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2011 - 2012 WyzAnt college scholarship winners

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your life?

First place winner

Jesse from Spencer, IA

High School Senior at Spencer High School

Know the Difference

Throughout my life, I have learned to tell the difference between want and need. My sister and I are identical twins. Many have trouble telling us apart. We’ve never had a problem with that—we understand how similar we look and act. After all, we do everything together. We’ve lived and grown up together, and now we’re off to college together.

I would never have it any other way. Nevertheless, with my sister, I learned very early in life the value of money. When we were younger, times were hard, but our parents did their best to give us everything we needed. There was a time where the only piece of furniture our family owned was my sister’s and my bed—I knew, even before I realized it, how valuable it is to have everything I needed.

It was natural, then, that if they should do their best to give us everything we need, we should do our part and be responsible about what that was. After all, with any expense that others had, our parents were faced with double the amount. I quickly learned the difference between a want and a need. I respect my parents infinitely for how far they have come. So even now, though we can afford to indulge more, I choose instead to hold fast to the values we grew up with—knowing that selfishness is not fulfilling. Though the choice may be difficult, a part of growing up is making the right decision and sticking to my beliefs.

The most important life lesson is learning to determine what you need, and what others need from you, and having the presence of mind and, especially, selflessness to give it to others.

Second place winner

Iman from Clermont, FL

High School Junior at East Ridge High School

How to be Me

For the most part, I get dressed just as everyone else does in the morning. Undergarments, pants, shirt--and of course deodorant before that--but I do something else differently as I prepare for school. I open up one more drawer. It's a compartment full of color combinations and possibilities to match the rest of my outfit--it's a drawer full of scarves.

As I wrap my scarf, or hijab, I feel happy. Comfortable. Nevertheless, I didn't always feel this cheerful wearing the headscarf. At times it would feel awkward to walk around with a piece of cloth wrapped around my head. But once I thought it through, I realized that that's all it is: an extra article of clothing.

Underneath my hijab I'm just like most other American girls. I constantly chat with my friends and squeal if a bug comes near. Since I've embraced who I am while realizing where I'm from, wrapping my scarf has been much easier. Like the many beautiful colors and patterns that fill my drawer, every person is diverse or unique and this is nothing to be ashamed of.

I felt out of place when I let my differences restrict me from being my own person. However, the world is not a place of uniformity. We're all puzzle pieces, we're all different, but together we fit into a human work of art.

Today I walk across the school campus, smiling genuinely, because I know that I'm unlike anyone else. This is the way the world should be, and this is perhaps the most important thing I've learned: my differences aren't my weaknesses, they are my strengths. They are what make us as a nation, strong.

Never be afraid of who you are.

Third place winner

Elena from Sugar Land, TX

High School Senior at Kempner High School

One Life, A Million Choices

Being the first born child in my family has given me the challenge of figuring out what my purpose in life is and what I should be doing to achieve my goals. Furthermore, both my parents and the rest of my family never made it to high school, so they were not involved in my academic life. I had to figure out what SAT's were, or what G.P.A meant on my own. It seemed like my peers knew what they were doing, except me. I didn't have any reliable role models to look up to or connect with so, I gave up and decided I would not do anything with my life let alone graduate high school. After my sophomore year at high school, I noticed my youngest sister was getting closer to graduating from elementary to middle school. She was doing better at school than I was. She has special needs and had to struggle for twelve years to learn how to eat, talk, or walk. She accomplished her goals on her own, with her own efforts, dedication, and will to better herself. Here I was waiting for someone to draw me a map of what to do and where to go. Witnessing my young sister's adversity and accomplishments opened my eyes and gave me the push I needed to succeed not only high school but in the real world . I had to take responsibility for my attitude, grades, motivation, and myself. Here I am about to graduate high school with the best possible ranking, and grades I could achieve. People are given one life, and what that person chooses to do with it is their decision. My decision was to better myself an become the role model I never had to my family.