2016 - 2017 Wyzant College Scholarship Winners

Essay topic: What challenge have you overcome that has best prepared you for college?

First Place Winner

Nykearra from Charlotte, NC

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

A Place to Call Home

The first house I remember was a dusty, dilapidated structure. As a child I knew this as home, as safe haven. At the time I didn't know that this house was a hazard. There was lead paint, mold, and raccoons living underneath the floorboards. My mother told me of how she wrapped us in our winter coats and used a hair dryer to keep us warm when there was no heat. We were soon forced to leave. At age six my family was evicted. At 11 we lost our home to a fire. At 12 it was foreclosure. At 16 we were evicted again. During high school I benefited from the Mckinney-Vento Program, created to assist homeless and displaced students. Despite these obstacles I worked to maintain a positive outlook. When you are born into poverty you have no choice but to look for the benefits of setbacks. No choice but to weigh the odds of survival. I know how to make a meal out of poetry. I have found shelter in paintbrushes and canvases. I have grown accustomed to creating temporary homes. Learned to find solace in unfamiliar spaces. Because of this education appeals to me strongly. The wonderful thing about education is that it resides inside you. You don't need a suitcase to hold your knowledge or a trash bag for your experiences. .After I graduated I was unable to attend college because of finances. Being forced to take a year off really motivated me to work even harder to reach my goals. The many struggles I have faced in my life have prepared me to fight for what I want. Searching for a place to call home enabled me to build a home within myself. And to someday help others to do the same.

Second Place Winner

Kayla from Clarkston, MI

Eastern Michigan Univeristy

Against All Odds

Abuse. An ugly word that most people can't fathom or really understand the damage it causes when it happens to you. I'm one of the few that can say it's real; I've seen it, I've heard it, and I've lived it, I have overcome it, and it has made me who I am today. Statistically, growing up in an abusive household should have sent me spiraling down with low grades, low GPA, and low confidence in myself. Instead, I took everything I had and threw myself into school, something I knew I was good at. Rather than going out and vandalizing property to get my anger out, I spent hours researching mathematical equations that helped break the German Enigma in WWII and other related coding machines. Instead of believing the constant doubts of those around me, I grew determined to become more than anyone ever thought was possible. I jumped into college and now plan to transfer to a 4 year university to join a military program, the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), to make something of myself. Growing up in a negative environment gave me the determination to become something more than what I was given. It gave me the mindset to believe that no matter the cards I was given, no matter how hard the midterm materials may seem or the course may feel, I will stay up until 3 A.M. studying, then get up for my 8 A.M. class, determined to ace it and prove them wrong. I will always remember the nights I stayed in my room, listening to screams just outside my door. With that in mind, I will also remember how much that showed me just how capable I am of doing anything I put my mind to, against all odds.

Third Place Winner

Toluwani from Round Rock, TX

Gateway College Preparatory School

Beyond a Statistic

The graduation party dwindled around me, and I serenely sat at the breakfast table of our family friend. Attentive to my physical state, my uncles approached me, settling themselves at the table. “Round Rock has taken you away from us,” one proclaimed jokingly. I chuckled in response, proceeding to inform them of my endeavors and interests. They intently attended to my words, offering supportive commentary. Suddenly, the tone of the discussion transformed after my uncle introduced the necessary topic. “So, have you thought about your future?” “I hope to be a doctor,” I enthusiastically responded, expecting their usual encouragement. The statement shifted the mood, and I glanced in confusion at both individuals. One grinned, pleased, while the other began to contemplate my words. After noticing my expression, he cautiously leaned forward, “I don’t know how I feel about female doctors.” My heart plummeted; until that moment, I had forgotten the difficulties: my gender, nationality, and the world’s opinion of my future. In middle school, I received hostility after my success in both a spelling bee and standardized assessment. When I earned the rank of Valedictorian, I received reluctant congratulations with reminders of my ethnicity. As an immigrant and dark female, I face the obstacles of my situation; even when I overcome those stereotypes, others refuse to forget. In a society where citizens rarely identify black females with success, I have fought to disregard the statistics. In my future, I refuse to allow my ethnicity and gender to become excuses. Just as I have ignored the offhand comments, I plan to continue in that attitude beyond high school. My desire to practice healing holds no relation to my physical characteristics. My determination to amount to more than a percentage on a demographic chart continues to be my motivation.