Hillcrest student honored in Washington D.C. for writing

Hillcrest student Danika Curtin was recently honored for her writing at a U.S. Department of Education event, where she got to meet Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. — Submitted
Hillcrest student Danika Curtin was recently honored for her writing at a U.S. Department of Education event, where she got to meet Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. — Submitted

Hillcrest student Danika Curtin was honored at the U.S. Department of Education for her literature. She got to meet with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

Her story is currently being displayed in the Department of Education in Washington, D.C.

Danika won a National award for her story titled A Different Sky.

A Different Sky
By Danika Curtin
I loved my home. Vermont, a beautiful place to live. The mountains and trees

hugged me after a hard day, the hills would sing to me after I failed at something. There

couldn’t have been a better place to live. I even named my very own tree. His name

was Oscar. I taped sticks to his trunk and made him talk. I would sometimes whisper

into his trunk. I loved the rough feeling of Oscar’s bark on my face on a cold, windy day,

but my friendship with Oscar changed when my mom announced one stormy evening at

the dining room table that we were moving to Oklahoma.

“Blake, We have some exciting news!” My mom squealed, dad looked at me with

a mouth full and smiled. I could tell it was forced by the way his eyes looked. “ We’re

Moving to Oklahoma.” My stomach dropped to my feet and my throat got tight. I could

not breathe. “Osc- Bu- We- NO!” I dashed to my room leaving nothing but my stunned

parents behind. I slammed my door and cried into my pillow. The salty tears were

drowning me which made it hard to breathe, but I wouldn’t lift my head because I was

afraid if I did I would be ripped from my bed and put into the car and driven away so I

couldn’t ever come back. Fear was on my back pushing down. I felt like I was one

million miles under the ocean. Even though I was on top of my bed on dry land. I didn’t

realize I had fallen asleep but I woke up to my little sister Katie, tugging my sleeve. I

karate chopped her. She then frowned slowly and burst into tears. She ran out of my

room like a flash. I felt like a sloth I didn’t want to move. Finally when the smell of

fresh bacon filled the room I couldn’t resist. I stumbled downstairs noticing a large

number of boxes huddling together in the hallway.

I planned to go see Oscar and tell him everything. Just thinking about that made

my stomach stop squirming, but when I started to lift my soft wool coat over my head

mom interrupted, “Blake, What do you think you're doing? We’re getting in the car in

two hours!” “That's not enough time!” I groaned. Then mom came over to me and

grinned. “It’s plenty of time”, mom pinched my cheeks with a look of hope in her eyes.

She sighed and walked out of the room. Dad stared blankly at me like I was an alien.

He took a deep breath and whispered two simple words, “Pack up” then he to walked

calmly out of the room without looking back. So I did what dad said to and packed up.

There was no point in fighting I knew that no matter what I did I would just end up in


Stuffed animals, clothes, posters, socks, shoes, pillows all stuffed in three bags and

a backpack. It was like my entire room in three bags and a backpack. I lifted my

backpack onto my shoulders and began to bring it downstairs. I wondered how an old,

ripped and worn out piece of fabric could be so heavy after all I only put clothes in it. It

was like I had my whole world on my shoulders.

The weather was happy and warm. Birds and squirrels were dancing, but it didn’t

match my mood. I carried the rest of my bags into the car and plopped myself into the

seat. It felt hard and the leather poked my skin as I sank in. The car ride was

uncomfortable. Better tough than soft as mom always says. Though, I’m not sure if that

quote matches this situation. The world around me passed by like a spider squirming to

get away before death catches up with him. The more ground we covered the faster

things got unfamiliar. Different kinds of trees, different color houses, different kinds of

people. I could tell that life here was going to be a whole different story.

I suddenly felt like crying the first time I saw the house. It was run down like an

abandoned colony. The paint was chipping. How could my parents like this house? I

walked up to the front door, my room on my back. My dad lunged the key into the rusty

gold door knob. As I stepped into the house the floorboards creaked. It sounded like a

little girl screaming in agony. I pictured her, tears running down her scrunched up face.

This sent chills down my spine. I ended up sleeping on those ricked floorboards.

I woke up to my mom hovering over me clapping her hands, “ Wake up! wake up!

school time.” To my surprise school was much worse than the house. Bullies circled

me like sharks who haven’t eaten in days, licking their lips, laughing and calling out

names like Dumb Boy and Green Bean. They could shove me in my locker so I would

miss classes and get yelled at but when I was in my locker I felt protected like no harm

could come. The only problem was I could still hear them calling names and saying

heartbreaking things to me. Their words seeped through cracks of the locker. Which

also meant they could hear me sobbing, which encouraged them. They knew I was

weak. This went on for a week. Eventually I struggled to tell myself they’re only bullies

they can’t break you. They had found their way into my head and then into my home.

