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Big Mind Learning Scholarship Contest

2016 Contest Winners

First Place:

$500 awarded to Narelys Chum

Second Place:

$100 awarded to Shannon Murray

Third Place:

$50 awarded to Sophia Casabonne

Now in our sixth year of the Big Mind Learning Essay Contest, we celebrate our new winners from the six New York counties open to our contest. Congratulations to our winners from Troy High School, Schoharie Central High School, and Shaker High School! Congratulations to the many honorable mention writers and finalists, themselves deeply deserving of prizes that we wish we could give. As always, we extend many thanks to the students who submitted their thoughtful, intelligent essays and the teachers and counselors who support them.

We were very impressed, once again, by the compelling essays that we received, full of engaging writing, difficult choices, and the power of insight unusual in high school students. In these first-person narratives, many writers spoke about their experiences with tremendous eloquence, vividness and beauty. As always, each essay received multiple readings by each of the judges, and our choices involved hours of serious discussion.

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 year’s winning essayist calls herself ‘a rose that grew from concrete,’ and she proves this through her poignant description of the circumstances from which she escaped. Through wise choices borne of conflict and adversity, this writer shows the power of personal courage, determination and commitment to a brighter future. Her subtly calling attention to the hypocrisy of the media’s glossy images of New York City only heightens her depiction of her difficulty and gives her essay an intelligent double dimension."

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:

Narelys Chum, Troy High School, Rensselaer County
“Planting Change”

Second Place:

Shannon Murray, Schoharie Central High School, Schoharie County
“Morning at the Barn”

Third Place:

Sophia Casabonne, Shaker High School, Albany County
“A Nameless Identity”

Honorable Mention:

Colton Meriam, Schoharie Central High School
Remaz Omer, Shaker High School
Anne Sacket, Schoharie Central High School
Lonne Welsch, Schoharie Central School

Finalists and their schools (in alphabetical order by name)

Abigail Ball Schoharie Central High School
Ian Brady Schoharie Central High School
Cody Cooper Schoharie Central High School
Nicholas Romeo Troy 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 (optional)

Thank you to our judges and support staff!

We are so grateful for their spirit and good judgment.

Alex Brownell, our webmaster and Math Program Consultant, creates our seamless and pristine contest, and we are so grateful for his help.

Marea Gordett is owner and director of Big Mind Learning, LLC. She taught for a decade in the English department of Tufts University, specializing in expository and creative writing courses. Her book of poetry, Freeze Tag, was published by Wesleyan University Press, and she has numerous journal publications.

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 essays. He gives presentations and has trained several employees in public speaking. He is employed as a Resource Manager and Technical Writer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.