KATHERINE EXUM, 13
Eighth-grader, Windham- Ashland-Jewett Central School
St. Theresa of the Child Jesus parish, Windham
• "Drifting" by Plumb is one of my favorite songs because when I feel alone or far from God, I listen to this song and it brings me back to Him. I think the song is trying to explain that no matter how bad things get, there's always something that can bring back the good. "Drifting" reminds me to pray more and keep close to God, so whenever things in my life don't happen the way I want them to, I remember that things aren't as bad as they could be and that I have a Father in heaven who loves me and is willing to forgive me for the things I do wrong.

• "Manifesto" by The City Harmonic is a song I listen to almost every day because of the joy and peace it brings me. This song reminds me of my faith and encourages me to strengthen my relationship with God. Part of the lyrics are from the "Our Father," which is my favorite prayer. "Manifesto" helps me remember my faith as a Catholic and how good that faith is. This song encourages me to think about how good our God is and all the good things he blesses me with.

• "Be Not Afraid" by Robert J. Dufford tells me that even in my darkest and scariest times I'm not alone. Jesus is always with me, even when it feels like I'm alone. He never leaves our side. If I'm scared, sad, or angry, I sing it; when I listen to "Be Not Afraid," I feel as if Jesus is talking straight to me. I don't want to overreact to someone just because I'm having a bad day, and by listening to this song I know that everything isn't as bad as it seems.

• "How Great Thou Art" by Daniel O' Donnell: I like to listen to this before my cross-country meets, because it makes me feel a lot less nervous. It's like a message of praise to God, exclaiming how great and amazing He is! "How Great Thou Art" also humbles me and helps me not to be too proud of myself, because without God, none of the things I do in everyday life would be possible. Without God's love and forgiveness, I would not be the person He helps me to be.

• "Trust In Jesus" by Third Day helps me to place my trust more in Jesus. Jesus is always there for us when we need Him. If we place our trust in Him, we don't have to worry about any of our problems. This song inspires me to try to live a life more like Jesus did and to carry out my responsibilities as a Catholic: to love others as myself. It makes me think of the life Jesus lived and what He did and does for us. I can put all of my trust in Jesus and have a worry-free day, because He is my Lord forever.


MARIA HARTZ, 15
Junior, Scotia-Glenville High School
St. Madeleine Sophie parish, Schenectady
• "Beautiful Things" by Gungor: On a mission trip this past summer, they discussed how others can judge you based on things like religion or how you look. The youth group leader said, "You are a beautiful child of God, and He loves you when others do not," and they played this song. It showed me that God really does love you, no matter what. He works miracles and gives you hope when it looks like there is none. I listen to this song every day, and I cry every time because it is so powerful and helps me remember that when you feel like you have nothing, you always have God.

• "Alive Again" by Matt Maher, I interpret as sometimes, people can drift away from their faith and do things that may make them forget what is really important in life, or they feel distant from God. I have felt that. The chorus of the song says: "You called and you shouted, broke through my deafness. Now I'm breathing in, breathing out, I'm alive again." Before I went on my first mission trip two summers ago, I had lost the strong connection with God that I really wanted. But God's plan for me was to go on that mission trip, build my faith and reconnect with Him - and when I came home, I was a totally different person, for the better, because I was "alive again" with a stronger faith in God.

• "What Love Really Means" by JJ Heller is about a young boy, a woman whose husband has left her and a man in jail who is waiting to die, who each ask God to send them someone who will love them for them. We all can feel alone and that no one loves us. But if you pray and talk to God, He will give you a path to follow. As the song says, He will love you for you, not for what you have done or what you will become. This song really makes me believe that no matter what, I can always rely on God to listen to me and answer my calls.

• "When I Leave" by JJ Heller: A lot of high school juniors are talking about what they want to study in college and what they want to do as a career. I want to do something that will make a big impact on other people, just like so many people I know have made a huge and inspirational impact on me. As long as one person can look back on their relationship with me and say that I really helped them in some way, I would be happy for my entire life. This song really shows how I feel about that. God has put people in my life that have impacted me in a big way. This song reminds me that as a person, you should be one to remember, and you should do good for other people. When God calls you home, you will have left the world in an improved state, because you did everything you could to help change it.

• "For Good" by Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth is from the Broadway musical "Wicked." The song says that certain people are put into your life for a reason, and you should cherish them. They will make a big impact on your life. I have many people in my life who helped change me for the better. I think about what my life would be like if God did not make our paths cross. Everyone you meet can make an impact on your life if you let them - and if you feel like you need someone inspirational in your life, pray to God and ask for one. I did.


NICOLE ST. ONGE, 16
Junior, Hoosick Falls Central School
Immaculate Conception parish, Hoosick Falls
• "Speak Now" by Taylor Swift is about two words that are commonly heard at wedding ceremonies. The silence that follows is the final moment where anyone can voice their reasons the two should not be united in marriage. The lyrics in this song are based on Taylor's idea of how she would handle planning to intervene in a marriage that was destined to fail...unless it was she who was marrying the groom. This song has a deeper meaning to me. It makes me really consider saying things on my mind. It's common to not speak your opinions because you're worried about it coming out wrong or you're nervous, but that's what makes the act even more courageous. There will be many times when I'll have opportunities to make an impact through what I say, but only if I am willing to take those chances.

• "Mean" by Taylor Swift: Life is full of people who will hurt you, through physical means or words. It's inevitable and painful. It's sad that we have to live in a world like this, but the only way to get through is to take each hurdle as it comes. When someone does something that makes me feel worthless, I'll listen to this song, as Taylor sings about how one day, I'll be accomplishing great things, while those who hurt me will be nothing but mean.

• "Back to December" by Taylor Swift reminds me that it's impossible to say you have never hurt someone, but it's very seldom that we as human beings will admit our wrongs. For some, it's embarrassing to admit that they weren't right and that they made a mistake. "Back to December" is an honest apology for hurting someone, and that shows a lot of bravery. The lyrics encourage me to admit my wrongdoings directly and not just shrug them off. It also gives me a reality check that even if my apology is as sincere as it can possibly be, life with that person may not ever go back to how it was before I made my mistake.

• "Innocent" by Taylor Swift says that forgiving someone isn't always an easy task. Taylor Swift penned this song after Kanye West interrupted her award acceptance speech. Whenever I listen to the song, I always think to myself, "If she can forgive someone for embarrassing her in front of the world, I can forgive this person for the little things they did to me." Even with that motivation, it can still seem impossible to forgive and forget. In those moments of uncertainty, I remember all the times that I've wanted forgiveness and received it, and that brings me the faith and courage that I need to do the right thing.

• "Change" by Taylor Swift shows we've all had points in our life where we ask ourselves if all the pain is worth fighting through. It's important that we get back up and try again. This song's references to the future are usually all I need to tell myself that fighting for the life I want is always worth it. We should all fight each other's battles, because that is a true act of love for one another.