Charlotte 10th Grader Honors Sister in KBR-Sponsored Essay Contest
October 4, 2011

The KBR Building Group was quick to support a 2011 KBR global educational initiative designed to challenge K-12 worldwide to express themselves through a writing contest. The thought-provoking topic for KBR’s international essay competition was “The Woman I Most Admire.”

“The Charlotte office has a long history of partnering with our client Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) on classroom projects and community service efforts. So, when we learned about KBR’s essay contest, our first thought was to approach some CMS elementary, middle, and high school English teachers to see if they would be willing to incorporate the writing competition into their curriculum,” said Jane Boland, Director of Marketing, KBR Building Group. “Next year, we plan to broaden our participation by reaching out to local schools in other locations where we have offices.”

Several teachers accepted KBR Building Group’s invitation to participate. Although the essays were written during the Spring 2011 semester — the contest kicked off in March to coincide with National Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day — the results were not announced until after school was back in session this fall. The good news — a CMS student was among the winners! Christian Pinchera, now a 10th grader at the International Business and Communications Studies School at the Olympic Community of Schools,* shared a deeply personal account of his life and the strong bond he shares with his sister, Shelby, in his essay, “The Protector.”

Nearly 100 CMS students participated. Of those 100 students, nine were chosen by teachers to present to the KBR Building Group. A small team from our Charlotte office met to review the nine essays. With very little discussion, the team unanimously chose Christian’s essay as the winner.

Christian Pinchera’s words are now a part of a published collection of essays in "The Woman I Most Admire: A Book of Essays from Around the Globe." He wrote, “The things we went through together are the things that it’s almost impossible to overcome, and Shelby’s done that successfully. Foster homes, group homes, living with drug dealers, almost dying together. Those are memories no kids our age, as a matter of fact, anybody should ever go through—and it scarred us both for life.”

“Shelby was the mature one. She taught me what to do,” said Christian on why he wrote about his sister, who is now a senior at Olympic. “Our bond is strong. No other person on this earth cared for us the way we did for each other.”

“When I first read his essay I cried...I think a lot of people do,” said Jennie Griffith, Christian's ninth-grade English teacher. “I have so much admiration and respect for someone who has been such a strong influence in his life.”

“Christian is a role model for his peers because he holds himself with dignity and works very hard to be successful, academically,” said Griffith. “He doesn’t let what happened in his past keep him from what it is that he wants.”

Griffith submitted Christian’s essay to the KBR contest. In addition to being one of the select essays to appear in “The Woman I Most Admire,” Christian was recognized during one of the KBR Building Group Charlotte office employee meetings and received a backpack, iPad, and various iPad accessories — his most prized possessions.

“I gave the essay to my sister on her birthday,” said Christian. “I know she liked it because she has it framed in her room.”

Christian is now focused on getting into college. He plans to attend Eastern Carolina University and earn a degree in social work to help kids in similar situations.

KBR Building Group’s team of “judges” also selected second and third-place winners — a third-grader and an eighth-grader — whose essays were published as well. Boland personally visited all three schools where she recognized each of the three students in front of their classmates and presented them with Building Group “logo’d” apparel.

Read Christian Pinchera’s winning essay below.

KBR’s "The Woman I Most Admire" Essay Contest

"The Protector"

Written by Christian Pinchera
International Business and Communications Studies School at Olympic*
Teacher: Jennie Griffith

Out of the many women I admire, the one I admire the most is my sister, Shelby. Despite all the fights and arguments we have been through, I’d say she is the reason I am who I am today. Is love the word to describe what I feel about my sister? Yes, I love her to death, but I think a word even stronger than love would most certainly be admire.

It’s crazy how so many things can happen in a short period of time. For instance, she’s only 17, and I’m only 15, and already we’ve gone through so many things together, hell would be the best word to describe what we’ve been through.

So many things happened in the first 15 years I’ve been alive. She’s always been there for me and I can’t let her go. The things we went through together are the things that it’s almost impossible to overcome, and Shelby’s done that successfully. Foster homes, group homes, living with drug dealers, almost dying together. Those are memories no kids our age, as a matter of fact, anybody should ever go through – and it scarred us both for life. Now that we’re out of the bad situations and we’re out of the stage of being split up and unable to see each other, we think about those moments in our lives. Even now, it’s not the easiest thing to remember.

We both feel strongly that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. When I say strong, I’m not talking about how much you can bench press, or how many push ups you can do; it’s about learning what’s good and bad. Shelby is the most positive and influential person in my life that will make me stronger. She has saved my life in many ways.

She took care of me as a child when nobody else took care of us. She would give me her food so that I would have a full meal, and often wouldn’t eat anything herself. Those sacrifices that she consistently makes to help someone is beyond respectful. She doesn’t care who you are, she will help you in any way she can if you are in need.

When I think about her, I think about when she saved my life by pulling a pit bull off of me when it was about to take my life. If she hadn’t done it, I would not be here today. It means so much to me that she risked her own life to save someone she loves. Maybe this doesn’t happen to everyone, but it sure means she really DOES deserve to be admired by many people. However, I will always admire her most.

*KBR Building Group and the Olympic Community of Schools
Located on the former Olympic High School campus in the southwest region of Charlotte, the Olympic Community of Schools is comprised of five autonomous theme-based, CMS public high schools. The “Olympic Community,” established in 2005, is partially funded by a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. KBR Building Group employees have teamed with the Olympic Community of Schools on multiple special projects, including helping students build several houses for Habitat for Humanity.