2021 - Smile Scholarship Winners

 
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Anyone who knows me knows I always have a smile on my face. I believe that a smile has the power to start a chain reaction. Everybody goes through tough times in life, but when you can still find something to smile about on even your worst days, you start the reaction with yourself. It is a mood lifter. It makes that bad day a little easier to get through, which in return helps you spread a smile to someone else. From there it has the potential of spreading around and making other people happy too. The happy energy radiates from a person and spreads even more and just keeps spreading from person to person.

Gaining confidence in your smile can be one of the hardest things. For me, it took a lot of testing out different ways to smile, years of braces, and plenty of whitening strips before I became confident in mine. However, I see now that none of that matters. Everyone has their own smile that is absolutely beautiful because of the fact it belongs to them and only them. Everybody has the power to spread joy just by a curve of their mouth. That unique feature makes you, you. A simple compliment of a smile can help boost someone’s confidence which will in return make him/her smile more.

My smile is my power. It helps me push through hard days and it helps me help others push through hard days of their own. It is contagious in all the best ways! Kind words and warm smiles have such a strong effect on everyone around. You never know what someone else may be going through, so I choose to live my life offering a warm smile and kind words to everyone I encounter in hopes of making their day a little better. It can provide so much comfort to those around. I love the power of a smile so much that I am choosing a career path focused on them. I hope to one day make people more confident in their smiles so that we can continue the chain reaction.

 
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My mission is life is not to merely survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”- Maya Angelou. 2020, the year people all over the world resorted to surviving, rather than living. Looking back, the hustle and bustle that we once ensued throughout our daily lives came to a halt; we were forced to hunker down in our homes, staying six feet apart from our loved ones, the people we spent our entire lives with. As a college student who thrived upon the fast-paced lifestyle of running from class to class, socializing with friends and furthering the successes of my future, COVID-19, to put it simply, put me through the ringer. Being separated from those who I had spent the past several months with, those who inspired me to be a better person, dimmed my smile substantially. Having the time to reflect on the current state of the world and how it affected those around me, I knew it was time to stop dwelling on the negative aspects of life and focus on how to make the most of the given situation. So, I went to work. During my sophomore year of college, I had the opportunity to join Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity. After joining, it became quite clear to me that the people within this organization were more than just my peers, but my family away from home. I became acquainted with individuals who I now consider my best friends, but even more, my saving graces in times of darkness. Fueled by my admiration for these individuals, I was determined to give back in any way I could. After spending months apart, I was set on spreading the joy that I found within AKPsi, to those already in the organization, and those who would join in the future. With that being said, I decided to run for the Executive Board position titled Vice President of Internal Affairs. As a member of the Executive Board, it was my duty to foster relationships between the members of our organization through various events such as trivia nights, themed gatherings and kayaking trips at the local parks. As I entered into the position, it was a goal of mine to bring light to a place of darkness and bring joy back to people who may have lost it during the pandemic. To ensure that the members of Alpha Kappa Psi had the avenues to smile again, when they might have been feeling the pressures of the pandemic, I put all of my efforts towards creating an environment that instilled a hope for the future within everyone. A smile from someone you trust, or a person on an Executive Board, gives people a reason to believe things might just turn out okay. While we are not completely out of the dark, I am confident that we as people can come together and smile just as big as we did years ago.

 
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During this year of hardship, I have made it my goal to spread as much kindness
and goodness as I possibly can. This year more than ever, people need a little more
positivity in their lives and I made it my mission to provide that. Not only are people
around here struggling, but COVID-19 has hit the whole world extremely hard. One
aspect that the pandemic has hit hard is the financial aspect. The economies of
countries around the world are struggling. There is less travel, tourism, and general
spending going on in every country around the globe. The unemployment rate is also
skyrocketing which plays a very big role in the economy. Considering all this, I wanted
to find a way to help families in struggling countries along with the countries’ economies.
With all that in mind, as president of the National Honor Society Club chapter of
my high school, I discovered the idea of collecting shoes for underdeveloped countries
around the world. I wanted to find a fundraiser that stretched beyond the Illinois Valley
so that help and positivity could reach as many people as possible. The fundraiser is
called “Funds2orgs.” With this fundraiser, the shoes that are donated are sent to
struggling countries so that families can start a business reselling them. This system not
only boosts the economies of these countries but also helps a multitude of families
acquire a solid source of income. To complete this fundraiser, people from my
community and my high school donate gently used shoes and the National Honor
Society packages the shoes to send them off. We have a lofty goal of collecting 2,500
pairs of shoes, but no matter what the result is, help is reaching the countries that need
it most.
Helping people around the world has always been a goal of mine but that has
become quite difficult during the pandemic. By organizing a fundraiser like this, I was
able to bring smiles and sustainable changes to those in need. Selfless acts and the act
of giving also brings joy and smiles to those who are doing the giving. Therefore, this
fundraiser spreads smiles through kindness all around the Illinois Valley and around the
world. I wholeheartedly believe that the world can be changed by kindness and I am
dedicated to proving that to my community and to the world.