Thank you so much for your patience. This year, we received over 400 entries, which is doubled from last year. It was very difficult to select only two winners from all of the creative and thoughtful entries. We’d like to thank everyone that entered for their time and effort.
1st Place Winner: Brandon Bishop ($2,500 Scholarship Winner)
1st Place Winner
Brandon Bishop is an incoming college freshman to Washington & Lee University. For his entry, Brandon created a Canva presentation about air pollution effects. As an added touch, Brandon presented the presentation and explained how pollution affects him personally. To view his presentation video, please click this link below. His personal essay is listed below.
View Brandon’s Presentation
Brandon’s Personal Essay
Waking up to the sound of a loud knock at the front door, I trudge down the hallway to look out the living room window. As I grab a step stool and pull aside the white Venetian blinds, I catch a glimpse of the familiar black and blue uniform. I quickly jump down from the step stool and run to my mother’s bedroom, only to find her missing. I hear the landline phone ring and frantically run to pick it up, hoping to discover the familiar maternal voice to help calm me down. My heart fiercely pounds in my ears as I hear: “Brandon? I am with the Police Department. I’m calli—” I hang up before the woman could finish her sentence.
Since that day, I have never been able to call a single place home. Because I lived with eight different families in twelve distinct residencies, moving around became a part of my life— something I was required to endure. I have lived with my mom in three houses and apartments, my mom’s ex-boyfriend in three homes, my grandmother and grandfather, my great aunt, my aunt and uncle, two families from church, and now my mom’s ex-boyfriend from nearly ten years ago.
Living with my mom felt more like living on my own. Her drug-fueled absences for weeks at a time resulted in my having to grow up faster than my peers. I not only had to fulfill my familial expectations of good grades in school, but I also had to learn to cook, clean, and even come up with the money to pay for bills. To do so, I searched through dumpsters to sell the valuable items I found. Assuming the role of independence forced me to ignore the chaos and unpredictability of life and appreciate the days when I was able to flush the toilet or eat a full meal.
Surrounded by such a disadvantageous and dynamic situation, my experiences have taught me a new way of life. With circumstances demanding me to find local food pantries and libraries and to learn new bus routes, adaptation to my surroundings is essential. To remain consistent and always acclimate to my surroundings, I have to stay resilient, not letting adversities deter me from achieving my goals. Possessing goals that include exceptional grades, rigorous coursework, and extensive volunteerism, I persevere in the midst of misfortune and seek out assistance and the materials to offer comfort and to guide me toward success.
Mentorship is the most vital form of goal achievement assistance. Being shown the importance of suitable parental figures, I aspire to give others the childhood I wish I had. I intend to mentor children in local programs, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters. This organization matches less fortunate children with volunteers, helping them achieve higher aspirations, greater confidence, and educational success. I also have made it a goal of mine to be a proper father to my future children, giving them the freedom to enjoy a carefree childhood. Without my rough upbringing, these goals would not be prioritized in my life. I am grateful for my situation teaching me many valuable lessons, as well as shaping my affinity for mentorship.
Without much parental guidance, paving my way has been a necessity for years. Because of this void, academic success has been a priority for me. As I transition to adulthood, I will continue my education and secure a high-paying job to provide for myself and the children in my community. This goalset will allow me to correct the wrongs of absent parents while also guaranteeing me security and financial stability. My experiences have instilled the bedrock of hard work in me, teaching me that prosperity does not come easily. Thanks to this vitality, I am prepared to put in all my effort to accomplish my goals.
To me, each adversity is not another obstacle obfuscating my ability to complete my goals, but instead, a catapult preparing me for my future adversities and showing me my strengths. I know how tough the world can be, but I also know that I am tougher and will always make it through to the next day.
2nd Place Winner: Anna Galeano ($1,000 Scholarship Winner)
2nd Place Winner
Anna is a high school senior at Stuttgart High School with dual enrollment at Arizona State University. She aspires to enroll in Clemson University. For her entry, she created a website to start an online movement called #CleanAirChallenge. We thought that this was a very creative and modern approach to the prompt. Click the link below to view the Clean Air Challenge’s website. The images she created for the submission are below as well as her personal essay.
