It’s been nearly a year since Devan Ungerer’s best friend died.

Although the Brookfield High School junior has struggled with the grief of the sudden loss of Hunter Haines, who was 15, and trying to answer the eternal question of “Why?”, she has looked at it in terms of her own battle with depression and has come away hopeful for the future.

Despite the emotional trauma of losing someone so close, so young, Devan retains optimism.

Devan wrote a piece on her friend’s death and her own journey of discovery for the Brookfield Optimist Club’s annual essay contest, taking first place.

Destiny Johnson won second place and Katie Hackett third in awards announced March 14.

Brookfield Optimist Club member James Hoffman III presents Brookfield High School junior Devan Ungerer with a $100 check for winning first place in the club's essay contest.
Brookfield Optimist Club member James Hoffman III presents Brookfield High School junior Devan Ungerer with a $100 check for winning first place in the club’s essay contest.

“It was hard to write about, but I guess that the best writing comes from strong feelings,” Devan said.

Devan’s mom, Tammi Elberty, said the essay elicited strong feelings in herself.

“I was speechless,” she said. “It touched my heart. Nobody wants to talk about it (depression), but it happens every day.”

The question the students were to answer in the essay was, “When all the world’s problems are solved, is optimism still necessary?”

Optimism always will be necessary, Devan said.

“That is the thing about depression, unless you have even just the slightest bit of hope, the slightest ounce of curiosity about what your future may hold, even just a small amount of optimism, it eliminates you from this world one way or another,” she wrote.

“Because without that optimism, there would never be any light in people’s eyes. No passion, no desire, no real love. There would be no real hope for the ones who need it most.”

Devan said she has hope for her future: hope in terms of big-picture things, such as falling in love and starting a family, and in smaller, more mundane occurrences, such as that the sun will rise again tomorrow.

“There are many days where I cannot find the motivation to get out of bed, to shower, to brush my teeth,” she said. “And sometimes it feels like my lungs are caving in, and I cannot seem to remember how to breathe.”

She gets through those days by believing in her own abilities and remembering that she has pulled herself through on other occasions when things seemed bleak.

“I have personally decided that I will be the person that I needed when I was younger,” Devan said. “So, hopefully, I will be able to share that hope and maybe it will save someone’s life. Because absolutely no one in this world deserves to feel so broken, so hopeless, that they do not want their precious life. Every life is a gift, every new day is a new opportunity, you just have to choose to look at the glass as half full.”

Optimist Club spokesman James Hoffman III challenged Devan to recall her own words as she goes through life.

“We hope that you find your strength in your essay and how you’ve dealt with a very difficult situation,” Hoffman said.