Understanding God’s call is central to Catholic Identity. With references ranging from Winnie-the-Pooh, to Simone Biles, students from Catholic Schools across the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston explored that call highlighting the joy, fulfillment and sacrifice we find as a result during the 13th annual University of St. Thomas/Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Essay Contest. There were 7,001 students—third-graders through high school seniors—who wrote essays for the contest, sponsored by the UST Office of Catholic Outreach.
For senior Jordan McCoy of St. Thomas High School, a relationship with God is integral to finding and understanding one's purpose in life.
“Our purpose in life is not simply to pursue happiness, rather, it is to seek God. The joys in life are many. In all the things in which we find joy, however, there is one common factor at its heart, and we call this common factor God. Joy and happiness.”
McCoy won 1st place for 12th grade. He and the authors of all the winning essays were recognized at a Mass and awards ceremony on Jan. 25 at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, celebrated Mass and shook hands with all the winners, and gave each student a cross.
During his homily, Cardinal DiNardo quizzed students on metaphors and imperative statements in the Bible and expressed gratefulness for the Catholic Schools. Students were also greeted by Dr. Julie Vogle, superintendent of Catholic Schools, and Dr. Dominic Aquila, University provost.
High School Winners Earned UST Scholarships
Of all the essays submitted, schools selected finalists for each grade level, and were read and ranked by UST faculty members, staff members and alumni, who chose winners.
The first and second place winners in 11th and 12th grades received a $2,000 scholarship to UST, if they enroll.
First Place: Rachel Capao, St. Agnes Academy
First Place: Jordan McCoy, St. Thomas High School
: Hannah Hoskins, Frassati Catholic High School
Second Place: Sarah Culbreth, Incarnate Word Academy
1st Place Winners
The essays of all first place winners were enlarged as posters and put on display at the reception that followed the awards ceremony.
- 3rd Grade: Angelina Ganim, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School
- 4th Grade: Lizbeth Michel, Sacred Heart Catholic School (Crosby)
- 5th Grade: Lauren Wilson, St. Ambrose Catholic School
- 6th Grade: Maryann Gately, Holy Family Catholic School
- 7th Grade: John Kilboy, St. Laurence Catholic School
- 8th Grade: Jonathon Rodgers, St. Laurence Catholic School
- 9th Grade: Emma Tran, St. Agnes Academy
- 10th Grade: Lauren Ponce de Leon, St. Agnes Academy
- : Maxwell Voltz, St. Thomas High School
Read all first place essays.
The Benefit of Catholic Education
Dr. Julie Vogle, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said the Essay Contest demonstrates how Catholic education in the Archdiocese is considered seamless.
“The essay contest helps students put their faith in context of their daily life,” Vogle said. “Writing is vital to development , a cornerstone of evangelization and to being a human being.”
Aquila added that it is a privilege to the lives and stories of the saints to reflect upon.
“We have shared those experiences through their writing,” Aquila said. “If they were not great writers, we would not have that tradition within the Church.”
With that tradition in mind, Aquila urged the students to continue developing their writing for the benefit of future generations.
See all Essay Contest Photos.
As winners in the Dartmouth Student Employee Short Essay Contest, Zev Medoff ’17, Amber Porter ’14, and Qianlin (Jenny) Shou ’16 each took home a prize of $100.
Their essays were written in response to three specific questions:
- How has working at Dartmouth impacted you (Medoff)
- What do you want others to know about working at Dartmouth? (Porter)
- How has what you've learned on your job enhanced what you've learned in your classes? (Shou)
The competition was sponsored by the Student Employment Office (SEO), which is managed by SEO Consultant Kari Jo Grant, and is located within Dartmouth's Office of Human Resources. The SEO aims says to give all Dartmouth students an opportunity to gain valuable work experience while attending classes and to contribute to their education funds while learning skills that will benefit them in the classroom and beyond.
“We decided to sponsor this essay contest to give student employees the opportunity to reflect on the impact of their student working experience,” says Grant. “We hope to also use these reflections to encourage other students to become more aware of the benefits as well as challenges of working while in college.”
A committee of Dartmouth College staff members judged the essays on the basis of originality, creativity, and clarity. The prize-winning essays are presented below.
Amber Porter ’14 wrote on the subject “The Art of the Working Dartmouth Student.” (Photo by Eli Burakian '00)
The Art of the Working Dartmouth Student
By Amber H. H. Porter ’14
I didn’t apply for any student jobs my freshman fall, because I wanted to have the space to enjoy my college experience. Now, four years later, I have more jobs than I know what to do with—five, to be exact—and I can’t imagine my Dartmouth experience without them.
I came to Dartmouth with every intention of double-majoring in mathematical and social sciences on my way to becoming a political campaign manager. But I realized rather quickly that I could get hands-on managerial experience in theater. My work as a stage manager ignited my passion for theater, and also led me to my first job at Dartmouth—as a house manager for the Hopkins Center. Interning in the Hopkins Center’s director’s office and subsequently in the outreach and education office were added to my plate as I realized arts administration was somewhere I could make a real difference.
Since then, I’ve kept those three jobs and also been hired as the theater department student office worker, the stage manager for Dartmouth Idol, and the programming intern instituting the HOP Garage Bar—all while being a UGA.
