Personal Struggle for Deer Park Student Leads to Scholastic Regional Recognition and Nomination

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April 24, 2019 by HCDE-Texas

Elizabeth Willms struggled with an eating disorder while in junior high and wanted to address it through her writing.

“I wrote a letter to anorexia about the process of how it took over my life and how I took it out of my life,” Willms, a Deer Park High School-North Campus ninth-grader, said.

Her letter was awarded a Gold Key in the 2019 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, sponsored by Harris County Department of Education, and an American Voices Nominee. She also received a $250 scholarship as an American Voices Nominee.

She was fortunate to have a teacher this year who let her express herself even though the topic was one that not everyone wants to talk about.

“I think a big part of Scholastic is addressing things that people don’t like to think about because it could be painful, confusing or controversial,” Willms said. “I think a big part of writing is expecting those things.”

This journey began when she was in elementary. She feels when she is dealing with pain, writing is the best way to express herself. She started writing to express either her depression or if she was going through something.

“I know writing is what got me through the death of my grandfather, and I know he would be very proud of me today,” she said. “I think it comes full circle because the things that got me into writing is the journey that is never going to start or end.”

When she started paying attention to Hollywood and the modeling industry in fifth grade, it transferred to her own body image. She still struggles with her eating disorder today, but not like before.

“I am not sure how long it will affect me or if it will stop affecting me, but I know that I will stop letting it have such an impact on me,” Willms said. “I know that one day it won’t be something that we can see anymore, it will be something that empowers me. Until that day, I will just have to keep staying strong.”

With this personal experience and having gone through it recently, it took her only eight minutes to write the Scholastic entry. She had her mother, a former English teacher, and English teacher friends of her mother look over her work.

“They didn’t have much to say, as far as critiquing it, because when you have something so important to talk about there’s not much editing that can be done,” she said. “It should be broad and come right from the heart.”

She believes she got recognized for her letter because the emotions are real, and they all occur in the heart, not the brain.

Her first Scholastic entry was in seventh grade as a mandatory assignment, which led to national recognition and a goal to submit entries each year. She was awarded a national gold key medal for her topic on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

When she grows up, she would like to be a published author by either writing a novel or have a collection of poetry or short stories.

“I want to be able to speak to people and let them know that it’s OK to not be OK, and they are not alone,” Willms said. “All I really want to do in life is to help people find writing because that’s what I am best at, and I think that’s the best job I have to make the world a better place.”

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