"The topic was, '1 Billion Hungry in the World. What's your role?' and he only had about a week to get the whole [essay] done," English teacher Jeri-Lyn Flowers said, who also will be traveling to Istanbul. "... [Harper] and I attend the same church so I know he had a passion for spirituality."
Flowers said she encouraged Harper to take on additional academic endeavors after speaking with his parents who said he needed more challenges in the field of writing.
"My dad's actually an English professor at Kennessaw State University, so he does a lot of writing," Harper said. "... I haven't had that much experience with writing essays. When I was in fourth grade I entered something into [The Georgia Young Authors Conference] and when I was in the second grade I [entered The Georgia Young Authors Conference], but I haven't had much experience with essays besides that."
Despite Harper's previous experience with submitting his writing, the efforts of his latest submission have proven successful.
"The Istanbul Center sends me a link to their contest information every year ... and this year's topic was generic, so I thought he could really take off," Flowers said.
According to www.istanbulcenter.org, part of the center's mission is "Proactively contributing to solving educational, cultural, environmental, social and humanitarian issues."
Harper said his essay, titled "A Tiny Ripple of Hope," was influenced by Robert F. Kennedy's speech to the University of Capetown in Capetown, South Africa, on June 6, 1966.
"I did some brainstorming and research on the first day and I wrote the introduction the night before [submission] and the day of [submission] I basically wrote all of [the essay]," Harper said.
The title comes from this line of Kennedy's speech, which can be found at www.jfklibrary.org: "Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Harper's essay begins by giving some definitions of hunger.
"Hunger is a noun, a discomfort caused by the lack of food. Hunger is a verb, to yearn, to starve, to long. Hunger is a problem, one that holds its unrelenting grip on the lives of over 1 billion people each day. But why?" Harper asks.
The Kennedy speech calls for youth and the individual as those needed for societal reform, citing the efforts, for example, of a young Thomas Jefferson and his impact on society.
"My thesis started out by saying you can have two different roles [in world hunger], you can have a role where you don't do anything ... and you sit there and maybe you know about the 15,000 children that died today because of world hunger ... and most people kind of think it's [the casualties'] fault and as Americans, one of our roles is to do nothing," Harper said. "The next role is where you can do what you can do ... and that would mean being involved in helping out at the local food pantry or Red Cross.
"... I basically based [the essay] around that speech and the role you play in hunger and whether these people get fed depends on your role and whether or not you do something about [hunger]."
Harper said the key theme of his essay is awareness that hunger is a worldwide concern, even in Bartow County.
"If you're not aware then you just don't know and you kind of don't think about [hunger], but if you're aware and know what's going on whether or not you choose to do something about it, you're still better than not being aware because you know what's happening and you know what needs to be fixed," Harper said.