View Anna’s website for #CleanAirChallenge
Anna’s Social Images for #CleanAirChallenge
Anna’s Personal Essay
On the move – that is what many of us are. Rushing to school or to work, heading to a restaurant for a meal or moving to another town, state or country. For me, being on the move has been part of my military-connected life. At the age of 17, enrolled in college classes while finishing up my high school diploma at a Department of Defense High School. I have moved more than a dozen times – across state lines, across the country and several times across an ocean. During my moves, especially when visiting bigger cities, I realized that air quality greatly differs from one location to another. Many factors come into play: pollen, pollution and people. Being able to breathe clean air should not be a privilege even though this is what it may soon be. If we, each individual, does not start acting now, we may not be able to achieve what should be everyone’s goal: Clean air.
The goal of clean air may not be on everyone’s mind, but air pollution affects every single one of us. From what appears to be minor pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, to exhaust of combustion engines, industrial facilities and increasingly wildfires, we all play a role in clean air. According to the World Health Organization, every year, 4.2 million people die as a result of exposure to outdoor air pollution. Every death cuts someone’s life short; a life that tells a story of a person. To increase awareness about environmental pollution, these stories need to be told. Each individual needs to realize that they are affected by environmental pollution. Each individual needs to realize that they have the power to create change. Each individual needs to realize that they can join a movement – the movement to clean air.
To join a movement, we need to be invested in the cause. We need to be able to relate. As a military child, civilian children who have never experienced my lifestyle. At first it may seem as if it might be difficult to relate to one another. Once we get to know each other and find something in common, we make a connection. Everyone can make that connection through the common goal of reducing environmental pollution. That is why I am proposing creating a website similar to the one I created that allows individuals to tell their stories of how environmental pollution affects them or a loved one. In addition to the website though there should be dedicated social media across a variety of platforms in order to reach the widest audience possible. On the website it should offer an option for individuals to share their story, why clean air is important to them. This will give a platform and voice to the individual. Those watching will be able to relate and will be encouraged to share their own story. Using personal storytelling to create awareness of a problem we all share will create a movement.
We could share the story of a young soldier and father of two boys. He deployed frequently to Iraq and Afghanistan. There, he was exposed to toxic waste burn pits for an extended amount of time. The soldier returned home. His headaches became unbearable, so was his diagnosis: inoperable brain cancer. The soldier died at the young age of 44. He was my father’s battle buddy. His story should be of many told with the help of the movement.
Everyone is welcome – and encouraged – to join the movement not only by letting the world know how air pollution has affected them, but by supporting positive change efforts. Calls for actions to support proposed legislation, companies that have invested in clean air and also showing who and what the biggest air pollutants are, asking them to change will inspire others to join the bottom-up movement. Every single individual is able to make a difference, to call on change. The movement can be a challenge, or trend, that is shared on all social media platforms using #cleanairchallenge. Challenge your friends and the entire global community. We are all part of a community. Over the years as a military child, I have realized that you are not just part of the small community you may live in, but you are part of a global community. What affects me, is likely to affect you. Together, we can push for positive change. Now is the time.
As you read about my proposal to increase awareness about environmental pollution you have found out a little about me. Having been part of many diverse communities has allowed me to adapt to local cultures and try to see the world from a different perspective. I do not shy away from a challenge. I have experienced many challenges in my life. Having to break away from what I call home, friends, activities and school to get up and move once again has taught me to quickly adapt and take advantage of opportunities. Connecting with other students through some kind of a common tie has become one of my specialities. Something in common may be music, sports or STEM. I’m a high schooler seeking to make a difference through STEM research. I’ve already made steps to reach this goal by enrolling in AP Seminar and AP Research. I’ve now completed the courses and will graduate high school with the AP Capstone Diploma. In addition I am published and have entered into research competitions in order to network and gain experience. I believe I am a good candidate as I have already shown results before going to college and pursuing research as an undergraduate student. I’m hoping to enroll in Clemson University, a Tier I research institution. This scholarship will help me strive for my goals and help others.
Thanks again for entering. We appreciate everyone’s hard work and encourage everyone to continue pursuing their educational goals.
More Information about the Clean Air Scholarship | 2021 Winners