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“And the next draw from the basket of names is… Jessamyn!”
Mr.Miller smiled, trying to get the kids to at least look somewhat enthusiastic about the new project that they had to work on. He was failing at it badly. Jessamyn looked up from her science book slowly, hoping to seem happy to everyone. While, inside, she was screaming. Nobody ever bothered to ask her why she was so afraid of reports, she was a very pretty young girl, with beautiful, baby blue eyes, and soft hazel hair that fell all the way down to her waist. She slowly got up and walked to the front of the room to choose her science project. She really wanted to do the one that showed the truth about fast food, but she was so afraid to be judged by her peers. As she passed Tamara’s desk, Tamara handed her a note. Jessamyn took it quickly and curiously. Tamara was one of the prettiest girls in her year, and her best friend, with beautiful mint green eyes, and long blonde hair that fell all the way down to her knees.
She quickly took a peek at it before she reached the front of the room. It read: Do what YOU want, don't worry about the rest of these people. It'll be perfect no matter what you choose. Plus, I'm here to help you. Always. Love, Tamara. This made her feel somewhat better about choosing what she wanted, and she decided to leave the fast food project open as an option. As she walked up to the board, she browsed over three topics she could choose from; 1: The truth about fast food, 2: Lemon powered calculator, and 3: Cabbage indicators of pH… acid and base. Tamara wished she could hurry at least a little so that they could all start working on their projects so they’d have them done in time for in time for the fair tomorrow.
She wanted Jessamyn to do the project on fast food, because at the fair there’d be a lot of people that probably ate fast food all the time. If Jessamyn could get through to them, then there would be at least a few less unhealthy people in the world. She would have helped Jessamyn to make a change in the world, however small, but still very effective, as well as a possible change in herself. Jessamyn glanced over the other two projects, neither of which caught her interest, and read the description, deadline, and rules for the fast food project. It was all too perfect! The deadline wasn't until tomorrow, and the rules were simply about what company names she was allowed to use as examples in her project. Jessamyn turned towards Mr.Miller, their teacher, asking quietly for the sign-up sheet for the fast food project.
As he handed it to her, she could see that the sheet was still completely empty. She slowly reached for the pink pen in her pocket, wondering to herself why nobody else had bothered to sign up. She could see that she was the first person to do so as she put her name carefully in the top spot on the list.
Mr.Miller got tired of waiting, and as Jessamyn walked slowly back to her seat, Mr.Miller said, “Next time I want you to be quicker about it Jessamyn, other people have to choose their projects today, too you know.” Jessamyn quickly apologized, and rushed back to her seat.
She whispered, “Thanks.” to Tamara as she passed by her desk. As he called up the last few students, Jessamyn found that only one other person signed up for the fast food project: Tamara. After the bell rang, she ran out of science class nervously. She jogged quickly to her locker, and hastily undid the lock with the key she always held on the necklace she always wore around her neck.
She heard someone behind her say, “Geez Jess, where's the fire?”
Jessamyn jumped, and quickly turned around to find Tamara standing behind her, and let out a small breath of relief.
“I just hate school is all, I can't wait to get home. Do you want to come over and work with me on the project?”
Tamara gave Jessamyn a skeptical look. “Jess, since when do you hate school? You're almost always here studying, and sure no problem. We can work as a team. I'll just let Mr.Miller know.” Jessamyn finished cleaning her locker, and putting her books away. Then she said,
“Thank you, Tamara. You're a lifesaver. Really. I really do hate school right now though, because everyone judges me for just being me. I hate it when they do that. I would much rather work at home.”
When they arrived at Jessamyn’s house, it was completely silent inside. “Cmon lets go, I'll race you upstairs to the office!” said Jessamyn.
“There’s no way I'll win!!” yelled Tamara back as she raced after Jessamyn as quickly as she possibly could. Jessamyn was already up inside the office room getting laptops for them to work on their research with by the time that Tamara caught up. Tamara grabbed some pink poster board off the floor, and brought it back to Jessamyn’s room with her, just in case they needed it. Jessamyn sat on the floor, as did Tamara, and they quickly got to work.
Near the end of the day, Jessamyn heard her brothers coming home with their group of friends and going into their rooms.
She whispered, “I'll be right back Tamara.” She quickly left the room, heading for the kitchen. Jessamyn quickly grabbed some veggie straws, and ran back up to the room before the boys saw the food. Jessamyn and Tamara ate the veggie straws for dinner, and went to bed on the floor, the finishing touches of their project to be completed in the morning.
“Jess c’mon wake up! We’re gonna to be late!!!” Tamara yelled for the third time, quite unhappily.
