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2020 - Smile Scholarship Winners


 Drezdan Dale


      Powerful. Uplifting. Hopeful. Those three words describe what a smile means to me. Sometimes, a simple smile can make a person’s worst day not so terrible. Smiles are a simple act that can go a long way in giving others a boost even when they feel out of place, upset, or bullied.

            Personally, I was bullied in my sophomore year of high school because I chose not to drink alcohol while at a friend’s house. I left the house because a bunch of my so called “friends’ started drinking. I did not want to ruin my future and partake in underage drinking as it went against my morals. For the next few months in school, I was bullied by several of my former friends who were drinking and even others who were not at the house. I was called several names and outcasted from all of my former friends and even some of my teammates in football and baseball. I began to dislike going to school and developed anxiety. After my sophomore year, I transferred schools and began at a LaSalle-Peru High School. I felt accepted there and regained confidence and was able to enjoy high school again.

            Even from all of the negatives that I went through during my sophomore year, I learned much from being the victim of bullying. One of the most powerful pieces of information that I learned was that a smile really can be uplifting and make a difference in a person’s day. When I was having a terrible day and getting bullied by seemingly everyone, a simple smile from someone passing in the halls could give me enough positive energy to finish through the rest of the day and be the best version of myself. I realized that smiles gave me hope in that one day, I would not have to deal with bullying and could enjoy being with smiling people who valued me.

            Looking back on my personal experience being bullied, I realized smiles helped me through a very tough time in my life. I applied this to my life in the past few years by smiling at others more often. The past two summers I have volunteered for Challenger League Baseball, a baseball league for children with disabilities. I tried to smile to all the children at the games as they all seemed to be uplifted through seeing others smiling at them. By smiling at them and giving them a fist bump or high-five, the children seemed to radiate with joy, signaling that my smile at the very least put a smile back onto their face, and maybe even went a little deeper and made them light up on the inside as well.  

            Smiles should be shared with everyone, as they have the power to uplift a person and give them hope for a better day. I learned this valuable knowledge through my own personal experience, and I hope that others start smiling more often after hearing it.

Scholarship Winners
Scholarship Winner

Madison Aimone


One of the biggest role models I look up to in my life is my mother.  Although she never admits to it, I find her perfect in every single way.  From her ambition in life, to the small and heartwarming gestures she so effortlessly supplies, she never fails to leave each person she encounters in life with a more fulfilled mood.  She reminds me religiously that “A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.”  I find these words of hers so powerful, and with so much intention and accuracy.  My smile not only changes the way I feel and go about my day, but it enlightens the mood of those I encounter daily.

In the life of a busy, hardworking and stressed college student, it is not always easy going about your day with a positive mind set.  The challenges we face, the amount of responsibility we carry, and the standards we raise for ourselves are limitless.  However, I strongly believe that the simplicity of a warm smile is the universal language of kindness, and can make yours and someone else’s day change for the better.  Your smile speaks and shines with so much capacity, and overall makes you feel so much more powerful.

Being a dancer, cheerleader, waitress and friend toward others, I find my smile essential in everything I do.  During performances and competitions during my four years of High School Cheer-leading, the bigger and brighter my smile, the better I felt I performed, while waitressing at Skoog’s Pub and Grill, I run into many tourists visiting Starved Rock State park.  If feel my smile and personality leave the customers willing to come back again, and to refer the restaurant as a great place to eat, along with great service.  Most importantly, however, I feel my smile is most noticeable and special because it has the power to change the mood of those closed to me – my family and friends.  Seeing those closest to me happy, makes me feel like I can make any difference, big or small.  I feel my smile and anyones can be so infections, and truly make a difference.

My mom has changed the way I view the simplicity of a smile and its power.  When in doubt, I feel I can never go wrong, and always feel enlightened by my smile and others.  A smile is a special gift, given and received at no cost.  I believe we should all strive to make small decisions like the power of a smile, as it tends to always lead to even bigger differences.  In a world full of smiles, we can create a world full of more happiness. 



Rachel Whaley


To me, a smile is not just a facial feature. It is a way to bring positivity into a world that is crippled with heartbreak, loss, and despair. I seek to bring joy to others with my smile. I feel that so many people nowadays are lost in their own worlds, always finding something wrong with their lives. No matter what a person is going through, a smile from just anyone can bring a glimmer of sunshine into his or her life. It can aid people in realizing that there is more out there than just themselves. When one person reaches out and says hello or stops to help you out when you dropped something on the sidewalk, it brings you back down to earth. It helps you remember to be kinder and to think more about others. I like to be the person that brings about that awareness. I want to be the kind of person that shines a little bit of sun on a person’s stormy day. I have found that it is fairly difficult to not smile back at someone who is just radiating happiness and sharing a smile so bright with you. Plus, the thing about a smile is that even if you have not been having the best day, faking a smile actually helps you to be happier. The phrase “fake it until you make it” definitely works in the case of smiles.

