2011 Essay Contest Winners

First Place

Margaret Lucas

Margaret Lucas

"I'm thrilled to be named a finalist in the Making a Difference Essay Competition, both to be able to share how important community service is to me and to encourage others to find ways to serve, learn, and grow. Thank you, Cook Honors College, for giving me this opportunity to write about something that means so much to me!"

Saiema Alam

Second place

Saiema Alam

“I am thrilled to have been chosen as a winner for this contest! Writing my essay was truly a soul-searching process that helped me understand even more why I love to volunteer and why it is so necessary to do. To be honored for my community service means a lot and has motivated me to continue to make a difference through volunteering. Thank you so much Cook Honors College!”

Teresa Kennedy

Third place

Teresa Kennedy

“I am honored to have been named a finalist in this competition. The opportunity to share my experiences participating in community service is priceless, though the monetary award is also greatly appreciated. Community service has greatly shaped me during my high school years, and I hope to inspire others to engage in this pursuit. Thank you so much, Cook Honors College, for giving me this recognition!”

Honorable Mentions

Fallon Schoch

Fallon Schoch

  • Marion Center, PA
  • “Servicing My Heart”

"I was excited to learn that I was a finalist in the Making a Difference Essay contest- I worked very hard on my essay and it was on a subject that is a huge part of my life. Being chosen to be in the top 15 was an honor. I'm glad I was able to participate in the contest."

Jonathan Yu

Jonathan Yu

  • Seattle, WA
  • “Forget Beethoven”

“I am honored by the opportunity to share my experience with others. My hope is that my essay can one day inspire readers to truly reflect on the contributions they make towards their communities. I believe that all of us possess the innate ability to shine light on the world—thus, it is our duty to push ourselves in order to serve those around us. With love and good will in our hearts, no hurdle is insurmountable. God Bless.”

Kathryn Kroeker

Kathryn Kroeker

  • Indianapolis, IN
  • “Value Through Service”

"I was very surprised when I found out my essay had placed - for a while I just sat there amidst rising excitement! It was definitely very encouraging for me, but aside from that, writing this essay has helped me to fully appreciate what service has taught me. Thanks to this contest, I feel I am a wiser person. Thank you."

David Roth

David Roth

  • San Antonio, FL
  • “The Worst Shot”

“I am honored by the recognition of being a finalist in this contest when so many others do so much good. Perhaps I should not be as surprised as I am because it is my experience that the good that comes from volunteering and helping others often returns tenfold.”

Bianca Mulaney

Bianca Mulaney

  • Lakeland, FL
  • “IBlake: Making a Difference, One Student at a Time”

"I was surprised and overjoyed to find a congratulatory email regarding the essay contest in my inbox this afternoon – so much so that I immediately shouted out to my mother, even though she was standing in the same room as I was."

Farrah Qadri

Farrah Qadri

  • Drums, PA
  • “Sips of Coffee, Acts of Courage”

“It really is an indescribable feeling to be able to share such a valuable experience of my life and be recognized for it. It's wonderful that everyone can benefit from helping the community; being able to see things from a different perspective has changed my life and has made me grateful for the small things in life. Once again, thank-you!”

Sam Yastishock

Sam Yastishock

  • Millville, PA
  • “September Flood”

"It sounds cliche, but my community service really did change my life and my views. I'm pleased that the Cook Honors College gave me the opportunity to tell my story. That's much more important than the money."

Laurence Antonio Gonzalez

Laurence Antonio Gonzalez

  • Edinburg, TX
  • “The Brighter Side”

"Being named a finalist in the Making a Difference Essay Contest is really an accomplishment for any teenager in America. It is oppurtunities like these that really help us succeed as a member of society, and for that I thank you for this recognition. I want to make a positive difference in this world, but I need help. This money is the help that I need, and for that I thank you."

Joseph Martin

Joseph Martin

  • St. Louis, MO
  • “Redistribution of…Dignity”

“Thank you so much for this opportunity! I am honored to be considered as a finalist. I discovered a great deal more about my experience after articulating it, and the lessons I learned through community service are even more compelling now.”

Zachary Burgess

Zachary Burgess

  • Choccolocco, AL
  • “How Mother Nature Changed My Life”

“I am both thrilled and honored to be recognized for this award! Although a tragic event was the inspiration for my essay, it is my hope that I will continue to use that experience to make a positive difference in the lives of others.”

Kevin Li

Kevin Li

  • Fort Washington, PA
  • “Why I Still Love Sesame Street”

“Childhood illness has been a significant part of both my personal life and my service efforts for many years, and I am very honored and quite excited to be named a finalist.”

Kaytlin Gochenaur

Kaytlin Gochenaur

  • Saranac Lake, NY
  • “Ties that Bind”

“I am so excited to be named a finalist! It is a huge honor. This is so encouraging to me especially during a high-stress time like senior year.”