At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we pride ourselves on doing what we can to boost our local and nationwide communities. As part of that dedication, we understand the importance of education and how crucial it is for aspiring students and professionals to receive a college degree. We decided to start a scholarship in 2018 that was specifically geared toward first-year college students. The Fall 2019 submission period just came to a close.
We were humbled by the amount of applications we received as well as the overall quality of every essay. The essays were fantastic and we enjoyed reading them! We’d like to thank everyone who applied.
We’re pleased to announce we’ve chosen a winner.
Congratulations to Caroline Kurdej of Schaumburg, IL!
Caroline is attending Northwestern University. She is pursuing her MS in Journalism.
The essay topic was as follows:
Do you have a conventional or non-conventional family and what does your family mean to you?
Here is her winning essay:
“Lent a Pen
She prowls amongst the helpless prey, asserting her dominance through her intimidating demeanor. She is a powerful lion in a vast savannah. I am a naïve Giselle. She walks dangerously close, but settles on my classmate a few seats down, handing him his paper with an angelic smile. The predator scans for her next victim. Her eyes fall on me as she saunters over to my desk. Her expression changes to one originating from the depths of hell –eyes narrow and lips curve up into a demonic smile. My heart sinks as my third-grade teacher hands me back my paper.
She licks her lips maliciously, tasting the blood she splattered all over my essay. The essay that underwent multiple blood transfusions and amputations, to no avail. Fearing my teacher is one thing. I could not bear to think what was waiting for me at home. Frustration boils inside of me; at the challenging content, at the red marks splattered across my paper, at myself.
I walk home from school, dreading what was to come. “How did big paper go?” My mom asks pleasantly in her Polish accent as I tiptoe in an attempt to slip past her. I hold up my trembling hands. She glances from me to the paper and wordlessly puts it on the kitchen counter. “Dinner will be ready in fifteen minutes,” she says calmly. Too calmly.
An agonizing fifteen minutes passed before I walk downstairs. I looked at the dining room wall in absolute horror. There it was. My blood was on the wall. My shame was duct-taped for all the world to see. I burst into tears as I was reminded of my failure once more. Many times more, since my mom refused to take it down from the wall for weeks. Unconventional methods, to say the least.
“Education is only door to future! You don’t understand that?” I glanced up from my watery soup bowl mixed in with my salty tears. Despite my mother’s relentless tactics, I couldn’t help but feel an immense sense of gratitude—for leaving Poland at the age of eighteen with my father. For wanting the best life for my sister and I but never daring to imagine one for themselves. For working tirelessly, five jobs between the two of them, in order to make ends meet. For teaching me the value of a strong work ethic, reflected in my working three part-time jobs starting at the age of twelve. For teaching me the immeasurable importance and privilege that comes with attaining higher-level education. And for reinforcing the driven work ethic needed to realize my goals.
“Study, work hard, you will go far,” my dad would confidently state. That philosophy was instilled in me from a young age. I grew up believing that opportunities existed for those who chose to passionately pursue them. Although existential circumstances may limit me in some ways, they do not by any means define who I am. I had no choice in depicting how my story began, but I am adamant that I will write my own ending.
As a former dual degree Division I student-athlete, I know what it takes to train with dedication both in the classroom and on the track in order to attain my goals. Accounting, John Maynard Keynes, and finance shaped my foundational knowledge of business toward my BS in Business Administration. Creative writing, Geoffrey Chaucer, and journalism shaped my liberal arts education toward my BA in English. My coursework, like my background as a first-generation college student and American, is cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary, making me a versatile and well-rounded candidate for a future career in journalism.
I’ve embraced my American identity, intricately intertwined with European roots stemming from my Polish heritage. The diligent work ethic my immigrant parents instilled in me has enriched my cultural capital, as well as my outlook on multiplicity. Persevering through the mental trials of challenging course work, as well as the physical injuries and setbacks accompanied by competing in Division I athletics, reminds me that everyone has stories of trial and triumph worthy of telling.
I am now a few weeks into my first year graduate program—an MS in Journalism at Northwestern University. The significance of my family’s inimitable journey will cultivate connections and serve as a representation of one story among many that needs to be shared. My identity will create a stronger sense of community by invoking truth and articulating diverse perspectives. I aspire to contribute my narrative to nurture purposeful discussions and yearn to integrate my story into the classroom, the workforce, and American society at large.
I believe in upholding journalistic integrity, honesty, and practicing groundbreaking courage. I intend to use my pen as a powerful tool, and to speak for those that have been subdued into silence. I only ask that I be lent a pen.”
For more information on the next open scholarship period which will be for Fall 2020, please see our law firm’s scholarship page. Congratulations again, Caroline!