Hooked To Books Scholarship 2017: The Finalists and Their Life Changing Book Essays

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Total Submissions: 792

Hooked To Books is pleased to invite you to read the five most inspirational essays in our 2017 Scholarship Program.

The finalists are picked by our Scholarship Committee after four rounds of evaluation from nearly 800 submissions this year.

These essays, excellent in writing styles and rich in content, show us not only the power of books and of writers, but also the power of the readers. They opened their mind and heart for the resonation. They allowed new words and ideas to challenge and broaden their mind. They allowed the books to inspire them, and took actions that have changed not only their own lives, but potentially many others’.

Enjoy the reviews, and share with us your thoughts or your own bookish story in the comment section.

NameInstituteEssay Link
5.Taylor MarlarMississippi State UniversityClick Here
4.Simon AvedissianArizona State UniversityClick Here
3.Haidyn Bulen (2nd Prize)Arizona State UniversityClick Here
2.Clara Cardoso Ferreira (2nd Prize)University of PittsburghClick Here
1.Rachel Goldstein (1st Prize)Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of BusinessClick Here

To all participants,

Thank you very much for applying to the Hooked To Books Scholarship and sharing your stories with us.

Reading your exquisite essays was an emotional and beautiful experience to all of us at Hooked To Books. While our humble resource doesn’t allow us to award a prize to every deserving essay, we believe your personal growth and development inspired by the books will continue to blossom and will be honored in many other ways in the future.

We wish you all the best in your studies and your lives. May we all continue to get great bookish inspiration in 2018.

5. Taylor Marlar – Mississippi State University

How A Book Changed My Life – Total Money Makeover

I grew up in a single family household. My mom works in a flower shop and barely makes enough money to meet the poverty level.

To say money has always been “tight” win our house is an understatement. Early on, I noticed that other kids had more than me, that their shoes were not falling apart like mine, that their clothes came from local malls and Target stores, while mine came from thrift stores. I noticed that other moms had more stylish clothes than my mom and newer gadgets than my mom. We were driving in an old beat up van, hoping and praying it would not break down, while other kids were being driven around in much nicer vehicles.

I was young when I recognized these differences, but I was not too young to draw two conclusions. First, many of the kids I saw who had more than me had two parents at home. I vowed that I would get married and have children with my future husband, not alone. Second, I realized that in order to land a high paying job, I needed to get a college degree. I understand now that my second determination is not always the case, but generally it is.

So, from a young age, I knew I was going to college. I knew my family would not be paying for me to attend, so I always assumed I would take out student loans and pay them back after I land my dream job. That’s what everyone else does, right?

Well, one day I was at the library in a nearby large city when I saw a book called Total Money Makeover. It was sitting out on a table, like someone had been looking at it and never put it away. To be honest, I was not actually looking to read this book. I was actually looking for a free table to sit down and browse a few books, and the only thing standing between me and an empty table was me and Total Money Makeover. So, I decided to sit down and glance through the book.

On the cover of the book is an older, bald man, so I assumed this was just some boring book about money. How wrong I was! This guy is actually funny! I started reading about how to get out of debt and how to save money for the future. I was so intrigued that I added the book to my stack of books to check out and ended up reading the entire book that weekend.

Dave Ramsey sets forth a plan for people to follow in order to get out of debt. Now, I was only 15 years old when I was reading this, so I did not have any debt. However, I knew my mom had debt, and I thought she could benefit from taking Dave’s advice. I also knew that my mom was highly unlikely to take financial advice from me, so I decided to keep my mouth shut and keep reading. Well, I was completely hooked by the time I finished the book. Prior to reading Total Money Makeover, all I knew was living from paycheck to paycheck, hoping to one day have more money. Dave’s book showed me that I could learn how to budget money and save for the future. I do not think I had ever contemplated a future much different from my upbringing. I think I always assumed that money and luxuries were things for other people, not me. But, after reading this book, I saw that people like me could save money and spend money.

