Essay winner’s young wisdom finds meaning in ‘community’

Felicia Patin is a junior at Federal Way High School. Her vision of Federal Way as a community was portrayed in an essay that earned first place at last month’s writers retreat.  - Aileen Charleston/The Mirror
Felicia Patin is a junior at Federal Way High School. Her vision of Federal Way as a community was portrayed in an essay that earned first place at last month’s writers retreat.
— image credit: Aileen Charleston/The Mirror

For Federal Way High School junior Felicia Patin, the word community means “a place of lifelong friendships, unconditional aid and common vision.”

Those were the final words of an essay that earned first place during the Federal Way Arts Commission’s writers retreat held last month at the Dumas Bay Centre.

Maggie Ellis, co-chair of the writers retreat, said that this year’s focus was to have high school students write on the subject of community.

“We are a community, we live in community, how we understand community makes a difference on how we live our lives and seems like an appropriate topic for high school students,” Ellis said.

“We want to encourage and support high school students to make writing and communicating through writing a part of their focus.”

With a soft-spoken voice and a maturity level atypical for a student her age, Patin talked about her own definition of Federal Way and community.

“Federal Way means primarily diversity and opportunity, and although I wouldn’t be an expert on that subject, my community leaders have been so open about the possibilities of my future and my teachers have been so committed to my success, that I don’t feel I could ask for anything more,” Patin said.

In her essay, Patin describes the day when she discovered what it meant to be part of a community as a “magnificent, radiant spring day, surrounded by smiling faces and tangible energy.”

The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, which she has been part of since her freshman year, gave Patin and her peers the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity for a day by helping clear a neighborhood that was full of large thick blackberry bushes and litter.

“After the work was done, our shared satisfaction was both powerful and rejuvenating. We felt, even without thanks, that our time had been appreciated, and our awareness of a greater cause had been heightened. At that point, our community became more than the name ‘Federal Way’ and more of a feeling or state of being. It meant togetherness, empathy and integrity,” Patin wrote.

Struggles in FW

With all the greatness Felicia Patin sees in her community, she is also aware of its faults — and considers poverty to be one of its major concerns.

She said many students fall through the holes and are not getting the opportunities she has been fortunate to receive.

“There are a lot of special students that are in poverty and are being neglected,” Patin said. “It’s hard to find the root of the problem. It starts with the family structure, but it comes down to the school, whether teachers are showing you attention and are helping you cultivate your gifts.”

Part of Patin’s essay alluded to neighboring places in her community, where old furniture, weeds growing wild, broken refrigerators and rundown cars are a normal part of the daily scenario.

“Poverty bothers me like it should bother anyone. Its influence is so powerful and prevalent in so many of today’s problems, whether it be the schools’ dropout rate or teen pregnancy. So many of the world’s complications derive from poverty,” she said.

Perhaps what bothers Patin the most are the struggles faced by minorities. Through her African-American and Hispanic heritage, Patin wishes to serve as a representative of this particular sector of society.

“I want to stand as a role model for minorities, when I’m in youth groups, or I win a writer’s contest, when I’m in there, I feel I’m a representative for as all,” Patin said. “I plan on devoting my life to creating justice that the minority so much deserves.”

One of Patin’s greatest admirations for Federal Way is its ability to unify people from so many different racial and cultural backgrounds into one entity.

“It is here in my city of Federal Way that I feel most at home, most in tune; this richly diverse community has shown me its grace, its strength, and its undying potential,” she wrote. Adding to this, Patin said that in her eyes, Federal Way is what a community is and should be.

It is also at her school, Federal Way High School, where Patin said she has found a perfect community made up of a diverse student body and devoted members — where she is challenged and enlightened every day.

Felicia’s overall message, and what most likely influenced her success during last month’s writers retreat, was of a unified community, where everyone’s similarities will continue to outweigh their differences.

“I think to judge a community depends on your immediate surroundings. To me it means the group I’m in, and it’s all an individual perspective depending on how involved you are,” Patin said.

“Federal Way can be a very lonely place or a very fulfilling place, just like any other place in the world.”

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