(all the essays were kept intact as submitted by the authors)
Senior category (18-26 years of age)
Open Gate Boarding school, Praha
You are six and I already know You are the exact opposite of me. Living with You I've come to realize that life is a huge paradox. You really get on my nerves, most of the time; I love You so much I'd breathe for You.
This September You went to school for the first time. And while I had already been reading books for a year at this age, You can't be bothered with stuff like that; not that You wouldn't be bright enough, You simply don't have the time for such frivolities.
As a first-grader, I would entertain mum daily with some new discovery from school or yet another question on the origin of the universe. With You, it usually is an impossible task to find out even what the topic was that day in class. On the other hand, unlike anything I would expect from a six-year-old, You are worried that one of your classmates probably doesn't have a loving mommy because he never really looks happy when she brings him to school. You have taught me how much there is to learn at school that is not in the books.
On Fridays I always pick You up from school. The usual scenario is that I ring the doorbell to call for You and then wait - a lot. All the parents arriving before me take their kids and go home, then even those arriving ten minutes after me leave happily, half an hour passes and my anger gradually builds. Finally, You appear and I am set to launch an exemplary adult-like scolding; but then, my You run out of the door with the brightest, most meaningful smile, and I melt. You have taught me how much difference a simple smile can make.
One night, about a month ago, I had so many thoughts and worries running through my head I couldn't sleep. Without thinking I went to your room and lay down next to her. You just looked over, didn't ask anything, put your tiny arm around my neck and told me: "Don't worry. I love you." You have taught me what an enormous support can be given in five words.
During the mere six years of her life, you - my little companion - have managed to teach me things that nobody else would have been able to. Mum spent hours explaining to me how everybody is different and how important it is to be tolerant, but it was You who helped me understand what these words really meant.
You have taught me love.