“C'mon Jess get up, and help me finish this for today!” Jessamyn got up, rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she yawned, she quickly changed into her school clothes, and went to help Tamara glue everything to the poster boards and put a glitter frame around it. Throughout this time, they snacked on veggie straws, as their breakfast. Jessamyn put the poster board and experiments into her backpack the best she could. Tamara grabbed the necklace with the flash drive on it, and put it on as they headed out the door to walk to school. It was cold out, and Jessamyn was nervous what the other kids would think of their project. Tamara was kind, and reassured her that everything would be alright.
“Just do what we did in rehearsal, and you'll be perfectly fine.” Tamara reassured her again.
As the two girls walked up to their school, they saw that many of the other students were carrying their projects as well. Most of which looked much more overdone and complicated than theirs. Tamara took the lead as they walked through the front gates of the school, waving to every one of her friends that she passed. Everyone was wishing them luck and helping to try to reassure Jessamyn, who was walking very slowly behind Tamara.
Tamara sped up on her walking just a little, saying, “C’mon Jess! Or else we’ll be late for the fair bus!!!” Jessamyn was trying her best to keep up, but it was so difficult with the posterboard and experiments weighing her down. She ran after Tamara, as fast as she could possibly go, and made it onto the bus and into the seat beside Tamara just as the doors were closing.
They were on their way to the fair to hand out their information, and present it to fellow citizens. They would be doing so all week. When they got there, each group had to do an example reading practice on the bus in front of their classmates to be sure they remembered their spiels. This was exactly what Jessamyn had been scared of to begin with.
Tamara said, “Hey, Jess, It’s okay don’t be nervous. We get to go up together. It’ll be just us. Imagine we’re rehearsing alone in your room again. I’ll be here by your side the whole time.”
Jessamyn looked over to her, whispering “Thank you Tammy. God knows I need a good friend to help me out right now.” Tamara smiled gently and held Jessamyn’s hand to help ease her tension. ‘Maybe the project will be good after all’, Jessamyn thought to herself quietly.
Pretty soon, it was their turn to present, and Jessamyn walked to the front of the bus, and grabbed the mic. She and Tamara explained to the whole bus together that day how bad fast food was for you, based on the many experiments and tests that they had run. They told everyone about ‘pink slime’ in hamburgers, cheeseburgers, etc. They explained additives, preservatives, and much more to their class. Slowly, Jessamyn started to feel much more comfortable and confident up in front of the bus of kids. She smiled as Tamara explained a theory about why there was so many additives in fast food, happy that her best friend had convinced her to do such a thing as present in front of actual people.
After everyone had presented, each team was supposed to pick a spot inside one of the fair buildings to set up their booth. They were supposed to present information to the people that passed by, and hand out a page of information about their research. A lot of people that passed by at first were not interested in hearing what Jessamyn and Tamara had to say. Eventually, they decided to stop trying to reel people in, and a lot of people actually stopped and asked to learn more. This time, Jessamyn was completely confident as she presented the project with Tamara. She was happy, because some people actually wanted their original list of alternatives to fast food, which they also happened to have printed a few copies of. Jessamyn also tried leaving Tamara at the booth for a few minutes to pass out more of their handouts.
By the end of the day, most of the people were headed home, and there were only three of each handout left. They slowly started putting things away, when both of their mothers showed up. Tamara saw them first, and immediately went to get them and show them what all the students had done that day. Jessamyn glanced over and smiled as Tamara brought them over, setting up chairs and some of the information. She ran through the project alone this time with Tamara and both mothers watching proudly. When she finished, she gave out the last three information sheets happily.
Tamara said, “I knew you could do it, Jess. that’s why I pushed you so hard to do this with me.”
Jessamyn ran up and hugged her, saying, “Thank you so much for teaching me to not be afraid anymore, Tammy!”
They thanked both their mothers for managing to make time to show up, hurried to clean and packed up the booth. They just barely made it to the bus before it drove off, which made them nervous at first, but very happy in the end. Tamara had won her own private contest that she had made for herself to help Jessamyn be more confident in herself overall. As they stepped into the bus, they found out that they had won the project contest. Everyone was cheering and clapping,and it made both Tamara and Jessamyn feel very happy. Many of their classmates had stopped by on bathroom breaks to congratulate them during the fair earlier as well. Tamara smiled, realizing that her project: Project Overcome had been a huge success.
Jessamyn felt so happy and welcomed by her classmates, realizing that all she’d had to do was be courageous and overcome her fears. Suddenly, everyone liked her for the smarts, instead of being judgemental because she was smart. Today had brought everyone together, and taught people that not everything was about how you looked. It also taught them all about the terrible qualities of fast food, and why you should not put it into your body. In the end,all she had to earn was to stop doubting and second guessing herself. Once she learned that, she did a lot better with everything else in life. She is now 22, works for the DOJ, has a husband, one kid, a car, a dog, a cat, and owns her own house.