HRM’s Scholarship Essay Contest 2013




Lucy Smith of Hampton Roads Academy is The VistaGraphics Scholarship Winner.

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In the second year of our annual scholarship contest, Hampton Roads’ high school seniors continued to impress us and impress upon us what makes the 757 such a distinctive, enriching, invigorating place to call home. These essays—submitted from students from all across the region—reminded us of the inherent wonders and wealth that the cities provide us daily. Our scholarship winner, Lucy Smith of Hampton Roads Academy, brings our attention to the sights, sounds, tastes and smells that our senses might miss.


How to begin to describe Hampton Roads?

Not knowing where to start, I enlisted the help of my family to answer the question. 

My mother told me to ask my eyes.

My eyes see light glistening off the water of the York and James Rivers on a sunny afternoon; the great oaks arching over a winding plantation driveway; glorious and powerful ships of war peacefully moored at the Norfolk Naval Base; fields of cotton lining the country roads of Suffolk; “colonial” men and women greeting me during an afternoon run down Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg.

My father told me to ask my mouth.

I taste strong, salty Smithfield ham on a warm biscuit; cold, smooth oysters right from the half shell; goat cheese from the farmers market that appears like clockwork every Saturday morning.

My brother told me to ask my nose.

I inhale, exhale, and am struck by the smell of the marsh as I drive along the Colonial Parkway in the summertime; the pungent bucket of bait by the back door; the tempting aroma of funnel cakes as I stroll along the boardwalk in Virginia Beach.

My sister told me to ask my ears.

So I listened. I hear the distinctly disciplined rhythm of the Fife and Drum Corps; the boom of cannons during a Revolutionary War reenactment; the distant barking of hounds on an early morning hunt; the clinking and clanging of an arriving ferry; the music of a horse’s hooves against the cobblestones.

Then, I ask my heart.

I feel the comfort of contradictions – of history and history in the making; of the generations of family who I never knew but feel so connected to and the dream of raising my own family here someday. I love the simple charm of the Guinea waterman and the clever banter of colonial interpreters all bringing my history to life. I love driving down a sandy country road on my way to an early morning equestrian event when everything is new and possible. From the busy streets of the city of Norfolk to the quiet winding roads in Gloucester, Hampton Roads is my home. My heart. I will always come back.

—Lucy Smith, Hampton Roads Academy


Excerpts from honorable mentions:

Of particular pride to me is the rich history of my home. As I go off to college, I can anticipate many of my new colleagues asking a seemingly simple question with a more complex answer – where do you live? I don’t just live in Hampton Roads. I live just east of where the first permanent English colonies settled in America, a bit south of a historical capital teeming with the sights and sounds of 18th century life, and right in the middle of the battlefields on which the Revolutionary War came to an end. Growing up in Hampton Roads is almost like growing up in the middle of a living history book, surrounded by the landmarks that kids learn about all across the nation.

- Stephanie Dygert, York High School

Some of my favorite places to go are spread out over miles but are all unique. I love the old town feel of Doumar's, home to the world's first waffle ice cream. Doumar's allows you to escape to the old days by pulling up and servers coming to your car to take your order. Whereas, Bean There Cafe became unique by its story. The coffee shop was started by a young single woman, Amy Metzger, she started out with nothing but her personality and ability to learn people’s stories but has created two iconic coffee shops. Burgey's Breadbasket is another one of my favorites. It is a one room shop that sells organic and homemade treats. These businesses are unique to our area and our community has shown support which has kept them in business.

- Grace Walker, Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School

In a way the area is also like a seed that is planted and has rooted seven times. Hampton Roads is all about the water, and the water that connects all the cities. These waterways are what develop the relationship between you and your home. When you have gone away it is the water that gives you that feeling of relief that you have made it home when you return.

- Katie Gaskin, Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School

Hampton Roads was not my first home. I lived overseas where the very thought of a beach merited a 10-hour long car ride to a neighboring country, where Doumar’s and Jewish Mother were unknown, and Neptune was just a planet. But then in the middle of 6th grade my family moved to Virginia Beach, and my definitions of normalcy and fun took on completely new meanings.

Hampton Roads is not an even gradient of culture, but a conglomeration of moods, weather, and people.

- Felicia Wong, Ocean Lakes High School