Banner 1 Banner 2 Banner 3 Banner 4

Contact Us


(518) 339-4337

Follow on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on YouTube Follow on Blogger

Get Started Today!

Big Mind Learning Scholarship Contest

2015 Contest Winners

First Place:

$500 awarded to Jane Carroll Clayton

Second Place:

$100 awarded to Taylor Ball

$100 awarded to Allegra Padula

Third Place:

$50 awarded to Mary Grace Hren

$50 awarded to Anh Le

We are excited to celebrate our fifth year of the Big Mind Learning Essay Contest, and we are, as ever, deeply impressed by the level of honesty, awareness and thoughtfulness of the writers. This year we received more essays than ever before, and we sincerely appreciate all of the submissions from six New York counties: Albany, Columbia, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie.

As we increased our judges this year to a team of seven, we engaged in many hours of discussion about our selections, made difficult because of the eloquence, maturity and intelligence of the many writers. Each essay received multiple readings by each of the judges, and we honor all students who take their written expression very seriously and submitted their essays.

We look forward to the continued interest next year of dozens of high schools as we continue to discover wonderful high school writing and help bring it to light.

This year the winning First Place essay gained the following comment from the judges:

"This essayist showed a masterful sense of dramatic movement and illustrated this change through time with the assurance of a true fiction writer. The essay incorporated quotes skillfully and inverted the usual student-teacher roles in a very surprising way. In addition, with its creativity and interesting use of language, the writing truly moved and delighted us."

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.


First Place:

Jane Carroll Clayton, Jefferson Central School, Schoharie County
“To Be of Use”

Second Place:

Taylor Ball, Schoharie Central High School, Schoharie County
“The Land”

Allegra Padula, Colonie Central High School, Albany County
“Note to a Younger Self”

Third Place:

Mary Grace Hren, Hoosic Valley High School, Rensselaer County
“Universal Travels of the Mind”

Anh Le, Shaker High School, Albany County
“Not Alone, But Together”

Honorable Mention:

Cameron Schultz, Schoharie Central High School
“Finding my Balance”
Katlyn Force, Schoharie Central High School
“Conquering the Devil”
Julia Schantz, Niskayuna High School
“A Beautiful Hole”
Samantha Leahon, Maple Hill High School, Castleton
“You Know We Have Wheelchairs for That?”
Carolyn Caza, Schoharie Central High School
“It's all About the Bassoon”
Zixin Wan, Academy of the Holy Names
“You Must Not Be Defeated”
Nadia Mirza, Niskayuna High School
“Science Research”

Finalists and their schools (in alphabetical order by name)

Abby Serfilippi Academy of the Holy Names
Alyssa Paul Hoosic Valley High School
Andrew Morrison Schoharie Central High School
Andrew Guzi Shenendehowa Central High School
Bryce Perry Maple Hill High School
Dakota Francis Schoharie Central High School
Diamante Moultrie Lansingburgh High School
Gabrielle Danthine Schoharie Central High School
Julia Schantz Niskayuna High School
Kristin Connolly Troy High School
Marisol Ramirez Academy of the Holy Names
Michelle Luo Colonie Central High School
Morghan Albright Schoharie Central High School
Noah Levine Niskayuna High School
Rachel Franchini Academy of the Holy Names
Rachel Randazzo Schoharie Central High School
Robert Davies South Glens Falls Senior High School
Samantha Leahon Maple Hill High School
Samuel Engel Chatham High School
Sarah Mitchell Academy of the Holy Names
Skylar Luu Shaker High School

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

(in alphabetical order)

The contest essay team at Big Mind Learning is comprised of the following judges giving tirelessly of their intelligence, acuity and talent. Many thanks to Claire Hughes, Jeanne Finley, Maureen McCauley, Phyllis Hillinger, Tina Lincer, and Tom Morrissey. We are so grateful for their spirit and good judgment.

Claire Hughes is a journalist who has written and edited for newspapers, magazines and websites for 25 years. She currently covers health for the Albany Times Union.

Jeanne Finley is a freelance writer, editor, photographer and passionate gardener. With a background in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, she is currently assistant editor of New York Archives magazine. One of her photographs won a prize at the 37th Annual Photography Regional in Albany.

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

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.

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.

Tom Morrissey, one of our technical support geniuses, doubles as a careful editor of poetry and non-fiction. He is employed as a Resource Manager at Hewlett Packard.

Alex Brownell, our webmaster and Math Program Consultant, makes this contest work seamlessly through cyberspace. We are so grateful for his help.