You can choose to inflict either joy or pain on those you come across in your life. I choose joy. You never know when there is someone who needs that one person to reach out and make him or her feel important and special. A smile is just a small, but incredibly significant way to share some happiness in this dark, cynical world. Who knows? Maybe you smiling someone out of a bad mood may cause them to share a smile with someone else. That spread of kindness is a goal of mine. My smile has such an impact on other people, and I know that. Maybe others do not know the impact of their smile, but I want to draw it out of them and enable them to share it with others. I believe every smile is worth sharing because a smile in and of itself is beautiful. A smile is so powerful because each one is unique and different. The individuality of each person’s smile is what makes them special to me.

My smile makes me strong. It makes me more confident and reminds me to be kind. Whether I am walking around on my college campus or working at my local Subway, I attempt to spread positivity through my smile. I like to think that every time I smile at someone else, I am sharing a part of myself with them. I never know who is going to be especially impacted by my smile, so I try to smile everywhere I go. Smiles are my way to change lives.

Scholarship Winner
Ryan Frank
Scholarship Winner

Ryan Frank

Something to Smile About 

A smile is more than something we do when a camera is pointed at us or when we need a 

friendly way to greet someone. A smile is an indicator of a person’s emotions; a visual and 

outward affirmation to the world that they are indeed in this very moment joyful. A person’s true 

smile only reveals itself when they are sincerely happy. This is the beautiful thing about a smile, 

a real smile. It is intimate. Only those that truly bring out real joy in you will be able to admire 

and experience it. Your parents, a best friend, a significant other, these people are familiar with 

your true smile and they are familiar with how to bring it out. They understand when it's real and 

they appreciate it when it's true. This is what makes smiles so unique. They are different for 

every person and various things bring them out in everyone. No one thing can make two people 

smile in the same way. It is a wholly individualistic identifying characteristic of each and every 


My own smile is extremely unique, in my own opinion. From the time that I was a small 

child until just very recently my upper left incisor was covered with a large flap of gum tissue. It 

gave my smile a childish and incomplete look. It appeared as if a large part of my tooth was 

missing or covered up and from it a distance it looked quite peculiar. I was self conscious of this 

part of my smile and I did not always like to smile with my teeth for pictures because of it. On 

top of that, my lips did not uniformly open and spread apart evenly when I smiled with my teeth, 

so it appeared quite crooked and lopsided. It was rare for me to want to smile for pictures or for 

strangers because of these issues with my teeth and lips, but when I was in those moments of joy 

and was with the people in my life that could bring out my true smile, I began to pay less 

attention to the appearance of my smile. Every so often someone would snap a picture of me 

while my true smile was on display and I found that I really did look happy and my smile was 

just the outward expression of it. I came to understand that the physical imperfections of my 

smile made it my own. It is the same smile that my parents and my friends see when I am at my 

happiest. It is nothing to be ashamed of because it is an outward sign to the world and to those I 

am most close with that I am happy and they are there to share that moment with me.

Scholarship Winner

Kenzie Edens

There is an old saying that when you smile, the whole world smiles with you. People love to see each other smile; it conveys happiness. A smile can make someone feel welcome, included, and loved. All of these feelings are what human beings across the world long for every day. Feelings of love and inclusion are a vital part in a person’s wellbeing. All people in this world deserve to feel like they matter and that they are worthy. One smile can go a long way in impacting the emotions of your loved ones and the strangers around you.

From a young age I realized that I did not have perfect teeth. It really didn’t bother me that much as a child   It certainly did not stop me from smiling at everyone I saw.  I have always tried to make people feel included and happy. I did this mainly through communicating and smiling with both friends and family as well as others whom. I did not know very well. That is simply my personality

When I was about 10 years old, I was struck in the face with a softball during a pre-game warmup. I had braces at the time, so this was an extremely traumatic situation for me. I knew, and feared, all the consequences that this impact could cause. After my parents took the time to look at my teeth to see what happened, they discovered that one of my lower front teeth was chipped. I was devastated since I knew this tooth would be seen every time that I smiled. Knowing how upset I was, my mother called Dr. Lunken, who was my current dentist at that time. The amazing thing that she did was to take the time out of her night to come into the office to check out my teeth and assure me that things were going to be all right. Sure enough, upon examination, she concluded that everything was fine with no permanent damage. Years later, I am still thankful for Dr. Lunken and her dedication.  She immediately put me at ease and calmed me down.

I am also thankful that I have a healthy unique smile that I can share with everyone I meet to make them feel welcome, included and loved. That feeling is what we are all searching for. I am glad I have it and I can share it. This is simply my personality.

Wouldn’t it be a better world if we all shared a piece of us with others? In my case, I share a piece of me by simply smiling.

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