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Past Winners


Nivedha S. of University of Illinois at Chicago

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How do you promote kindness and equality in your community?

As a society, we seem fixated on the differences of our skins, beliefs, political ideology, and we believe that these superficial differences are insurmountable. Yet, we can transcend beyond our differences by being kind. I’ve seen it happen in my community. At the nursing home where I work, there was a 100-year-old who threatened me every time I took care of her. She would curse and scream and call me slurs because I had a different color skin than her. And one day, as I was taking care of her, she threw a mug at my feet, shattering the mug. But instead of yelling, I smiled, bent down, and picked up the pieces. Shock was evident on her face, and instead of yelling, she smiled and uttered a single word, “Thanks.” And at that moment, our differences didn’t matter. I wasn’t a brown kid, and she wasn’t a white lady. We were merely people. It was kindness that made a difference. We don’t have to look the same or pray the same, or even think the same. All we have to be is kind, and we will bridge the division between us.


Kaitlyn C. of Kansas State University

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What makes you happy?:

"Firefly" moments in life make me happy. Through all trials and tribulations I have encountered in life, I have found that even the light of a firefly is something to smile about, they're so small yet when the night is black, one can't help but smile at a field full of them. Everywhere I go, I search for fireflies - and I find them. I find their light in my shoes being exactly where I remembered them being in the morning, I find them in the peaceful quiet morning at work before meetings, I even find them in a pair of jeans fitting just right. No matter what chaos may be ensuing around me, it's those precious little lights - those tiny reminders that I'm alive and well - that make me happy. They're impossible to ignore, those little lightening bugs, for they always seem to land on the tip of your nose at the smell of the beach, or on your rosy cheek after a day spent with loved ones, or on the bend of your ear after hearing good news, even on your head when you're just having a really great hair day. I'm an expert firefly finder, and I believe that we all should be.

Hope K. of University of Maryland, College Park


What makes you happy?

In seventh grade, I told my mom I wanted to talk for my career and then proceeded to dream about being a talk show host. So, sure, I guess talking makes me happy, but what was a dream to be the next “Oprah” cultivated into my true passion: Journalism. People and places make me happy-- specifically, sharing their story through the words I write. As an aspiring journalist, my biggest goal is to tell the stories of people and places that do not have the opportunity to use their own voice. This past year, I contributed to the Since Parkland project in which I wrote profiles for over 30 children and teenagers who lost their lives due to gun violence in the year following the Marjory Stoneman Douglass shooting. I did not focus on the circumstances of their death, rather I researched their favorite hobby, musical instrument or sport. No, this project didn’t bring me sheer joy. In fact, I had tears in my eyes while writing multiple profiles. But I made a real impact, and I do not want to stop there. I want to continue to make change with my words and writing, and just thinking about that brings me great happiness.


Reed H. of Loyola Marymount University


What makes you happy? :

"It is merely impossible to put your finger on solely one thing that makes you happy. I believe that sometimes the simplest quirks of life are forgotten, not because we don’t enjoy them but because we take them for granted. Happiness is taking your shoes off when you get home, squeezing into a tight parking space, or finding a twenty dollar bill in your coat pocket. It’s a good laugh with your best friends. Not a chuckle or smile, but the laugh when your lungs are crying for air and tears start to flow from your eyes. Happiness is a good hair day or a perfectly baked pie even though you forgot to put on the timer. Have you ever put your music on shuffle and have your favorite song come on first? Or have the elevator arrive as soon as you press the button? Yeah, sure we’d all be happy being a millionaire with the huge mansion and limited edition Lamborghini. But the truth is, most of us won’t get that opportunity. Although it seems like that may be a bad thing, you are mistaken. I consider myself the happiest man on Earth. I am a professional happiness seeker. It doesn’t take much to put a smile on my face because I enjoy the little things in life that most people won’t take the time to notice. I think of every moment of my life as an opportunity to be happy, and you should too." - Reed H.

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