HRM’s Scholarship Essay Contest 2013

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


The region is also, for me, the salty, briny air. It is the booming, thunderous sound of naval airplanes zipping through the air. It is the tender meat of local crabs that have been broken open. It is the piercing silence of those who are pondering the artwork created by gifted minds at the Chrysler Museum of Art. Hampton Roads is the diversified faces of those from various backgrounds or the feeling of windswept beach sand cascading across your toes or the rows of patrons attentively watching a performance at the American Theatre.

– Amirio Freeman, Hampton High School

The experiences I have had, the people I have met, and the things I have done have made this place home, and no shallow Google search can ever display the richness of the area. Hampton Roads is an experience in and of itself, and only by living here can a person truly have that experience.

– Regina Paparo, Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School

The people here can take the smallest spot of a beach, park, or whatever it may be, and tell you why it’s so dear to them. Whether it reminds them of family, the sacrifices they made, or just something they miss, anyone who has spent their entire life here has a favorite place, and can tell you why it means so much to them. That’s what makes Hampton Roads so special; it’s all about how you can take what you have and make it special on your own.

– Patrick Beegle, Norview High School

Each city in Hampton Roads offers a quality of life that you expect from the area you call home. The Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean, coupled with the unique geography of each city, form the canvas of the region’s splendor and the people who reside in the diverse communities comprise the beauty of the artwork. The days spent in Hampton Roads create lasting lifetime memories and the experience of living here ensures that visits elsewhere are compared to the expectations of home.

– Kassidy Phelps, Isle of Wight Academy

Nothing beats the satisfaction of pizza and garlic knots at Pungo Pizza after working up an appetite at Sandbridge. Navigating home from the beach across Elbow Road provides a unique and satisfying completion to a great day in the sun while thousands of tourists are dealing with massive crowds on the boardwalk and traffic on I-64. While avoiding the crowds can provide needed solace at times, I also relish opportunities to join the frenzy and experience the beach culture at the oceanfront during monstrous events like the annual Sand Soccer tournament, Neptune Festival and East Coast Surfing Championships.

– Hannah Velloney, Greenbrier Christian Academy

That is what the Hampton Roads community will always be to me, a place that I conquered my fears and lived my childhood full of laughter, happiness, and victory. As hard as I worked to get away from this wonderful place I will always miss it. Hampton Roads will forever be my real home.

– Kelsey Megerle, Lake Taylor High School

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