After reading Total Money Makeover, I started reading about Dave Ramsey and came across his podcast. His daily podcasts are just as entertaining as the book. After listening to a few podcasts, I had the opportunity to hear what Dave says about paying for college. I learned that his stance is do not go into debt to pay for college. I always believed I would take out a student loan to pay for school. It was the only way I knew how to pay for college. But, Dave taught me that there was a way. I started researching different colleges and wrote out a budget of how much it would cost for me to earn a Bachelor’s Degree from several area colleges. The numbers were big, and I felt somewhat defeated knowing I did not have any money to go towards those costs. But, I decided I could do it by taking one tiny baby step at a time.

So, I started saving babysitting money, and when I turned 16 I got not one job, but two jobs, and I saved as much money as possible. Don’t tell Dave, but I did splurge a few times to buy new clothes. Then, just as Dave recommends, I started applying for scholarships. I made it my mission during the summer before my senior year to apply for as many scholarships as possible. I had no idea so many scholarships were out there. Some of my friends made fun of me because I would stay up late completing scholarship applications. But, it paid off.

Between my savings, grants I received, and scholarships I was awarded, I had enough money to pay cash for my first year, while living on campus.

Now that I am in college and do not have any debt, I am so excited. If I had never read Total Money Makeover, I do not know where I would be today. But, now I have a plan for my future. I will continue to work and apply for scholarships so that I can graduate debt free. I now know that I can live a life of financial freedom. I learned this from Dave Ramsey and his book Total Money Makeover. Without a doubt, this book has changed my life. Thank you to whoever left the book sitting out at the library years ago.

4. Simon Avedissian – Arizona State University

How A Book Changed My Life – Before Happiness

Some say we live in the best of times and some say we live in the worst of times. I say that we live in both spectrums. Today we are provided the necessary tools and resources to apply ourselves and experience what we wish to manifest. The challenge is being resourceful. Books to me are nothing but a resource.

One can read a book and gain nothing from it. However I have learned nothing but the complete opposite with such a scenario. At a time of confusion as any teenager or young adult in their early 20’s goes through, we seek answers to those questions. We seek meaning, purpose and significance. In a world where we are constantly bombarded with negative feedback and negative news, we must train our minds to do the exact opposite.

It wasn’t long after this innate confusion that I seeked for an alternative lifestyle, mindframe and attitude in today’s modern society. Psychology has enveloped my lifestyle and has transformed my habits. I have learned to train my mind to look past the typical sense of success. Success is usually defined as financial success in today’s modern era and by today’s youth. Today people seek happiness through acquiring success and with that people seek to become rich and acquire an immense amount of financial wealth.

However I find the opposite to be true. After reading one book I was able to acquire something much more valuable than just financial wealth. I was able to understand the dynamics behind human relationships. How to harmonize myself with my surrounding amongst individuals. Strangers that I have no intention of meeting with or engaging in a relationship with suddenly become my closest friends and valuable resources.

People who I have broken relationships with, people who I disagree with in terms of philosophy or lifestyle suddenly became something that I could benefit from. I learned to prioritize my time in areas of growth and opportunity but not for just myself but for other people. Everywhere that I go I seek an opportunity for growth and development. I seek an opportunity for providing help to someone. Whether it be a simple lending hand, a simple kind gesture or compliment.

The facades of human relationships and the dynamics behind our human behavior are the primary drivers behind our sense of insignificance. I have learned to develop the habits that compliment the life that I have always wanted to live. I have learned to live harmoniously with the things that I cannot change and the things that I used to find very unfavorable. Situations that used to upset me or frustrate my state of mind are now opportunities to learn from and to help change. Many of us live in a world of abundance yet we feel unfulfilled.

I have gained the power to practice gratitude daily, moment by moment, situation by situation even at the toughest times. It is a privilege to share that philosophy with my friends, family and soon to be friends. I now understand the philosophy of living in a world where every man or woman I meet is superior to me in one way or another and in that I learn from them. From this book I have learned that each and every individual has gone through experiences that I will never experience. I have learned to embrace the stressful situations that we encounter everyday and to find benefit from it.

