Gabriela P.

Second Place Winner

I have always been a voracious reader. As the daughter of a librarian, I am not sure if there was ever another choice. A child of the 1990s, I belong to the generation of children first exposed to the Harry Potter phenomenon. From the time that my father read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to me I was, so to say, bewitched. Millions of readers have enjoyed these books for their captivating plot, for me however, the influence of the series was in the characters. I adored the dialogue and the commonplace conversations that many readers skipped entirely. I loved these passages because they connected me to the characters, as if they were my closest friends whose sentences I could finish and thoughts I could predict. While I connected with many characters, one has stood alone as a meaningful influence: Hermione Granger. It is the depth of connection that I feel to this fictional character than has inspired me to share my love of literature by pursuing a career in education.

Perhaps Hermione has been so influential because I relate to her character so easily. A fellow bibliomaniac, eager learner and possessor of incredibly bushy hair, I believe that we could have been best friends if given the chance. We both struggled with peers misinterpreting our zeal for academia as boastful and our subsequent shyness as arrogance. Hermione and I navigated adolescence with a similar approach: when presented with a problem, run directly to the nearest library because any answer worth having can be found in a book. The strength of our similarities enabled Hermione to hold a lasting influence over me. However, the areas where Hermione has been most influential are those in which we were not inherently similar. Her refusal to abandon her values has inspired me to stand up for my own in times when it would have been easier to stay quiet. Her most important influence however, has been on the way that I view myself. I often attempt to channel Hermione's confidence when I begin to lose mine. The depth to which I have personally been affected by this single fictional character has profoundly affected my goals for the future. I now have the confidence to pursue my goal of becoming an English teacher.

Although many people may not understand, I am proud to say that a fictional character has had such a significant influence on me. I am grateful to have found such a positive influence at such a young age. My experience has shown me the way that literature can catalyze personal growth. As an English teacher my goal will simply be to share this opportunity with students. Because of Hermione, I am a more confident person today. I am a proud lover of books and learning. I shamelessly utilize my vocabulary. Most importantly, I am loyal to my beliefs and to those I care about, and I do all of this while letting my bushy hair flow.