Turning Points Essay Format

There have been many turning points in my life, but the most significant one was when I was eight years old.  I was the normal kid, my biological parents were still together and I had a younger brother.  My father was a policeman and my mom worked out of the home with Pampered Chef, a cooking company.  We were the typical American family until October 5, 2000.

My dad worked third shift and my mom was off work that day so on October 4 we spent all day together.  Ice-skating and hockey was a huge part of our lives, so naturally we decided to go to the new ice rink my grandma managed and had the whole place to ourselves.  We skated for hours and then went out to dinner.  After dinner we went back home so my brother and I could go to sleep early enough to go to school the next day and my dad could go work the third shift.

            Around three o’clock in the morning on October 5 I woke up to a lot of commotion and police cars surrounding my house.  I could hear my mom crying and people trying to calm her down, and as an eight-year-old girl I was scared and nervous to go downstairs and see what the problem was.  Eventually, I got the courage to go down the stairs and was greeted by a nervous police officer that I had never seen before.  Since I was so young I do not remember in great detail how the conversations went, but I do remember just being so frustrated because no one would tell me what was happening and why my mom was not present.  The only details they would give me was that my dad was in a bad car accident.  I was so young at the time that I truly could not comprehend that my world was going to be turned completely upside down.

            It did not take long for my grandma to get to my house.  I sat on my couch in the living room with her, my brother, and a few police officers for hours.  Finally around eight in the morning my mom approached the living room with the police chaplain.  At the time I had no idea who he was, but now he is a close family friend.  Once they walked into the room, I was positive my dad would come in right behind them in a wheelchair.  This was not the case.  My mom was in so much pain she could not speak or comfort my brother and I, so the Chaplain had to do all the talking.  After explaining the fact that my father did not make it through the accident I ran upstairs to my room to be alone.  I was only eight years old, but by that time I knew enough about death that I was heartbroken and devastated.  The accident happened because a semi-driver ran a stoplight.  That is one thing that drives me crazy, the fact that it was so preventable.

            The next week is a complete blur to me.  My family is very well known in Fort Wayne, my hometown, so the amount of support we had was unbelievable.  Not only that, but because my dad was a police officer, many people have had to deal with them at one point or another.  The viewing lasted from eight in the morning until around midnight, with a constant line.  Although I was so torn up about my father’s passing, I loved that I got to see literally every person that was in my life, plus making new relationships.  My brother and I would run around outside in the cold October weather greeting and entertaining everyone that was waiting in line for hours. 

Not only was the viewing full of people, the funeral has gone down in Fort Wayne’s history.  It was noted that the funeral had the biggest attendance of any other funeral in Fort Wayne ever.  The funeral was held at the biggest church in Fort Wayne at the time called Blackhawk Christian Church.  It was completely full and many close friends and family got the chance to speak.  The whole funeral process was so chaotic and such a hard time I have very little memory of it.  I honestly believe that my conscience has blocked many of the details out of my memory.

            I would do anything to have my father back, only if I even got the chance to say goodbye to him.  I know that will never happen and it is a hard thing to live with, but I have become a stronger person by moving on with my life.  A death in general can be a pivotal point in ones life, especially when you are an eight-year-old girl whose father passes away suddenly.

            Even though the memories of the initial days of his passing are painful, I wish I could remember more because I want to preserve every last memory of my father as possible.  Our time together was so short, but monumental in my life.  Because of his passing, it has been my dream to be a youth counselor.  I want to help children and young adults to be able to move past hardships in life and make a difference in someone’s life.  Not only has this tragic accident showed me what my purpose is in life, but also it has connected me with so many amazing people.  The other police survivors have been so influential on my life and I have even impacted other survivors’ families by helping them in their time of need.  If this accident never occurred I cannot imagine what type of person I would be or where I would be going in life.


Turning Points

Character development through a values-driven process.

Turning Points is a powerful program that touches hearts and souls as students write about a significant event that impacted their lives.

The Turning Points program is a character awareness and literacy program that provides opportunities for students in Grades 6 - 12 to read, write and think about their fundamental values. A process of self-reflection and discussions with teachers and peers leads to writing a narrative essay about a significant event - a turning point - in which students organize and express their thoughts about the principles that guide their lives.

Students are encouraged to submit their essays for formal evaluation, recognition and publication - the submission link will be live according to the timelines for your area.  Click here to submit your essay.

"The act of writing is the act of discovering what you believe." 
~ David Hare, British Playwright and Director

Celebrate the resiliency and greatness of the human spirit.

“I know that Turning Points is more than an essay contest.  It is one of those golden moments to celebrate the resiliency and greatness of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Julian’s essay won him the recognition and respect of the people attending the awards celebration and his win energized a school community and generated hope among students that they too could tell their stories and rise above adversity and meet with success.”

- Teacher (Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board)

Emotional, inspiring and informative experience.

“This was our third year participating in the Turning Points event. This has proven to be an emotional, inspiring and informative experience for all of us. This speaks to the work that we must continue to do with our students by listening to their stories and by collectively striving to make a difference in their young lives. They make a difference in ours by having the courage to share their innermost thoughts, struggles and dreams.”
- Catherine McCullough,
Former Director of Education and Secretary of the Board
Sudbury Catholic Board of Education


Who Benefits from the Turning Points Program? 

Students benefit as they reflect on a turning point in their life that had a profound impact on them. With the support of their peers and teachers, they explore their values and find the confidence to write their story in a purposeful and articulate way that truly touches the heart of readers. Students who choose to enter the essay contest may receive a cash prize, an engraved plaque, and become a published author when their essay is included in the annual Anthology of Winning Essays.
Teachers benefit because Turning Points helps them get to know their students better. The program provides teacher-friendly lesson plans and activities.
Faculty of Education students benefit when, in their role as judges, they get a deeper understanding of the challenges many students bring with them into the classroom. They have an opportunity to assess authentic student writing through the use of rubrics and the moderated marking process. They also become aware of an effective program they can use with their own students when they begin teaching.

Families benefit from the revelations and insights that this personal telling story process brings. It gives them an opportunity to discuss important issues and events. 

Community partners benefit from learning what our young people are dealing with and thinking about, and can help celebrate student success.

"All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are." 
- Pablo Neruda, Nobel Prize-winning Chilean Poet and Political Activist

  • To transform students’ lives by instilling a lifelong love of learning
  • To provide a vehicle for students to focus on their values and life goals and express them on paper
  • To provide schools with a flexible, easy to implement character awareness program
  • To offer teachers an engaging, classroom process that reinforces writing skills while generating student motivation to express themselves in written form by linking the essay writing to the student’s personal experience
  • To mobilize community recognition for young people
  • To encourage families to engage in an ongoing dialogue about what really matters in life
This program is currently offered in both English and French in Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
Did You know
  • The Turning Points program focuses on character awareness and literacy through a written expression program
  • Grade 6-12 students participate in English and French in Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
  • More than 18,000 public school students participated in essay writing 2016.
  • More than 118 volunteer judges were involved in the selection process of the winning essays in 2016
  • Over 142,000 Turning Points essays have been written since 2000.
  • Winners receive cash prizes, plaques and are published in the annual Turning Points Anthology of Winning Essays.
  • Turning Points is in its 18th year


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