2017 Richard Harris Law SWAC Contest Entries

2017 Students with a Cause 1st Place Winner!

Congratulations to Andi Nguyen from Las Vegas Academy.

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What does it mean to be “Battle Born?”

Description:  In this PSA I set out to answer the question: What does it mean to be “Battle Born?” I wanted to showcase what it means to be a Nevadan and to embody the spirit of Nevada by capturing those traits and qualities in this PSA. I also sought out a scenario that is highly reminiscent of Nevada that people would be familiar with, because our environment makes up as much of the spirit of Nevada as do its people.


Best Artwork

Congratulations to Boris Gramajo from Coronado High School.Description:  Of the books that were available to me I found one of the books of the story of Civilization because the art piece has some of the events that led to Nevada becoming a state. There is an army and a man on a horse which represent the soldiers fighting in the Civil War when Nevada became a state. The structure and different levels on the book are representation of the environment in Nevada. The broken chains represent the slaves being liberated. In the front side are two characters, Abraham Lincoln and Henry G. Blasdel, both men who were leaders when Nevada became battle born. Other buildings such as Las Vegas Strip and the Hoover Dam are also included to show that there is beauty in the spirit of Nevada. Finally, there is a torch (an electric torch that can be turned on by slightly pressing on its left of it). The torch directed towards the US and Nevada flags. Its light reflected on them represents liberty for the US and Nevada state. The US flag also has 36 stars because Nevada is the 36th star.

Overall, this piece represents what to be battle born is. By using history and beauty in the state it shows the effort of the people of Nevada in making the state a free independent state, making it a better place.

Best Poem

Congratulations to Faith Lane from West Career Technical Academy

Description:  This poem depicts a person leaving their home in search of opportunity. It is influenced by my leaving for college next year, something that all students in Nevada will experience. The poem speaks of the nostalgia and comfort of home, contrasting it with an unknown yet exciting future. My goal was to inspire others to have the courage and willingness to take on their future and strive to make the world a better place, leaving a positive mark for generations to come.

Breezy desert winds
Like a soft warm caress
From my mother
Reminding me of home

The scorching sun warming my face
Like I’m in an oven
Toasty and protected

The cacti look hostile up close
With their pricks and pin needles
Yet some of the most prickly things
Are the most beautiful

City lights in the distance
Blinding yet enticing
Blocking the stars
Yet uncovering my dreams
Calling to me

I leave for the unknown
My dusty home cast to the wind
For the city
A modern oasis

Adventure and courage
A voyage sweeping me into the future
Sailing among sand dunes

I am awakened
I am impassioned
I am ready to take on the world

Born from the desert
Battling for the future
Inspiring generations to come

Best Short Story

Congratulations to Lauren Rose from Las Vegas Academy

Description: A short story consisting of fictionalized experiences in adherence with the theme.

Daughter of the Desert


Heat hangs heavy on my sleepy eyelids as I peer through slitted eyes at my teacher. My flushed cheek is squished

halfway up my forehead as my knuckles press into the warm flesh. A constant sigh flows from the cramped room of sullen teenagers. Summer pulls at our brains like a piece of stretchy laffy taffy.

“What does it mean to be battle born?” asks my teacher, the first sound in minutes to make it it all the through my ears and reach metacognition. I wasn’t born here, how should I know? I think dimly, flicking a broken piece of lead off the faux wood desk in front of me; “we’re all beautiful butterflies on the inside,” is scratched into its surface. “Your assignment is to write a 3,000 word essay in response to that question,” says my teacher. Protest erupts in the room like a rising swarm of bees. Ms. Bates flops into her creaky chair with relief. She props her swollen feet up on a stack of papers and begins to dab at her glistening brow with a fuzzy tissue that leaves little white flecks on her skin.

I carefully peel my fingers off my face; my knuckles leave behind slight red imprints. I have nothing to write, I think. I sit for a moment, desperately trying to recall something, anything, that could work.

“One more thing about the Moulin Rouge,” I bubble, the urgency to share my knowledge welling within me. “It was designed by a woman named Betty Willis, who also designed probably the most famous sign in Las Vegas. Does anyone know what that sign might be?”

The wheels in the heads of the cluster of kids in front of me begin to grittily churn. A boy near the edge of the group absentmindedly picks his nose and drags the prize into his mouth.

”Oh!” a girl with pigtails cries, “The Las Vegas sign!”

“Right!” I say, my name tag glinting in the sun as I give her a high five. “The Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign!”

