Hello and welcome to the announcement of our $1,500 Annual Essay Writing Contest Scholarship winners!
As usual, before telling you who took the prizes, let’s recap how the competition went.
We had an incredible turnout, with a total of 1085 submissions received! How crazy is that? Out of those essays, 703 works went on to the second round of evaluation.
Some works were not assessed because they didn’t follow the guidelines. For example, some submissions didn’t feature the correct topic, have the requested word count, follow the format requirements, or include a Works Cited page. Other works were disqualified for plagiarism.
All of that aside, we are grateful to each and every one of you who decided to take part in our contest! You are the living proof that modern students are exceptionally smart, creative, and full of fresh and unique ideas.
Now, about the results.
Each essay could get a maximum of 100 points, which were awarded based on the following criteria:
- Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling – 20 points,
- Organization – 20 points,
- Content and Ideas – 20 points,
- Use of Language and Style – 30 points,
- MLA Referencing – 10 points.
The average score across all of the submissions evaluated was 70 points. That’s what we call a tough competition!
Here are our winners
First place and the $1,000 scholarship goes to Henry Arthur for an essay on the topic “Contribution of Technology in Education” that scored 88 points.
The Contributions of Technology to Education
The “old days” of education are dead. No longer is the pursuit of an education reliant on the presence of encyclopedias for research, pencils and paper for essay composition, or even a traditional classroom to allow students and teachers to interact. Today, educational opportunities are as vast as the Internet itself. Anything a student could possibly desire to learn about can be found somewhere within the complex sequences of ones and zeros that make up everything digital.
Since 2012, my school district in Baldwin County, Alabama has made considerable progress in applying technology within its schools. It was in 2012, in fact, that the Baldwin County Public School System began “providing every child in the system a digital device for educational instruction enhancement” (Hatley). There is not a single day that has gone by in my three years of high school where we have not used our laptops. Whether we are taking a quiz in math, writing an essay in literature, reading primary source documents in history, or transfering the results of a laboratory experiment into a spreadsheet in chemistry, nearly everything done within school is reliant on the presence of computers and a stable connection to the Internet.
When the Covid-19 pandemic forced schools across the country to close my classes were able to continue unaffected. Video conferences allowed me to interact with my fellow students and teachers, and assignments were submitted electronically. Being a student taking multiple AP classes, I was initially worried that the AP tests which are administered at the end of the school year would be cancelled. My fears were all for naught, however, as the CollegeBoard announced that AP exams would be administered online this year. The first-ever round of online AP tests was a success with “more than 4.6 million AP exams… started over the 10 days of testing across 32 subjects” (Knudson). Despite an unfortunate ending to the school year students all across the country were able to earn the college credit that they had been working towards all year. It has been extremely uplifting to watch as education has continued despite the hard times we have been faced with. None of this would have been possible without vast technological resources.
Coming from a rural Alabama town and a family who will not be able to contribute monetarily to my pursuit of a college education, there has always been a considerable amount of anxiety hanging over my head as to how I am going to pay for college. My father, a man who paid his own way through college, has recounted to me how he had to search for hours through countless manuals and enormous books in order to find information about scholarships. With the Internet, I am able to “get scholarship information and opportunities at lightning speed” (Dutca). Technology has allowed me to easily and efficiently locate scholarships that match my interests and skills. Technology enables me to easily write essays, create videos, and compose music to apply to various scholarships in order to help pay for college. While the burden of having to pay for something as expensive as college still causes a good amount of stress, technology has helped to alleviate some of the uncertainty concerning the location of reputable scholarships.
In the words of Albert Einstein, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” An increasingly digitized world has produced increasingly effective resources for students to learn both inside and outside of school. I have always had a passion for foreign languages, for example, and I have numerous mobile applications on my phone which allow me to practice my language skills wherever I might be. Technology allows me to connect daily with friends I have who live in El Salvador who I met while on a mission trip. Technology allows for students to learn in nontraditional ways which are in many cases more engaging and effective than a traditional classroom. By allowing students to take control of their education, technology has served to cultivate a love of learning among students across the world. It is exciting to think of what new technological advances will bring to education in the future.
Dutca, Susan. “5 Ways Scholarship Searches Benefit From Technology.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 2016, www.usnews.com/education/scholarship-search-insider/articles/2016-06-16/5-ways-scholarship-searches-benefit-from-technology.
Hatley, Von. “Preparations for the ‘New Normal.’” Area Development, 22 May 2020, www.areadevelopment.com/covid-19-response/Q2-2020/preparations-for-the-new-normal.shtml.