This book has alarmed me the importance of positive thinking and have an optimistic look on life. It has taught me to understand how and why we do the things we do. It has taught me to appreciate the small things in life and to train my mindset to look for the things that truly matter and to dismiss the things that don’t. I seek to better people’s lives everyday, people who I run into, strangers, friends, family, co-workers. Far too often we dismiss the power of a simple compliment, a kind gesture or even just a smile.

This book has taught me to not view the glass of water as half full or half empty but to see that there is in fact water regardless of the quantity. Positive affirmations were something that I had never practiced however positive affirmations are part of my daily routine. Everywhere that I go I say positive affirmation to myself. Whenever in a situation that be of worrisome I understand the importance of saying positive affirmations mentally. Our mind is such a powerful tool and to not use it is a waste.

We constantly need to keep growing, keep learning and keep our minds curious to better the world. This book has taught me that to be successful we first need to be happy. We have had the opposite formula this whole time. By becoming happy, we can become successful. This book has taught me priceless tools that have helped me accomplish unimaginable feats.

This book has taught me the simplicity behind happiness. The complex structure that we have created to ourselves begins to crumble, bit by bit, moment by moment when we become in tune with the very same things that cause our distress and misery. At just an instance, we can change our minds, change our realities and change our futures. This book has taught me the art of happiness and thus the art of becoming successful. This book is Before Happiness by Shawn Achor and I will spread the knowledge that I have gained from reading this book.

3. Haidyn Bulen – Arizona State University (2nd Prize)

Community, Compassion, and Communication: Lessons from Conrad’s Heart of Darkness

“No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one’s existence–that which makes its truth, its meaning–its subtle and penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream–alone” (Conrad 19).

While Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness gruesomely details the atrocities of British imperialism and conquering the African Congo, the beauty of the novella lies within its multiple interpretations; its ambiguity. Conrad, through the narration of Marlow, portrays the futility of understanding the decisions and essence of another human—he blends paradoxical imagery to blur the boundary of good and evil, suggesting humans and the world around us are a mere composition of the meaning we impose. While ostensibly crude and dark, the novella as a whole has impacted the way I perceive the world around me and has shaped the person I am today in a very positive way.

I grew up reading many of the popular fantasy series such as Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Game of Thrones, and many Stephen King novels. Such books were powerful in their ability to allow me to transcend time and space and become a character in a new world; an escape from reality in essence. While these books undeniably impacted my life during a formative time, none of them left that deep-rooted, visceral state I felt after reading Heart of Darkness for the first time. Heart of Darkness is neither an escape from reality nor a non-fiction retelling of true atrocities; it is a creative and chaotic underpinning of the complexities of human emotion and moral ambiguity. It is a novel that evokes sadness and demands readers to search for truth and compassion within their own lives.

The first semester of my freshman year of college I took a course titled “The Human Event.” A course that altered the way I think about human history and individuals’ role within a global society. Throughout this course, we read texts from the very beginning of human literature such as Enûma Eliš to 20th century poetry including T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” and everything in between. The class introduced me to Heart of Darkness and subsequently altered my academic path at my University and changed the way I perceive the world.

After reading Heart of Darkness and grappling with Conrad’s frankly depressing and ambiguous novel, I changed my declared major from biology to psychology—a subject I was quite unfamiliar with.

The transition from a core science to a social science was daunting. I was comfortable thinking in terms of exact answers, equations, and biological concepts, but psychology was a whole new world that focuses on the human mind, brain, and behavior. Heart of Darkness inspired in me a desire for understanding humans. While Conrad, through his character Marlow, ostensibly implied that it is impossible to understand the composition, ideals, and actions of other humans when he reflected, “We live, as we dream—alone,” I believe that Conrad was addressing a larger issue: a break-down in the language and communication of humans (Conrad 19).