Words and facts flow like liquor from my tongue as l lead the children through the boneyard.

We pass the Sassy Sally’s sign and, for just an instant, I catch sight of sawdust floors and oiled wooden furniture. Men in faded clothes with guns swinging from their hips and cowboy hats on their grimy heads. I can smell the sharp sweet scent of booze, and my mind is filled with the images of Las Vegas’ beginning- of the quintessential wild west.

Explanations of noble gases and electricity come without thought as I stand by a neon yucca plant. Whilst I speak, I’m captured by an image of the budding Las Vegas strip. A measly collection of mediocre buildings smoldering with sun and potential. The first showgirl shows, the Hoover Dam’s construction, atomic testing- decades flash past buried in peeling paint and crooked glass tubes.

I give the group my spiel on including faces in sign design, and invite them to explore for themselves. I straighten my Neon Museum shirt and loosely loop my thumbs into the pocket of my jeans. As the tourists shuttle past, I gaze between the rows of signs. The spirit of Las Vegas shoots me a wink, and returns to her hiding spot within the blood of the collection. A smile fits my lips.

The nine layers of Hell rage in my thighs as I maneuver up the next switchback. With every step on the gravel slope, a new eternity of torture begins within my muscles. I look up with desperation, blinking against the sun and sweat trying to re-enter my body through my eyes. We stumble our numb bodies up the last few yards of the gray precipice, and I press my boot upon the summit of Mt. Charleston.

After flopping onto the dirt and catching my breath for several minutes, I push myself up and take in my surroundings. Nevada’s rocky expanse stretches before me in an earthen ocean.

Paralyzed by awe, a cool breeze envelops my fiery skin in its comfort. It combs through the bristlecones beneath me and tugs on my dull locks. I allow the energy of 2.8 million people to flow through my body, our frequencies slowly harmonizing.

“Did you know this is the fifth highest peak in Nevada?” my dad asks, pouring water across his greasy scalp.

“Mmm,” I respond. I gather a small handful of dirt and pebbles in the palm of my hand. The grains rub between my fingers like a handshake from an old friend. Wistful nostalgia glints in my eyes as I survey the land that wasn’t the one, or even the country, of my birth, yet is the only place I’ve ever felt truly at home.

 I gasp as freezing water grabs my unsuspecting toes “Frik, it’s cold!” I exclaim, leaping away from Lake Tahoe.

My mom laughs. “What did I tell you?”

I grin at her sheepishly, and pick my way through the rocks in search of one flat enough to skip, even with the feeble skills of a desert’s daughter. Pride wells deep within my chest as two women pass before me with clasped hands. Their eyes sparkle with the gift of unconditional adoration. The couple’s aura is the kind that makes you know exactly how intensely they’d rather be alone.

Mom wanders over to me with cuffed jeans and a plastic bag. “Want to pick out some of the trash from the water?”

“Good idea.,” I respond, stowing a handful of stones in my pocket. We soon find ourselves knee deep in icy water, conversing with a woman who had the same idea: fishing for plastic. Our prattle reveals us both to be a part of the Nevada competitive gymnastics community. As myself an ex-gymnast and she a judge, our paths have had to at least once crossed. The lines in the corner of her eyes crinkle as we marvel at the odds. “What a small world,” she laughs.

Desert dust smeared on our windshield. Snow-kissed mountains sprawling around us. Sharing community with a complete stranger we already know. In that moment, in that brief fleeting moment of perfect storm impossible coincidences, as our pealing laughter flows across downy slopes and joshua tree dotted valleys, something deep within the earth smiles.

I sit back in my chair, the chatter of my classmates muffled in my focused ears. Wellactually … maybe I do have something. Resolution settles in my stomach, and I pick up my pen.

Best Website

Congratulations to Pablo Cortez from Advanced Technologies Academy

Description: My entry is titled “Spirit of Nevada”. Every hand-written line of code works together to capture the identity of not only what Nevada is, but what it represents. With a background of Red Rock and custom-stylized fonts to represent our Western history, the website aims to show the reader what Nevada is all about.

The website is subdivided into four categories:

* Values
* Then
* Now
* Future

By separating the history of Nevada into four categories, it’s easy to see how Nevada’s values are represented all throughout our history. This website isn’t a report, however, and the images for every category show a small glimpse into each era.

All images used are under a Creative Commons License. The source code to the website can be found on the submission’s Github.

View Website