YuJa Announces 2023 Scholarship Winner
Students entered essays on a variety of topics, including artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, video conferencing, medical advancements, Chat GPT, and more.
A panel of judges selected Esther Kim as the winner. Esther is a student at the University of Southern California, where she is majoring in occupational therapy. Her essay was titled “Assistive Technology Devices.” In it, she highlights how assistive technology devices have transformed the lives of nonverbal individuals with autism by providing them with a means to communicate, increasing their independence, and fostering social interaction.
Read more about Esther below and watch this video spotlight to learn more.
Tell us about yourself.
“I want to still be actively involved in volunteering with special needs organizations in my free time and help in any way I can with my experiences and expertise.”
My name is Esther Kim. I am extremely passionate about helping the special needs community because my younger brother Joseph, who has autism, changed my life. I am very active and athletic so I love spending time outdoors, constantly working on improving myself and my health.
In my free time, I crochet all sorts of knick-knacks and clothes while watching an exciting horror film or Friends for the 10th time in a row.
What has been your best experience in school?
My experience in school has been so fulfilling in many ways. Some of my best memories and experiences has been exploring the Los Angeles area including the beaches, museums, amusement parks, and all of the concerts and events around USC.
What influenced your choice of major?
My younger brother Joseph heavily influenced my choice of occupational therapy as a major because I was able to witness firsthand how impactful this career can be for people with specific needs. This major has been a dream and a goal of mine since middle school so it feels unreal to be living out my dream.
How do you envision yourself in five years?
In five years I will hopefully be working as an occupational therapist at a clinic with children with special needs. I want to still be actively involved in volunteering with special needs organizations in my free time and help in any way I can with my experiences and expertise.
What do you hope to learn from your college experience?
From my college experience, I hope to learn as much as I can about autism spectrum disorder. I have so much hands-on experience, spending so much time with people on the spectrum but I would love to really learn about and get a deeper understanding on the biology, science, and quirks of autism spectrum disorder.
The iPhone’s Effect On Our Society
A reason that I believe iPhone has the popularity is because in our society there has been a line drawn between iPhone and Samsung or any other brand of smartphone. People believe there is a better quality in speed, camera, apps, and other features of the iPhone.The reason why this is the biggest influential in today’s society is because it affects everyone including who do have an iPhone and those who do not. The iPhone allows users to call,text,surf the web, use apps, facetime (video chat), and other tools. One of the biggest problems in society has been produced from all of the uses that are available on this phone. In groups of people that are friends or family you would imagine interaction between them. In today’s society, almost everyone in a room is noticed to be on an iPhone or other brand of smartphone. I have experienced situations where I am with friends and everyone is just sitting on their phone. I think to myself wondering what the point of being with each other is when everyone is sitting on their phone scrolling.
“In today’s society almost everyone in a room is noticed to be on an iPhone or other brand of smartphone.”
One way I tried to solve this is I have told the people I was with to place their phones in a pile so that we could interact with each other. This is one way in which smartphones including the iPhone have affected our society while one more being the use of apps of social media. With so many people using iPhones it comes with the ability to use social media in an easier way that on the web. Social media influences our society in positive and negative ways. A beneficial way I have experienced is that it is an easy way to stay in touch with friends and family that are near and far. Of course you could call, but sometimes that is not always quick or they may not be available when you are. Social media is a quick casual way to see pictures and posts of how others are doing. One negative that has affected many people emphasizing young and older teens which is cyber bullying. With apps being at an easy access through iPhones and various smartphones people find it easy to say attacking words about or to people through their accounts on social media or even through text. Of course there was bullying before the smartphone, but this has given bullies an easy way to say what they want to people without having to face them.
Social media does have the option to report, but unfortunately some people will continue the bullying. Through social media,the way people are interacting with each other, and the dominance Apple has over other products I believe that the iPhone is the most influential piece of technology.