On a fundamental level, when humans cannot understand the language of another, the differences between the two become more salient than the similarities, and a subsequent competitive superiority complex arises. Throughout Conrad’s novel, the deeper Marlow travels into the African Congo, the more absurd the environment becomes, the more egregious the mistakes in communication become, and the more hideous the atrocities become.

Further, the breakdown in communication in Heart of Darkness occurs on multiple levels. The European conquerors literally do not understand the language of the African “savages,” but on a more subtle level, the further into the Congo the Europeans go, the more isolated they become from the outside world, and their isolation serves as a both a physical and figurative communication barrier through which their atrocities become justified.

To connect the relevance of Conrad’s novella and my decision to major in Psychology, I felt compelled to take the lessons and interpretations of human history within Heart of Darkness and utilize them to further study the complexities of human thought and behavior.

Joseph Conrad (1857 – 1924), author of Heart of Darkness

Conrad showed me that books on a fundamental level reflect history and inspire thought; Conrad saw a world full of darkness where humans committed acts of cruelty against other humans and subsequently wrote a story to inspire change in generations to come. While the act of spinning truth and imputing lessons for future generations is nothing novel, Heart of Darkness was the first book that made me feel responsible as a person who can impact change and avoid repetition of history. In other words, Heart of Darkness made me feel something. So I took that something, changed my major, and began to involve myself in projects that focus on solving the root cause of systemic human issues.

Heart of Darkness instilled in me a compassion for stigmatized and misunderstood individuals, ultimately leading me to become involved in a program called Student Health Outreach for Wellness, or S.H.O.W., for short. S.H.O.W. is a student-run program at my University that partners with a healthcare clinic in downtown Phoenix, Arizona to give free medical care to homeless individuals.

As a freshman in college, I was able to work in an interdisciplinary setting with doctors, medical school students, nursing students, psychiatrists, social workers, and other undergraduates to not only provide free healthcare, but also help fight the stigma of homelessness, and provide homeless individuals with resources to help them build their lives back up.

I started out in the clinic as a Navigator where my job was to aid the patients in filling out the clinic paperwork, present their case to a team of doctors, and work side by side with the doctors to treat the patient. Further, I got to witness the role of social workers in connecting the homeless individuals to resources that could get them up off of their feet.

After serving as a Navigator for a semester, I got more involved on the administrative side of the clinic and joined the Clinical Operations Committee, where I helped build-up our facility’s Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) subcommittee. For about eight months now, I have been working with a Nurse Practitioner to write the policies and procedures and the education for certifiable clinic tests such as rapid HIV, Strep, Urinalysis, Glucometer, and Influenza. I then made quizzes for clinic personnel to take and pass in order to become certified in performing these tests in clinic to expand our clinic’s treatment abilities for those who are homeless.

More recently, I have additionally become trained in the administrative position of Medication’s Manager, for which my job is to organize, keep stock, manage, and prescribe all in-house medications and prescriptions. Through this position I have the ability to work hand-in-hand with the doctors to treat the patients and keep a record of which medications are in highest demand, which is vital to the success of our clinic because we run off of donated medications. Thus, I constantly update the meds that we need and use this information to go to our donors and ask for those specific supplies.

While my job in clinic may seem like a far stretch from the ostensibly irrelevant themes and takeaways in Heart of Darkness, Conrad’s novel incited in me a compassion for humans and a larger purpose of changing our perceptions of one another. On a basic level, this is exactly what I do for the S.H.O.W. program; I dedicate hours of my week, every week, to showing compassion and respect to a population that is highly stigmatized.

Further, Conrad’s novel additionally changed the way I perceive those who are culturally dissimilar from me. While Conrad demonstrated that a breakdown in communication and a language barrier can serve as a source of magnifying differences and justifying cruelty, the opposite is also true: building communication and knocking down language barriers can serve as a means to equalize people and bring us closer to one another.