Knudson, Annalise. “Over 4.6M AP Exams Taken during Online Administration.” Silive, 26 May 2020, www.silive.com/coronavirus/2020/05/over-46m-ap-exams-taken-during-first-ever-online-administration.html.
The runner-up prize of $500 goes to Alicia Veilleux. Her essay on the topic “Is Studying Abroad Worth It?” received 85 points.
Returning From Abroad a Better Person
“Voy a llamar la policía!” yelled a man as I stared at him, panicked and confused. “Police” was the only word I had understood. After one week in Spain, I would have my first oral communication exam with four police officers because I could not explain that I had mistaken this man’s apartment for my own. This experience, though seemingly unique, is one of many situations where miscommunication can create fresh challenges while studying abroad. Ranging from harrowing to heartwarming, each misadventure contributes to the personal growth, and oftentimes, to a change in the participant’s worldview or perspective. This makes studying abroad a powerful tool in the development of well-rounded and tolerant individuals.
Personal growth is a process that is most commonly achieved through experiences from which we can learn about ourselves. When studying abroad, these opportunities suddenly multiply as they are amplified by language barriers and intercultural encounters. My own experience overcoming the Spanish language barrier revealed I was more resourceful than I had previously thought. From this, and many more misadventures, I eventually returned home commanding a newfound confidence I had previously lacked. This anecdote echoes what over 17,000 students have already experienced. In a 50 year longitudinal study by the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES), 98% of program alumni felt that their exchange program had enabled them to learn something about themselves (Dwyer 19). Admittedly, this statistic does not identify whether the learning was overall positive, and critics of exchange programs often cite that good experiences abroad are not universal among students. They argue that negative factors like the financial costs of these exchanges and the experienced reverse culture shock on returning home outweigh the potential benefits gained from such programs (Wielkiewicz 649). However, though it is true that some participants have dealt with particularly taxing ordeals like unwelcoming host families, benefits can still be gained from a negative experience. In fact, Jonathan Haidt – a prominent social psychologist – argues that periods of acute and temporary stressors are actually ultimately beneficial in an individual’s development (45). Personal growth is thus gained under both circumstances and when these experiences are rooted in cultural differences, students have an opportunity to develop perspectives more nuanced and tolerant to ambiguity than before.
These cultural differences are most strongly felt when newly arrived sojourners experience internal conflicts between previously held beliefs and the realizations they make while abroad. This is perfectly exemplified in a study published by Chang, where the experiences of first generation Latinas living in the United-States (US) were contrasted with those of second generation Latinas and native US students while on exchange in Guatemala, a Latin-American country. Having already experienced the geographical boundaries of cultural norms after immigrating to the US, first generation Latinas were more sensitive to perceived disrespectful actions while on exchange, expecting others to know and be aware, as they were, of the differing acceptable behaviours in the local culture (11). In contrast, second generation Latinas were among those who experienced the largest culture shock, feeling a disconnect between their shared Latin heritage with the locals and their inability to communicate with those who shared that heritage (10). In each case, reality and expectations were at odds, necessitating that students reflect and reconcile these differences into a cohesive whole. In understanding that ignorance of customs does not equate to disrespect, and that language is not the only vehicle through which heritage can be shared, these students became more aware that perception is a nuanced experience, felt differently by each individual.
In all, studying abroad supplies strong foundations on which participants can better themselves both through acquired self-knowledge and understanding the unique mindsets of other cultures. In doing so, students become aware of the existing diversity in worldviews, and through cultural immersion, become better able to examine their perspectives through a different lens, a skill that is in dire need when one considers the increasingly polarized social climate of the present times.
Chang, Aurora. “Call Me a Little Critical If You Will.” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, vol. 16, no. 1, 2016, pp. 3–23., doi:10.1177/1538192715614900.
Dwyer, Mary. “Charting the Impact of Studying Abroad.” International Educator, 2004, pp. 14–20.
Haidt, Jonathan, and Greg Lukianoff. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting up a Generation for Failure. Penguin Books, 2018.
Wielkiewicz, Richard M., and Laura W. Turkowski. “Reentry Issues Upon Returning From Study Abroad Programs.” Journal of College Student Development, vol. 51, no. 6, 2010, pp. 649–64., doi:10.1353/csd.2010.0015.
Congratulations to our winners!
To everyone who wasn’t lucky enough to win this time: don’t worry, there are more contests coming soon (our annual video contest has just started!), so you’ll definitely have another chance to test your skills and creativity. Stay tuned for updates on our writing and video contest pages!
Thank you all again and have a nice day!