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Big Mind Learning Scholarship Contest

2013 Contest Winners

Big Mind Learning is delighted to announce the winners and finalists of our 2013 third annual Scholarship Essay Contest. The judges were very impressed by the quality of the entries, and we are always happy to celebrate personal essays that express directness, maturity, and style while discussing compelling subjects. We honor all the students who submitted their work and hope they will continue to write with candor and expressiveness.

To the schools and students who submitted, thank you very much for your participation. We look forward to your continued interest next year.

While the judges were very impressed by the wealth of strong, vivid essays they received this year, they felt that the winning essay was especially powerful. Their comment follows:

"This essay shows a sophisticated use of language and personification; a natural story-telling ability; a lively sense of humor; and a mature, introspective quality. We loved the author's verve and originality which emerged as he wove in the controlling theme of Picasso's quote to explore his own creative, intellectual process."

Congratulations to our winners and finalists! Read the winning essays by clicking on each name.

Winning essays from previous years can be accessed by clicking on one of the links to the left.


  1. First Place:   Salvatore Elder Jr., Troy High School
      “Programming and Picasso”
  2. Second Place:   Grace Caza, Schoharie Central High School
      “Marimba in Mind”
  3. Third Place:   Ian Schillinger-Brokaw, Chatham High School
      “Leaving Public School Behind”

       Michaela Johnson, Schoharie Central High School
      “Home is Where the Love Is”

       Samrin Ali, Troy High School
      “Embracing Diversity”

       Katarzyna Geiger, Ichabod Crane High School, Valatie
      “Who Would Have Thought I’d Learn from a Farm Animal?”

Finalists and their essay titles (in alphabetical order)

  1. Sierra Bouchard, Ballston Spa High School, “Dancing”
  2. Adelina Cekic, Shenendehowa High School, “A Different Kind of Normal”
  3. Jessica Cornwell, Schoharie Central High School, “The Creed”
  4. Kristin Diamond, Schoharie Central High School, “Dedication”
  5. Sierra Diamond, Schoharie Central High School, “Coming Together”
  6. Daysi Gomez Torralba, Ichabod Crane High School, “A Long Way from Las Sidras”
  7. Julia Halburian, Colonie Central High School, “Sight in Unexpected Places”
  8. Katie Mead, Colonie Central High School, “A Larger Community”
  9. Myranda Steingraeber, Cobleskill-Richmondville High School, “Memories of Freedom”
  10. Tanner Stone, Schoharie Central High School, “Soccer”

The judges used the following rubric of criteria to make their decisions:

  1. Clarity
  2. Honesty
  3. A narrowly defined and compelling focus
  4. Creativity, originality, and interesting use of language
  5. Guidance by one of the quotes

Thank you to our judges

The contest essay team at Big Mind Learning is very grateful to our judges for their intelligence and acuity. Many thanks to Tina Lincer, Phyllis Hillinger, and Maureen McCauley.

Tina Lincer is associate director of Communications at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. Her feature articles and essays have been published in numerous national and local newspapers, magazines and anthologies. Her personal essays have aired on WAMC Public Radio.

Phyllis Hillinger worked as a writer and editor for many not-for-profit organizations in Albany, NY before exploring creative writing in all its forms. She has published her poetry in several magazines and journals and has contributed Listener Essays to WAMC Public Radio.

Maureen McCauley is an attorney and writer living in the Capital District. She writes fiction and non-fiction and is currently completing a memoir.