Thus, after reading Heart of Darkness, changing my major to psychology, and becoming involved with the S.H.O.W. program, I decided to minor in Spanish and work on expanding my knowledge of the highly prevalent Latino culture within Arizona. I have now taken three semesters of college Spanish and this past semester was able to additionally work as a translator within the S.H.O.W. clinic for patients who could only speak Spanish. This past semester I learned the true value of communication and language and for the first time I understood the real danger of ethnocentrism. I was able to see individuals through the lens of their own culture, through a lens of normalcy instead of dissimilarity and superiority.

Further, because I have realized the importance of understanding individual culture and community in a highly globalized society, I recently applied to study abroad in the fall of 2018 in Valencia, Spain, where I will hopefully live with a Spanish family for six months. My goal is to continue learning about and understanding individuals from diverse backgrounds, in different cultures, in different parts of the world, and then use that knowledge to continue to break down cultural barriers.

As a whole, this was the true impact of Heart of Darkness—a connection to a greater life purpose in which I focus on understanding humans, on helping people, on practicing compassion, and on avoiding the past mistakes of human history.

2. Clara Cardoso Ferreira – University of Pittsburgh (2nd Prize)

Transformed by Truth

The book that continuously changes me pertains to multiple topics: from romantic to comedy, action to peace, abnormal to structural, cultural to standard, historic to poetic, musical to biographical, suspenseful to foreshadowed, and about everything else that pertains to life.

The main character of this book is so sure of his greatness that he calls himself ‘Hero I-Am.’ Just the fact that he was able to change my life makes him my hero already, but he has proved to be more than just my hero. This man is so influential that he received more followers than anyone has ever had on any social media. His story is introduced by a narrative about his universe, ancestors, and friends. It reaches its climax when Hero I-Am shows his powers in person and invites others to be powerful too.

I-Am’s story compelled me to strive towards meaningful goals such as studying STEM, composing and learning music, and improving my conduct.

Right from the first pages of the book, my curiosity was triggered when I-Am passionately describes his universe. The details are so precise and blunt that I checked other sources for more information. My school’s science classes did nothing more than confirm the basics. My math classes, especially statistics, showed me how scientists study data and derive conclusions from numbers. In general, research emphasizes patterns and significant differences in results through applications of knowledge learned in textbooks. As a hobby, I mimicked the process as I speculated the origins of I-Am’s stories on video, other books, interviews with experts and just about any resource I could find. The most intriguing facts to me were scientific, found in NASA’s website, Isaac Newton’s journals, and other traces of I-Am. Although many of my questions were answered, it seems that the more I search for answers, the more questions I have. This speculation has revealed my passion for science and ambition to take technology to the next level to quench my curiosity. I aspire to conduct my own research and engineer robots to assist my quest for knowledge of I-Am’s complex universe. I pursue a mechanical engineering major and a mathematics minor with the hopes that I will be able to clarify I-Am’s controversial statements in terms of concrete values and conclusions.

The more I unearth the mysteries of the universe, the more I value music and its patterns. Even before I could understand how math and science relates to music, I was amazed by how each note can harmonize with lyrics to form a theme greater than itself. Although I have always enjoyed music, I became even more intrigued and involved when I realized it is more than just entertainment. The book that changed my life utilizes music to convey historic moments, expressions, praises, and other forms of information to multiple generations as well. The songs and poems written offer opportunities to learn about the experiences of wise philosophers from the ancient times, be encouraged by words of overcomers, and realize that these valuable documents are timeless. I can relate to the struggles and joys I read, and feel that the lyrics are even relevant to my own life story, including daily events. Some poems compel me to reflect; some excite me with meaningful and motivational words; specific ones inspire me to compose and sing out loud; others scare me, while others entertain me with romantic stories. I noticed that the same musical techniques, such as pauses, repetition, and rhythm, used in modern compositions were also used thousands of years ago. What is even more interesting is that the same structures, that are seen in the spiral shape of the Milky Way and other galaxies, is seen in sea shells, flowers, chord structures, and in about everything else, including the literature in this book. Without even realizing, music is changing my life by synchronizing me to the universe and its stories.