Editor’s Note: This essay was written by Anissah Surita, winner of the 2019 YuJa Essay Scholarship Contest. Learn more about Anissah here.
Location, Price, and Major: Three College Factors Important to Me
Because I still want to be kind of close near to home, it causes me to look at schools specifically in my state, California. Once I find a school I’m interested in, the next factor for me to hone in on is price. Although I have applied for scholarships and will complete the FAFSA with my parents, this does not guarantee I’ll receive an affordable college education. For my parent’s sake and my own, I will have to strongly evaluate the quality of the education I’ll be receiving and if it is truly worth the price.
“For my parents sake and my own, I will have to strongly evaluate the quality of the education I’ll be receiving and if it is truly worth the price.”
With many students graduating college with $30,000 in student loan debt, it is an important factor to look into early while there’s still time. Finally, I will also be considering what programs are available for the major I hope to pursue. I hope to major in political science and minor in either journalism or psychology. While all of these majors are available at many colleges, this doesn’t mean that your education in certain colleges will be the best. Because I plan to work in these fields when I graduate, it’s important that I get an education that prepares me for what I’ll encounter in these job fields daily.
If I am not equipped with the knowledge and real-world skills I can apply to my job after I leave college, then what is the point of going? If I focus on location, price, and programs for my major while deciding on the colleges I’m interested in, then I hopefully will be able to find a school that I truly love.
Editor’s Note: This essay was written by Christian Parham, winner of the 2017 YuJa Essay Scholarship Contest. Learn more about Christian here.
April 2017 Scholarship Winner – Karlee Greer
Tell us about yourself
Name: Karlee Greer
Current School: Skyridge High School
I’m a ballroom dancer, an AP student, and ASL lover! I’m going to be a freshman at Utah State University in the fall, pursuing a degree in communicative disorders and deaf education. LDS and proud to be so, I am currently preparing to serve a full time, 18 month mission. I am also a certified dental assistant.
What has been your best experience in school?
I have made so many friends during school. Every choice you make impacts who your friends are, and who your friends are impact who you are. I am extremely grateful for my friends and the person they’ve shaped me into.
What influenced your choice in major?
Originally, I wanted to major in Neuroscience, but through choices I made and classes I took, I ended up in ASL 2. It was there that I discovered I have a love both for the language and for deaf culture. I looked in to it more, and decided to pursue a degree in speech pathology.
How do you envision yourself in 5 years?
In five years, I’ll be a near college graduate. I’m excited to be fluent in ASL and a more experienced dental assistant.
What do you hope to learn from your school experience?
I want to learn how to interact with others better. I’ve always been kind of socially awkward, so I’m excited for the experience to grow and mature.
What extracurricular activities do you enjoy?
I love dancing and ASL. I actually have an ASL YouTube channel where I post covers of songs I’ve translated into ASL. I’m also on my school’s ballroom dance team. This is my second year doing ballroom, after a long history of ballet, and I absolutely love it!
June 2017 Scholarship Winner – Christian Parham
Tell us about yourself.
- I am 17 year old senior in high school who lives in California. I enjoy politics and reading. I have one younger sister who is 15. In my spare time, I work with little children and teach them the basics of peewee soccer. I also teach children’s bible classes at my church, and am very active in my community through a leadership program my city sponsors. I love watching history documentaries as well.
- My best experience so far in high school has been being involved in programs like Link Crew and Leadership. Link Crew provides incoming freshmen with 2 upperclassmen mentors, and the mentors help guide them through their first year of high school. Being a mentor to underclassmen has been such a fun experience and I’m grateful I got to have a profound impact on their lives. Leadership is a great way for me to get to know other people in my grade, and make sure I stay involved in all our schools various events.
- The major that I plan to pursue is political science. Due to this election season, I became very interested in the many intricacies of politics. Also, I love history, and politics fits hand in hand with it. You can learn from others policy mistakes, find out what doesn’t work, and avoid scandals and mistakes within your own campaign.