As a full financial aid student, I need to work to support myself. But I could get by with just one of these jobs. So why five? My five jobs have funded my theater foreign study program in London and my off-term working at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., when no monetary assistance was available to me. I couldn’t have had my Dartmouth experience without them. More importantly, I don’t know what I would have learned at Dartmouth without them.
In one of my many jobs, I have saved the lives of patrons who required emergency assistance in the middle of a concert. I’ve fully researched every course offered by Dartmouth to ensure HOP visiting artists make the deepest impression possible during their short stay. I’ve called the cues for two sold-out shows in Spaulding. I’ve casually been a colleague of Joshua Bell. I’ve taught myself Photoshop and mastered the art of guerilla marketing. And I’ve created the newest hip social scene at Dartmouth—all in one building.
My friends joke that I should get a cot in the basement, because I’m never seen or heard from outside of Dartmouth’s “Arts District.” And Margaret Lawrence, the HOP’s director of programming, once joked to Bela Fleck that the building couldn’t run without me. I certainly do have a reputation.
I’ve kept my eyes and ears open, and absorbed everything I could in my time here, becoming a maven of the arts—preaching the gospel of creativity to fellow students, and proving to myself that I could succeed in a major that so few dare to declare. And succeed I will, with the experiences I’ve collected as a student employee.
Zev Medoff ’17 wrote about the impact of being a student employee at Dartmouth. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)
The Impact of Working at Dartmouth
By Zev Medoff ’17
There are 22 million veterans in the U.S., and more than 130,000 veterans in New Hampshire alone. Before beginning my work at Project VetCare, I was unaware of the troubles facing our returning heroes. From physical disabilities to emotional issues to mental impairments, the men and women who fight for our freedom confront difficulties most of us will never have to face. They endure these hardships after risking their lives to protect the liberties and freedom that we take for granted every day.
During my first week on the job, a Vietnam vet came in to Project VetCare to discuss his deteriorating financial situation. He had earned an award for his selfless service during the war, but after coming back to his home, suffered from PTSD that affected nearly all aspects of his life. In his later years, he began to feel the pain in his knees and shoulders from the years of carrying a 70-pound rucksack everywhere he went. Through all this, his family testified that he never complained about his increasingly difficult life. His hardships continued to mount until he was unable to continue his rigorous blue-collar job.
He didn’t know that he qualified for a disability payment from the very moment his problems started interfering with his daily life. Project VetCare assisted him in applying for a disability claim, and once approved, he will receive monthly compensation that will provide him with a more comfortable life. I don’t hear all of the stories of our veterans, due to confidentiality, but this Vietnam vet was comfortable telling me about his life. After hearing his story, I cannot think of anyone more deserving of a decent retirement.
My three terms as a student intern for Project VetCare have opened my eyes to the issues of an entire segment of the population that is often overlooked. Over 3.6 million veterans receive a service related disability claim, and those are only the ones who report their debilitating problems. It is a sad fact that over 16 percent of our heroes return home in a worse state than when they left, and I'm grateful to be helping them through my work.
During my time with Project VetCare, I've gained keen insight into the needs of returning soldiers. Overall, I've also become more sensitized to the needs of other minority groups that may be overlooked due to their small size and lack of political presence. Although my job search was initially fueled by my need for additional income, my work sparked an interest in social justice that could influence my future career choice.
How My Job Enhanced My Classroom Experience
By Qianlin "Jenny" Shou '16
Coming into freshman year was actually pretty intimidating for me, transitioning from 70 degrees and sunny Southern California. On the surface, it didn't seem like there was much to be anxious about. But it was all the little uncertainties about my roommate, my dorm, Trips, etc., that eventually added up and made my first week at Dartmouth one of the most nerve-racking of my life. And beyond all that, I was so, so worried about classes. It was a different story here than in high school; I'd be surrounded by valedictorians and legacies that knew what the professors were expecting and could keep their cool.
That nervousness carried over into my first day working at GreenCorps as a student caller. As a freshman, I just felt like there wasn't much to say about anything. I was still uncertain about Dartmouth and academics and this brand new environment, and the last thing I felt comfortable doing was calling successful alumni who had already crushed college and figured out their lives.
To my surprise, the people who picked up were friendly, lively, and seemed genuinely interested in my college experience. For a nervous '16 who felt a bit lost, it was so incredibly helpful to have alums I had never met or spoken to giving me advice, telling me about their trials and errors, and just giving me a place to voice my concerns. (It also helped that they were basically giving me money after every phone call.) In a sense, GreenCorps had become a different sort of classroom, with old graduates as the professors. Eventually, I resolved to speak up at least once or twice in my real classes and that got me raising my hand more and more.
Working at GreenCorps helped me find my sense of place, where I fit in among all those voices of Dartmouth, and I found that I could speak up and be heard just like anyone else. I think it's where I got my strongest sense of the Dartmouth family, the fact that strangers were willing to pick up the phone and help out a nervous freshman. It got me out of the mindset that my professors were out to get me, and helped me realize that they just wanted to help. And that's continued to this day: I always make a point to speak up in class even if I do feel uncomfortable, because of the advice I've gotten from alums a whole lot smarter and wiser than me.
My roommate ended up being my best friend, my dorm felt more and more like home, and I ended up doing weekly dinners with my Trippees. And classes worked out so, so much better than I expected. Of course, I can't take all the credit; I had the wisdom of dozens of generations of Big Green alums backing me up—in probably one of the best classes I've taken at Dartmouth thus far.