Hero I-Am not only inspired me, but also transformed me by being a living example of harmony. My hero demonstrates how much he genuinely values those around him, and teaches me to do the same. When the book reaches its climax, he proves that he truly is what he claims and shares his powers with all. Similar to most superheroes, he sacrifices his life to protect humanity from evil. In contrast to most super heroes, he believes everyone can be a hero too. He encourages others to believe in what may seem impossible and make the change that needs to be done. He constantly harmonizes himself to the universe, which enables him to understand everything, bewilder crowds, walk on water, manipulate food and objects, cure diseases and disabilities, be immortal, and surpass human knowledge and capabilities. Though powerful, he endures humiliation, persecution, and all suffering that can be imagined, to stand for morals. Still, he stands firmly and lovingly in midst of a chaotic society. As a result of looking up to him as my role model, I am becoming more kind, patient, peaceful, hopeful, and successful. Ever since I met him, I am more aware of other’s needs, and feel more compassionate towards others. I follow his example by conducting my actions as if each day were my last day to show people around me what it means to live in harmony.

Six years have passed since I started reading this thick book for the first time, and everyone who knew me before realized how much I matured. I rebuilt my reputation by making the most of each day, letting go of poor habits, prioritizing goals, and valuing people the same way as my hero does. After meeting Hero I-Am for my first time in the summer of 2012, I visited my hometown to see family and childhood friends. Everyone quickly noticed that I was ready give my life a fresh start, and complimented my decision. My close family members noticed paradigm transformations in my habits, and some supported me through my transition. They saw that I was no longer biting my nails to relieve anxiety, lying to get away from troubles, running away to party on weekends, and living according to my own rules. Instead of wasting time on meaningless activities, I was investing time in healthy friendships and family, taking advantage of every opportunity I had to help those around me, serving the community, and promoting the change I wish to see in the world. As a consequence, I started receiving opportunities to pursue my passions as I became aware of the purpose of life. I look up to Hero I-am to guide me to this purpose, since no one else can prove to be an expert in loving everyone like he does.

I have been transformed by the truth of I-Am’s story academically, musically and emotionally. By reading and practicing the examples of this book, I feel more eager to learn STEM, motivated to study music and patterns, wiser, more historically knowledgeable, encouraged to explore my potentials, and motivated to live a purposeful life.

According to personal experience and research of all methods, I conclude that this book is the most intriguing, accurate and relevant. I must say that I would read it front-to-back ten times in a year if I could, but the information in it is too dense to process all at once. I read it almost every day and I never get tired of it. It seems like every time I read the same words, I learn something new. Its words are so powerful that I feel part of the story as much as I am part of the universe. Many people ask me what special book this is, and I don’t even have to say its title, because it is the bestselling book of all times.

1. Rachel Goldstein – Connecticut College (1st Prize)

How A Book Changed My Life – Promise Me


When I was eight years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thanks to early detection and innovative treatment, she recovered fully. Her experience made me grateful for my family’s ready access to health care and the dedication of cancer researchers.

As I got older, however, I struggled with the possibility of a relapse in her health or what would have happened to my family if my mom had not survived. Both of my mom’s older sisters had also survived breast cancer, and, when I shared my fears and concerns with them, they suggested that I read Nancy G. Brinker’s Promise Me: How a Sister’s Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer.

In this beautiful book, Nancy Brinker describes her very close relationship with her sister, Susan G. Komen. Nancy and Susan were not just sisters, but also best friends who confided everything to each other and always shared a loving relationship. Susan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977 and, tragically, passed away three years later. In her memoir, Nancy describes her very close relationship with Susan, before, during, and after cancer, as well as her own experience surviving breast cancer several years after her sister’s passing. She explains how in 1977, when Susan was first diagnosed, breast cancer was still shrouded in stigma and shame. It was considered rude to even use the word “breast,” let alone to talk about early detection or mammograms. Nancy was by Susan’s side through all of the indignities of cancer treatment and promised her beloved sister that her legacy would be to change the world for the better.