The morning it all started, started off with a fight out of bed “ Hon get up, You

can’t hide from your problems” “ Yeah but- well-I-MOOOOMMM!” “Sorry sweety but

you have no choice.” Then she pulled the covers off my bed and tugged my arm.

“ I am expecting you in five minutes. I laid out your clothes. Get up.” Then she

walked out. I did as I was told. I was never one to put up a fight. I slipped my jeans on

and pulled my t-shirt over my head. I wasn’t hungry so I lifted my school pack and put it

on. “ Hunny just want to say I love you and- well uuuuum don’t forget that okay?” I just

shrugged and walked out the door.

The sky looked upset like it hadn’t gotten it’s morning hugs. It was bursting in colors

like dark orange and red which made it look evil and even stranger, animals were upset.

They were scurrying about almost looking for something this way and that way. My feet

were like weights, hard to walk with. I was tempted to run into the woods and try and

find Oscar. Maybe he had run all the way here to see me, to find me, to hug me. That

got me wondering if the mountains missed me or if the trees missed their hugs. I know I

sure do.

Just then a furry ball swept my leg. Like a flash. I knew it was destiny so I followed

it. I imagined me in one of those movies, like Alice in Wonderland where she follows

that bunny. When it finally came to a stop I realized it was a chipmunk. It hit a tree and

fell so softly. It was shivering and I could hear a little whimper. I scooped it up and took

a closer look. Destiny hit, smack to the face. That’s it! That’s your name, Destiny!

She could be my guide to coolness, to fitting in. I ran like nobody's business all the way

to school, not caring about the strange colors and noises the sky was making. When I

got there I was ready to burst through those doors and receive my award for coolest

person but the kids and teachers’ disapproving faces made me have second thoughts. I

couldn’t leave Destiny here all alone, hurt, shivering, no one to talk to but the angry sky.

I have no choice but to sneak her in. I looked down at my hands. She stopped

shivering but was still curled up into a little ball. I held back the tears that were arriving

to their destination.

“Here we go,” I mumbled as I took off running through the squeezed hallways. I

didn’t want to see the bullies. I knew they would throw my backpack on the floor or

squeeze their grubby little hands into my backpack and rat me out about Destiny.

Finally I made it to my locker. I felt like no one was pushing down on me any more. I

used my hoodie as a bed to comfort Destiny then closed my locker and rushed off to

class. The teacher Mrs. Milek looked startled. I stared at her trying to figure out why

her face looked like it was going to explode. I started to wonder If maybe the sky upset


“Students and faculty get into the tornado shelter outside. Make sure no one is left

behind.” The loudspeaker made the man's voice sound scared, but I had no time for

observations. Destiny was in my locker and I had to go and get her. Mrs. Milek caught

my glare and hooked my arm to hers. “Let's go Blake your real life is more important

than your online life!” Was she serious? Did she think I was going for my phone? She

was strong but not strong enough. I shoved her a little, just a boost I told myself. I was

sweating. I felt like every inch was a mile. When I finally got there I was realived to see

Destiny was alive and breathing. I could hear the wind whipping outside. I had no

chance of surviving whatsoever. My throat was getting tight and my eyes were blacking

out. My life flashed in front of my eyes like a movie you hate, but when I got to the bullie

part I saw them shoving me into my locker. I remembered the warm, safe feeling. Just

then I threw all of the junk out of my locker and climbed in. I slammed it shut.

The tornado started a few minutes later. The wind was mad. It threw chairs and

desks. The tornado screamed and it seemed to make children do the same. Debris

flew everywhere. Some slipped through the slits of the locker. I am pretty sure one of

the paintings that hung, probably terrified on the wall, slammed my locker and dented it

inwards. Screams and cries pierced the air. I was praying by then, but for some odd

reason I wasn’t crying. “Dear God, please oh please let me live. I am sorry for my sins.

Let my mother and father be alright too. Make sure Katie is alive along with all of my

school mates even the bullies.” I was cooped up in my locker for a few more minutes

until I could no longer hear the tornado crashing through the empty hallways.

Everything went silent. I peeked out of the locker. Everything was destroyed. Desks

were even out in the hallway. Paintings were scattered along with debris. I rushed

outside to the dust filled air. I saw kids rushing towards me. “Blake, Blake, Blake!” they

screamed, “you survived!” I was surrounded by kids asking for the story. I felt liked,

like I fit in. I gave them what they wanted.

Later I met up with my dad and Katie. They were all okay. My mom took me and

Destiny to the vet. In the waiting room I was thinking of how lucky I was to have

survived. Some people lost their lives and loved ones. All those terrifying moments in

my locker made me realize that you have to push through the bad times because good

ones are behind destiny’s door. If you believe in yourself and let destiny guide you,

anything you want can be within reach!