The winners of the 2013-2014 Brooks’ World Travels essays were seniors, Samantha Taylor, Melaney Reichelt and Margaret Rose Mandile. As in previous years, students were asked to write an essay on the subject, We are all so much more the same than different. This was the way Brooks was raised and reflected the experiences of his lifetime in meeting children from all walks of life and all over the world.

Thirty one students submitted essays and each of the three winners received a scholarship of $500. Each of the winning essays reflected how the students had personal experiences in meeting others who they initially thought were very different from themselves but then discovering their common humanity after interacting with them. One was a 22 year-old tattooed ex-con. Another was a, “very dark-skinned woman with a scarf wrapped around her head and had a strange accent which I had never heard before.” The third were people from the Dominican Republic.

The common thread of these diverse people with these Marshfield students was, as Maggie Mandile said in her essay, “It’s almost comforting to know how even though someone may be a different race than you and  participates in different activities, they have gone through stuff you have gone through. They have felt and continue to feel feelings you have felt. Fear, happiness, sorrow, jealousy, loss. The list goes on and on. ‘We are all so much more the same than different’.”

The three winning essays are posted below:

Essay 1


We Are All so Much More the Same than Different

Samantha Taylor

Last June, I had the opportunity to travel with my youth group to Beardsfork, West Virginia. We were taken completely out of our comfort zone in Marshfield and thrown into Appalachia, one of the most rural, and poorest, areas of the country. Our group was assigned to renovate an elementary school, and had the chance to work side by side with members of the Southern Appalachian Labor School (SALS).

The workers were all about our age or a little older. They were all high school drop outs who were trying to turn their lives around by obtaining GED’s and learning construction and electricity trades through SALS. Although they were between the ages of 17 and 23, almost every worker was married and had at least one child to support.

My favorite person that I met was Danny, a 22 year old ex convict. He had a rough, intimidating exterior, constantly smoked, and was covered in tattoos. However, he was also a loving father to a two year old girl that he lovingly told us about and apologized for every swear he let slip out.

Every worker, like Danny, was willing to share their stories about the difficult experiences they had faced. We found out that though we were raised in completely opposite circumstances, we were really more the same than different. Deep down, no matter where we are from, we are all human, so we are the same.

On the last day, the workers and my youth group finished work early and had a barbeque picnic. When it came time to say goodbye, I received a big hug from Danny. Before getting to know him, I shied away from his dirty, tattooed exterior, but after spending a week with him, I was shocked that I could have ever been wary of such a kind man. Even though West Virginia was only a 14 hour drive away, it felt like a different world. But despite the initial differences that struck us we realized that we are all really so much more the same than different.

Essay 2:

“We are all so much more the same than different.”

Melaney Reichelt

Every day, every week, every month, and every year Brooks’ message is continued throughout my life, and the lives of others. We all face diversity in one form or another. Whether it is meeting someone different from us, or experiencing an unknown culture, each and every student of MHS, and of the world, has found the truth in Brooks’ message. I may not have traveled with the school, and I may not have hosted a student from another country, but I have been surrounded by people that appear to be different from me:

I’ve taken family trips throughout the world and each time I have met someone from another culture. While in the Dominican Republic I met a group of native men who put all their devotions into teaching people about different fruits. As they shared the native foods between each other they taught the group about themselves and how much the fruits meant to them. When they were done, the natives offered the group of 20 people to try a piece. I looked around and saw others look away from the men and attempt to look busy. While the other American people ignored the natives, I ventured to the fruit, and was the first person to take a bit. Me … a 13-year old little girl was the first person to eat a native fruit. As I bit into the fruit I realized how similar it tasted to a cantaloupe, and how similar another piece tasted to watermelon.

My ability to follow Brooks’ message allowed me to lead a group of people older than myself to also realize that we are all the same. A story about fruit may not appear to be much, but my ability to step away from the normal when I was younger has been transferred into my life today. As a senior and varsity softball player I have never seen a foreign exchange student tryout for the team. This year however, there was a change. A senior girl doing the exchange program from Italy tried out for the team. I admit at first I was confused as to how she would understand the game, but then I remembered sports are universal. As the tryout days continued I realized how much the same she is to the other girls on the team. She throws, catches, hits and even cheers the same way as the rest of us; in fact the only thing different about her is her accent. Her determination and ability to excel in a sport are the same characteristics I have for the same sport. As Erminia continued to push herself every day I realized that we share no differences, and I didn’t have to travel the world to realize it.

Brooks’ message, “we are all so much more the same than different” has been carried into my life since I was young. I have never been the one to shy away from the unknown, or to judge someone before I have met him/her. Like Brooks’ I believe that we are all so similar. Through out the world we share the same hobbies, play the same sports, dance, laugh, smile, and love the same way. Our differences are found in the way we look, not in our actions.

Essay 3

“We are all so much more the same than different.”

Margaret Mandile

Riding the train into Boston can be a pretty scary thing as a child. Crowded, dirty and easy to fall if you don’t have a seat. Personally, as an eight year-old kid riding the T with my mom, I felt very curious about a lady sitting next to me. She was very dark skinned with a scarf wrapped around her head and had a strange accent which I have never heard before. I have to admit, I found myself feeling a little scared and nervous sitting next to this strange looking woman. Inching as close to my mom’s side as possible, I took out my “Highlights” magazine. I found it hard to concentrate on my word search because my thoughts were consumed with this strange lady sitting next to me. Questions that ran through my head were, “How is her skin so dark? Why is she wearing a scarf around her head? Why is she talking so silly?” A few minutes went by and I could feel the mysterious woman’s eyes on my magazine watching me do my word search. A little embarrassing to admit now, I remember my palms getting a little sweaty. Soon she said to me, “Is dat da Hightlights magazine?” I nodded my head but kept me eyes on my word search. I was shocked she knew what a Highlights magazine was. My mom told her how my sisters and I could read Highlights all day and how she loves it. The woman then went on to tell my mom and I how she just bought one for her son at the bookstore. While my mom and the lady continued talking, I realized my palms were no longer sweaty and I didn’t feel nervous. This lady’s son reads Highlights magazines too? At first this was so hard for me to grasp because she seemed so different than me. The woman leaned in and helped me complete my word search. Soon, I forgot how her skin color was opposite of mine, and how she was wearing that silly scarf hat. I found myself smiling and realized how she’s just like my mom and I!

Living in Marshfield, a lot of us are blind to other races and cultures until we are exposed to it. I only have two African Americans in my graduating class. As an eighteen year-old, I have now been exposed to so much more than I had as that little girl on the T with my mom. Whether it’s the color of their skin, or the clothes they wear, I have been lucky to meet people who have different characteristics than me. I love having friends who come from all different stereotypes because I learn so much from them. Even though they’re all into different activities and look different from each other, I’ve found that they all are pretty similar. They all are great dependant friends, and have feelings and likes and dislikes. Working at the Boys and Girls Club, I am surrounded by kids of different races. I feel so happy for these children because they’re not blind to other races as I was as a child. Watching them do crafts, and play soccer together, I realize how similar they really are.

Cultures and differences are what makes our world beautiful, but at heart we are all so similar. I wish everyone could see this and be open to explore and except people’s differences. It’s almost comforting to know how even though someone may be a different race than you and participates in different activities, they have gone through stuff you have gone through. They have felt and continue to feel feelings you have felt. Fear, happiness, sorrow, jealously, loss. The list goes on and on. “We are all so much more the same than different.”




Leave a Reply