This I Believe: The Cadets’ Essay Contest – Part 3

Arkansas, Texas shows welcome honorary Cadets.

Ashley Chandler was 13-years-old when she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a chronic muscle disorder that creates constant pain. The young girl from Colombia, Mo., struggled in her attempts to keep up with friends living full lives in their newfound teen years. The life ahead seemed unimaginable until Ashley began putting her parent’s advice and beliefs to work: Never give into the pain. Never let it stop you.

“I knew I was lucky. I could be dying, but I felt depressed and alone,” wrote Ashley. “So I kept what my parents said in my head. I kept pushing through the pain.”

Now 16 and a vibrant teenager, Ashley is the sixteenth winning writer in the Cadets’ “This I Believe” Essay Contest. Her essay on the motivation and values instilled within her by her parents has earned her the honor of spending the day with the corps and marching onto the competition field in the classic Cadets’ block in Fayetteville, Ark., on Wednesday, July 18.

Ashley joins two other new winners who will participate with the corps in upcoming DCI competitions. Meghan Wleczyk of Austin, Texas, will march with the Cadets at their Mesquite, Texas, show on Thursday, July 19 and Jason Black of Humble, Texas, will make his debut with the Cadets on Saturday, July 21 in San Antonio, Texas.

Below are excerpts from all three winning essays:

“Eventually I was back with my friends, doing what every normal preteen did. I was back in school and able to go a whole day without coming home.  I was even able to go a whole year of school with fewer and fewer absences than the one before.

My parents instilled in me this belief of never letting barriers get in your way, never let them stop you and I don’t.  I have pushed myself hard to get back to the person I was before I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, but now at 16, I have a better perspective on life. 

It wasn’t until now that I understand why it was me, why I have this disease. I needed to learn that I can’t allow barriers stop me.  I need to keep on pushing through, no matter how hard it is.”

Ashley Chandler
Columbia, Missouri


“I have always said, ‘It is love that makes the world go round; without passion there is no life; but without friendship, there is no passion worth living.’ I would have never guessed that in my own words I would find, from within my passion, a friendship that has given me faith to simply, believe.

Life began in 2004 when I watched my first drum corps show. Since that day I have seen, heard, and felt my calling for this passionate wonder world of entrancing brass, drums, and the alluring guards that call me to become a part of something beyond any verbal explanation.

That year I came across a young woman, like myself, struggling with a thirsting passion for drum corps. Through passion we found the friendship and strength to prosper against the negative voices that tried to tear us from our passions year after year. Through fallen hopes and dead ends, she challenged me to dig for the passion I carried within, the same that she found in me, to rise above and beyond.

This April, I had lost hope when ‘real life situations’ took me away from corps, and away from Dominique. On the eve of her dream summer with the Cadets, I could only feel the pride in her strength, and the need to live through her passion to achieve the dream, for both of us.

While I cannot be there to share in her glory, my passion for our friendship carries with me as she achieves greatness. Corps leaves an impression upon those who experience it, a common spark that carries us all no matter the uniform. It binds us forever, as family dedicated together in friendship for a passion that connects us all.”

Meghan Wleczyk
Austin, Texas


“Individuality. I believe that being an individual and being yourself, no matter what life throws at you, is the key to happiness and any form of success. If you always sit around and get bent out of shape or wonder what others think, say or do in regards to you, you will live in a state of fear.

Individuality is what makes us all unique. It shows who we are, what we are made of, where we come from and more importantly, where we are going. Life throws us all for loops, both good and bad. You have to take what you get and run with it. Tomorrow, the sun while rise and you will continue to have more opportunities to write the everlasting novel that is your life.

In drum corps, there are hundreds of individuals that make up every corps. And, as you may hear teachers, mentors, professors, marching techs and caption heads speak so much, there is no “I” in team, but, in my opinion, it takes hundreds of “I’s” to make up that team. Everyone brings their own unique individuality to the table in every aspect of life. Whether it be in a team, in front of a group, in a solo or in a drum corps, being an INDIVIDUAL and having your own true makeup, is what makes this gift, LIFE, incredibly amazing. I live and believe that by being myself and being an individual prepares me for absolutely anything that this world has in store for me. And, by doing just that, this life and story that I continue to write and edit every day is truly a blessing.”

Jason Black
Humble, Texas


Essays on what values you hold close are still being accepted for all remaining Cadets’ performances as the corps continues its tour across the country with its extraordinary 2007 program, “This I Believe.”
Winners of the contest can spend the day with the corps prior to the show, then enter the field as part of the block formation. Simply write your 300 word essay and email it to, or mail your entry to:  The Cadets’ “This I Believe” Essay Contest, 601 W. Hamilton Street, Allentown, Pa., 18101.

The contest is open to all, ages 7 and up. Include your full name, age, address, telephone number and email address with your entry. Also, let us know what show you plan to attend this summer.

About author

Caryn Goebel

Caryn Goebel is a marketing associate at Youth Education in the Arts, an Allentown, Pa.-based organization, providing programs that allow thousands of talented performers to participate in pageantry events around the continent.

YEA! and DCI Win Big

Drum corps and music education supporters have leveraged their social media prowess to win $860,000 for different organizations through J.P. Morgan Chase’s Community Giving Project ...