When the Greater Twin Cities United Way and the Star Tribune asked local elementary students to write essays about the "Power of We," hundreds of students in grades three through five heard the call. They told us how, by banding together rather than working alone, we can accomplish everything from keeping a neighborhood park clean to preventing bullying to solving homelessness.

Some of the students wrote about things they and their families have done, such as collecting food for shelters, raking leaves for elders or helping other students with their homework. Others wrote about what they hope to accomplish -- with a little help from their friends, of course.

"We can all make a difference in the world," wrote one fifth-grader, "but think how much of a difference we could make if we worked together."

First-place winner, Shrey G. Pothini, will receive a $500 savings bond. The nine runners-up -- Leah Brandt, Daniyal Khan, Anna Curtler, Amya Moore, Olivia Murphy, Morgan Duvall, Antiquita Flint, Jack MapelLentz and Adel Sabri -- will each receive $100 savings bonds.

Here are the winning essays:



Grade 3, Harriet Bishop Elementary, Savage

Kids don't always feel like they have so much power, even though they do. When children work together they can help others more than grown-ups. Kids can use their birthday parties to collect items to donate instead of presents. They can ask businesses to help with the collections, like I did. A business might help a kid because children sound cute, but that business might not help a grown-up who asks. Also, kids sometimes have better ideas than grown-ups for helping others. If children work together, they can make a huge difference in the world -- before they turn into grown-ups.


Grade 5, Birch Grove Elementary, Brooklyn Park

A magnificent way we can change our community is by helping those who get bullied. People are getting bullied and, sadly, it is increasing. We could help those people by telling positive things about them, and tell them to ignore negative things that bullies tell them. A lot of people feel bad about themselves, like me unfortunately, but be by their side. Remember, if you ever see someone being bullied, help them, and comfort them. This is a great way we could help our people in the community.

Daniyal Khan

Grade 3, Meadowbrook Elementary, Golden Valley

My name is Daniyal Khan. I go to school at Meadowbrook Elementary. I have a friend in my class who has Down syndrome. His name is Sam. Sam likes to laugh and smile. My friends Ruby and Sophia ask Sam to play with us. We don't want Sam to feel lonely. We play on the monkey bars and climb on the rock wall. If Sam falls, we always help him up. We like to play with Sam because it is good to do things with someone who is not exactly like you. It is interesting and fun, and he likes us too.


Grade 5, Island Lake Elementary, Shoreview

When our neighbor Mr. Johnson died of cancer this spring, our neighborhood wanted to do something to remember him. Since he and his family used the trails a lot, we decided to dedicate a bench there in his memory. There wasn't a program to have plaques put on benches, so our neighborhood worked with the city and the county to create one so anyone who wanted to remember someone in a similar way could do so. The Johnson family was so happy with it! This shows how the Power of We worked in our community.


Grade 5, Westwood Elementary, Prior Lake

Deep down, everyone desires to be loved and included in something better. We have high expectations for ourselves, but really no one can reach them alone. At first we think, "Well, I need some help!" There is always someone who needs help, and if we give it, we become happier people. If a weak person falls, you can be a strong person and lift them up.

Humans aren't perfect, nor were they intended to be. That doesn't mean we don't have to try. When we try, we're volunteering to create a brighter future. Together, there's nothing to fear. Together, we're unstoppable.


Grade 5, Lucy Craft Laney Elementary, Minneapolis

I know there are a lot of things that are better with more people. The community is an example I will talk about. Let's say there is a park that's in your community that you love and it has been there since you were little. But you found out that it was going to be torn down. If you wanted to talk to the government about it or wanted to start a protest, you would need many other people.

The community is all about helping each other, having fun, playing and feeling safe where you live.

The Power of We is all about trust, faith and love.


Grade 3, Convent of the Visitation, Mendota Heights

Currently, there are 36.3 million hungry people in the U.S. Thirteen million are children.

Together we can change this. Together we can build community gardens.

There isn't a shortage of open lots. Take for example the abandoned lot by my house. If we build a garden there, together kids will learn how to grow food, eat healthy, sell produce, and learn to grow something big. One seed grows pounds of food. Kids get active, families eat healthy, and the community looks beautiful. They'll learn science as plants grow and lower their eco footprint.

Morgan Duvall

Grade 4, Oak Hills Elementary, Lakeville

Isn't it hard to believe how a word as small as "we" can make such a big difference? What could we do as a team? If the entire country or even just one city worked together what would we be able to accomplish? This is called the Power of We. The Power of We is about strength in numbers, working together, and doing things that you cannot do alone. If you gave one dollar to charities that wouldn't be very much, but if everyone in your community gave one dollar, that would add up to a lot.

Olivia Murphy

Grade 4, Shannon Park Elementary, Rosemount

With the Power of We, we can all work together to make our community a better place. If we all gave a little each month it could make a big difference. We could help people who need food and shelter that don't have stable homes. We could help children find families full of love and happiness through adoption. If we all were to volunteer just a tiny bit of money and time, we could make our community a better place.


Grade 3, International Montessori Academy, Bloomington

The Power of We

We went to the school garden.

We plucked tomatoes, peppers and chilies.

My teacher asked me to write about

The Power of We.

I wrote that we worked together

As a class.

We accomplished a lot.

We harvested before they froze.

It was most exciting.

The Power of We overcame me

And I felt happy, joyful and

Friendly to others.