Valuing Family Essay Contest

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OMSA and Parent & Family Relations Writing Contest

The Family Pillar Award is given in honor of the significant contributions, sacrifices, and support that family members make in the lives of seniors supported by the Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA). OMSA and Parent and Family Relations invite students to submit a writing entry about a family member who has influenced their lives here at Rochester and beyond. Entries are judged by a committee of faculty and staff.

This contest provides OMSA-supported graduating seniors with an opportunity to recognize parents, grandparents, or other family members whose love, support, and guidance have had a significant influence on his/her achievements and success, both academically and personally.

About the Contest

Author Gail Lumet Buckley wrote, “Family faces are like magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future.” Using this quote as a guide, please explain how your parent, grandparent, or other family member has positively influenced your past and present. Share how this influence has contributed to your personal growth and academic success at the University of Rochester and how you plan to use this influence as you look toward your future. The family member referenced in your entry will be nominated to receive this year’s Family Pillar Award.

To enter, you must be an OMSA-supported graduating senior. Entries must be 500–750 words in length for essay or other writing submissions, and a minimum of one page for poetry submissions.

Entries will be judged and the award recipient selected using the following criteria:

  • Thoughtful reflection on the positive influence illustrated and the ways in which the nominee has helped to prepare a brighter future for the student.
  • Clear and concise development of points.
  • Appropriate grammatical correctness and sentence structure.

Deadline and Submission Details

Complete the online submission form to enter.

Note: The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, April 25, 2018.

Recognition and Prizes

A selection committee will review all writing submissions. All nominees will receive a congratulatory letter and a copy of the submission. Recognition of the winning submission and the award recipient(s) will occur during the OMSA Annual Senior Dinner in May.

The student who writes the winning submission will be presented with a University gift basket and the winner(s) of the Family Pillar Award will be presented with a plaque.

Past Winners:

  • 2017—Vilma Smith Maitland, written by her granddaughter, Destiny Maitland
  • 2016—Beverly Aiyanyor, written by her sister, Michelle Aiyanyor
  • 2015—Jessica Colorado, essay written by her sister, Amy Colorado
  • 2014—In memory of Martin Quinonez, essay written by his son, Eduardo Quinonez
  • 2013—George and Afiwa Kothor, essay written by their daughter, Marius Kothor
  • 2012—Michael Conover, essay written by son, Neftali Morales
  • 2011—Daisy Benson, essay written by her daughter, Lynn Benson
  • 2010—Winsome Brissett, essay written by her daughter, Kayann Williams
  • 2009—Cynthia German, essay written by her brother Robert Duran
  • 2008—Deborah Willis, essay written by Paulette Cooke

The Kaiser Family Foundation announced the winners of its fourth annual essay contest today, sponsored by the foundation’s educational health policy website, The contest invited students to identify the major health policy challenges the nation will face in the year 2015 and discuss how the top two priorities should be addressed.

Entries were received from more than 400 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled at colleges and universities across the country in a wide range of disciplines including public health, medicine, nursing, economics, and law.

“The passage of health reform brings a great opportunity for students to play a more active role in health care policy through their studies and after they graduate as our future policy analysts, health care providers, and policy makers,” said Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman. “The interest in the contest this year shows that health reform has activated student interest across the country,” Altman added.

The winners from the graduate student entries are:

  • 1st Place:  Marilyn Michelow, Weill Cornell Medical College, studying Medicine (expected graduation 2012), whose essay was titled “Health Care Reform 5 Years Out: Payment, Pricing and Primary Care.”
  • 2nd Place: Sarah Katz, Georgetown University, studying Health Systems Administration (expected graduation May 2010), whose essay was titled “The State of Health Care in 2015: Access Problems and Health Disparities Persist.”

The winners from the undergraduate student entries are:

  • 1st Place: Catherine Denver, Johns Hopkins University, Major: Nursing (expected graduation May 2010), whose essay was titled “2015: Health Policy Issues of Our Time.”

Tied for 2nd Place:

  • Danielle De Luca, Georgetown University, Major: Healthcare Management and Policy (expected graduation May 2012), whose essay was titled “The Future of American Healthcare: What Lies Ahead.”
  • Yuri Hanada, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Major: Biology (expected graduation June 2010), whose essay was titled “Disparities and Shortages: Major Policy Challenges in American Medicine.”

The panel of final judges for the essay contest was comprised of leading national experts on health policy and politics, including Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic; Sheila Burke of Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Ruth Katz, Congressional staffer and former Dean of the George Washington University School of Public Health; Drew Altman, Ph.D., Kaiser president and CEO; and Diane Rowland, Sc.D., Kaiser executive vice president. is a free website for students, faculty and others interested in learning about health policy. The site presents a broad array of resources, including tutorials on health policy basics, issue modules on current topics under debate and a directory of internships and fellowships.



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