Niles teen ranks in top 10 in statewide essay contest

Published 1:41 am Wednesday, April 16, 2003

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- An extraordinary Ring Lardner Middle School eighth grader has been named a top 10 contestant in the Farm Bureau Insurance America &Me Essay Contest.
Warren Simpson placed sixth among the thousands of eighth graders from more than 525 Michigan schools who tackled this year's essay topic "My American Hero."
Simpson wrote about his American Hero, an unknown person who by signing an organ donor card before dying, gave him the gift of life in the shape of a new aortic heart valve.
Simpson is the son of Peter Simpson, Terri Simpson and Rick Hotary.
Simpson said he didn't know why he did so well in the contest, but he gave a few possible reasons why the judges might have liked his essay.
Simpson, who was born with a completely blocked aortic valve, said he received heart surgery to open up the blocked valve right after his birth
Although his heart functioned after the operation, it leaked, which was almost as bad as the valve being blocked, he said.
At age five, his heart was leaking so badly that he could only participate in a few physical activities before tiring, but luckily an option became available to him.
Although doctors have told Simpson he is likely to tire twice as fast as his peers, he is just as active as the average teen-ager, or maybe even more active.
He plays right wing for the IHYL ice hockey team in South Bend, Ind., and he plays basketball.
He used to play soccer, but now enjoys playing street hockey instead when the weather is nice .
And when he's not outside, he plays base guitar and frequently uses the computer.
Simpson said there isn't really much he can do right now, apart from doing the work all eighth graders have to do, to prepare him for the studies needed to become a heart surgeon.
But he plans to take advanced math classes when becoming a freshman at Niles High School this fall.
Ideally, Simpson would like to study at the University of Michigan, but he still has a few years to make up his mind about that, he said.
When he travels to Lansing May 6, to be honored for his top achievements, his mind is set on the Lansing Lugnuts baseball game they are going to see.
The windows, Simpson said, might even be tinted, meaning that people can't look in but they can look out.
And he won't travel alone to Lansing.
Simpsons' mother and step father, as well as his English teacher, Bryan Bradbury, will accompany him on his journey to the state capitol to receive his honors.
The annual America &Me essay contest encourages Michigan eighth graders to explore their roles in America's future and hundreds of thousands of students have participated in the contest since it started in 1968.