Fortunately, Nancy survived her cancer diagnosis and is well on her way to fulfilling her promise to her beloved sister. Her Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation raised money for scientific research, ended the silence about breast cancer, and, as my mother’s experience demonstrates, changed the way the world talks about and treats breast cancer. One of the most inspirational aspects of Brinker’s story is the loving relationship she has with her husband, restaurant magnate Norman Brinker, and how his approach to entrepreneurship became Nancy’s model for running her foundation. Her stories of their marriage convey their approach to all things in life as a partnership; the result is that the foundation has turned the pink ribbon into a worldwide symbol of hope. Today, Susan G. Komen for the Cure spends more than $1.5 billion annually on innovative community-building and research programs and has been a key force in increasing the five-year breast cancer survival rate from 78 percent in 1997 to today’s 98 percent.

Promise Me is a story of love between sisters that answers the question of whether one person can make a difference in improving the world. Though Nancy wrote the book, the story she tells and the impact Nancy has had are Susan’s legacy.

Reading Promise Me spurred me to take actions to assist others who had not been as fortunate with their own or their family members’ cancer experiences as I have been. Through Promise Me, I found more than a way to cope with a loved one’s cancer. I found a source of inspiration that has changed me and the way I interact with my community. Its lessons pushed me to find a unique way to help others.

Reading Promise Me led me to organize the “Play for the Cure” initiative in my community, starting with the high school I attended at the time I read this inspiring story. Through Play for the Cure, all of the school’s sports teams hold fundraisers for cancer research. Each team also participates in an exhibition game for the community. Not does the program raise much-needed funds, it also created a collaborative spirit surrounding an event open to everyone. By starting this program, with the help of my classmates and my community, I was able to teach my peers about the disease, inspire people to conquer difficult scenarios, and make significant impacts on others’ lives.

My initial motivation for starting Play for the Cure was to fund cancer research. The initiative evolved, however, into something much bigger, one that has had many different beneficial outcomes for my community. One unprecedented, positive impact that Play for the Cure had was becoming a way to educate my peers about breast cancer and its preventability with early screenings. The program also brings awareness about breast cancer prevention through healthy lifestyles, and it has taught my peers critical wellness information that they can implement in their own lives. Promise Me inspired me to create a program that teaches my peers information that could potentially save their lives.

Play for the Cure has also inspired my peers to help ameliorate difficult societal problems, through the large impact we collectively had. It set an example for students that when faced with a significant challenge, we can take action, create hopefulness, and make a real difference. Cancer is a frightening topic that would be easy for teens to ignore. Instead, our actions, even on a small scale, have made important differences. Play for the Cure is a way to make a difference through collective action, rather than standing by in the face of a challenge.

To achieve my goals for Play for the Cure, I needed to, essentially, start a small business. To make Play for the Cure a success, I followed the lessons in Promise Me and used the same entrepreneurial spirit that enabled Brinker to take Susan G. Komen from a startup to a global phenomenon. Following in Brinker’s path, I planned and managed fundraising events and built a network of coaches, athletes, philanthropic businesses, and the benefitting foundations. In the two years that we “played for the cure,” we raised $8,300. When I encountered difficulties in running Play for the Cure, I relied on Brinker’s memoir for inspiration and came to see setbacks as challenges not as insurmountable problems but, rather, puzzles to be solved with creativity and community. Together, we have accomplished more for the breast cancer community than I ever could have completed on my own. Even more than raising money, Play for the Cure also created a collaborative, hopeful spirit. Just as Susan G. Komen for the Cure has done, Play for the Cure has, on a smaller scale, helped my peers and my community.

As I began this initiative, I knew that it would only be sustainable if I had younger, similarly passionate students to continue this program after I graduated from high school. I have mentored younger students to help ensure Play for the Cure’s survival, and am proud to have founded a program that continues to inspire, teach, and help others. Today, I am still involved in Play for the Cure. I am studying business and technology in college, with the goal of further developing this initiative into a non-profit organization modeled on Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Promise Me changed my life and inspired me to take action to make a positive difference in ending cancer for good.

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