Keystone’s Stanley writes winning essay during pandemic shutdown

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KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – A local senior used his final days of high school to win a national scholarship.

Garrett Stanley is a Keystone Heights Junior-Senior High student that is the recipient of the national Students of History scholarship. He won this scholarship by writing an essay about an impactful lesson he learned in his U.S. history class – and he did it while at home after the school was closed as a precaution for COVID-19. By finishing his senior year at home, his essay about circumstances in history is more-timely than ever.

“You had to write an essay about a historical lesson or activity you did in history class that meant a great deal to you or had an impact on your life,” Stanley said. “In my U.S. history class, we all had to line up like an assembly line when learning about child labor laws.”

Stanley said the activity and greater lesson about the horrible history surrounding child labor in America’s past opened up his eyes to how fortunate we tend to be today, even if we are stuck at home during a pandemic. Children were working in 90-degree sweatshops with no windows and no breaks, making maybe two cents a day, Stanley said, and knowing that helps you appreciate how fortunate we can be today.

Stanley learned of this scholarship about two months ago and quickly got to work on his essay that would earn him the national recognition.

“It made me feel very special and grateful to win,” Stanley said. “Out of all the kids that submitted essays, my essay won.”

The scholarship was less of a surprise to his teacher, Keith Walker. Walker has been teaching for 31 years, with 16 years of his tenure spent at Keystone Heights Junior-Senior High. Walker said if his classrooms were filled with a bunch of students like Stanley, his job would be too easy.

“He’s a really good kid,” Walker said. “He’s very active in class discussions, very dependable and always consistent day in and day out. I never had to worry about Garrett not doing what he needed to do so it’s not really a surprise to me that he won that scholarship.”

Part of the scholarship contest required Stanley to obtain a letter of recommendation from Walker. He said it was easy to recommend Stanley.

Walker taught Stanley in American government and economics and called him one of his best students.

“It’s impressive, too, because it’s his senior year,” Walker said. “When seniors hit that last semester of high school, they tend to check out, but Stanley didn’t. He continued to get As, ace tests and showed up every day ready to work.”

Stanley said this scholarship will help pay for tuition at Florida Gateway College in Lake City where he’ll study to become an electrical engineer.

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