I remember having a strong feeling that were bigger and better opportunities out there for me, especially the chance to break free from the identities that get forced on you by your own comfortable, but small communities. You are going to love this next chapter of your life!

  52. Sara Arnold

    Your honesty makes you wise beyond your years. I am sure that pain and betrayal led to your awareness of pretending to be someone else and appearances being more important than anything else. It is a sad commentary on our times. I hope and pray that you will always remember who YOU are and that God has a plan for you.

  53. Kelly Banahan

    Loved this poem! Was super relatable. I don’t live in highlands ranch but I know the feeling you’re talking about, it’s like cookie cutter people everywhere, hard to not conform to it without being an odd ball out

  54. Carly Mawson

    As an English teacher in the UK I am very impressed with Shanelle’s work! Articulate and on point! Well done!

  55. Kristen Terjesen

    Shanelle, that was so true and beautifully said/ written! I haven’t seen you in years but I got to spend some of your early years with you! I’m seriously amazed with the young women you have become and wish you all the best! Xoxo

  56. Cindy

    Very well written look at sub culture inside a geographical location. If everyone was more in touch with their surroundings many cultural issues could be handled in a better manner.

  57. Corey

    Such a beautiful poem and well-written essay. Really moving. My favorite line is “Regretful memories well up in
    those water lily eyes” – that’s going to stay with me! Good luck 🙂

  58. Brittany Haynes

    Shanelle – This is a beautifully written poem with an excellent response. Any college would be lucky to have you. Best of luck!

  59. Kim Bernatow

    Shanelle- your poem, essay and story are beautiful. I know that you’re ready for the world but I’m not sure it’s ready for you! Go out there and get it, girl! Much love!

  60. Paul

    Wow,Amazing,Im Impressed. I know that you are a very special person and your writing shows that.

  61. George

    What a powerful poem, it definitely highlights the void of community in modern suburban environments that I believe is the root many issues that the United States faces. Thanks for sharing! Keep up the great work!

  62. Emma Conrad

    Shanelle, you have the most raw and beautiful voice when you write, it’s truly amazing. I cannot wait to see the even more incredible woman that you become and I know you will make the best of any situation, academic or personal, that life throws at you. You deserve great things. So proud of you for how hard you’ve worked these last few years.

  63. Bill Wilkening

    Shanelle, very thought provoking piece and with brilliant ideology. You deserve every opportunity to foster this passion.
    All the best,
    Bill Wilkening.

  64. Niki Pedersen

    Amazing! Brutal yet eloquently situated, you have artistic insight well beyond your years. You will do well in your future with this kind of self and societal awareness!

  65. Nicole Valdez

    I very much appreciate the honesty of this. The vulnerability is refreshing, and the overall awareness of your surroundings is something that most people don’t grasp until later in their life.
    Stay alert and aware –

    Be well!

  66. Chelsea Parscal

    Great essay, Shanelle. I applaud your writing skills and I wish you the best of luck in the future. You’re going to do great things!

  67. Becky

    Loved the beautiful imagery used to describe such an ugly environment/culture. Shanelle, your strength of character comes through so much in the essay and will serve you well in your future ventures.

  68. Clint Chartier

    I have never been a big fan of poems , but this one I could picture and understand where it was coming from and enjoyed it a lot and that’s saying a lot , I really did not enjoy poems very much but she has opened my eyes to it again and I am going to give it another try , thanks Shanelle for opening my eyes to something I never thought I would get into . Thanks again

  69. Donald L Savage

    Thank you for writing such a well thought out and personal message. I can only imagine the difficulty in being so honest in a public setting such as this. We wish you the best and know you will do great things!

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