- In five years, I plan to be graduated from college with a major in political science and a minor in journalism. Hopefully, I will find a job as either a politician or working in political journalism. If I want to continue my schooling beyond undergrad, then I will go to law school to become a lawyer.
- I hope to learn skills that will benefit me in my future career, whatever it may be. An example of some skills I’d like to learn is how to effectively communicate what I want to others, and be more assertive with in my beliefs. I’d also like to develop my critical thinking skills to stay competitive in this rapidly advancing world.
- Some extracurricular activities I enjoy are writing. I currently write for a teen magazine called us. I also like being involved in the several leadership groups and helping freshmen acclimate to high school. I tutor almost daily after school in any subject, which has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Teaching Children’s bible classes has also been great.
Technology, Sustainability, and the Future of Work
In the 2010s, sustainability has come to the forefront of public discourse. Our work conditions are not exempt from this discourse, and remote working has many sustainability benefits. Sustainability simply means investing in a long-term future, and it has three components: Environmental, Economic, and Social. Remote positions can provide benefits for all three of these. For example, environmental sustainability could be improved due to fewer emissions from decreased commutes. Fewer commutes would, in turn, require less economic resources to be put towards car maintenance. This would be because of greater localization. We would be spending more time in our immediate areas rather than driving to surrounding areas, requiring less money for things such as gasoline and vehicle upkeep.
“Sustainability simply means investing in a long-term future, and it has three components: Environmental, Economic, and Social.”
Perhaps most importantly, decreased commutes would have a significant impact on social sustainability. This is because the stress that is associated with commutes would be reduced. Additionally, remote working would provide an opportunity to plan one’s own schedule, making it more viable to balance priorities. Rather than working for a set block of time (leaving very little time for anything else in a day) workers could instead schedule their work in sections throughout the day, with other important tasks being laced in as well. This could increase overall life satisfaction due to a greater number of lifestyle components being fulfilled.
While this may seem disconnected from information technology and internet availability, these are actually both related to sustainability. The combination of information technology and internet availability has already increased awareness of sustainability and continues to do so. It has also increased our knowledge of how and why we can and should make a difference as individuals. Such progress couldn’t be made without IT and, subsequently, internet access and popularity. In addition, these two facets have made it possible for a greater number of people to work remotely. They simplify the process of working from home, and the sustainability benefits mean that normalizing working from home shouldn’t be ignored.
Editor’s Note: This essay was written by Darian Williams, winner of the 2018 YuJa Essay Scholarship Contest. Learn more about Darian here.
Which academic subject did you learn the most from in high school? How has it shaped your education?
It truly shaped my life because it fueled my desire to serve a LDS full time mission (an 18 month, unpaid service mission) because I realized that I really like communicating with people who aren’t like me. I like sharing knowledge with other people. It also helped me decide what my major is: Speech Pathology. I found a passion in ASL and I’m grateful I know what I want to do for the rest of my life.
“I found a passion in ASL and I’m grateful I know what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
However, my ASL class has also taught me important life skills. There was a girl in that class that had been on my color guard team several years before that I never got along with very well. In this class, we became great friends and I really learned how to reconnect with people I’d made previously negative judgements towards.
I’ve also learned communication skills. Obviously I learned to communicate with ASL, but just as importantly, I learned to communicate my feelings with other people. My teacher is a very caring man who always asked how I was doing. One day, I was having the worst day ever and I told him about it. This was difficult for me because I have always internalized my feelings but in this class I was able to take the first step in telling people how I really feel. That will be an invaluable skill in years to come.
A class that has the most educational value is not necessarily the ones that have the most educational content. A gifted educator not only teaches his or her subject material, but is also able to teach life lessons. They’re able to instill a passion for that subject in the hearts of their students, and once we discover that passion, our life is going to be shaped according to it forever.
Editor’s Note: This essay was written by Karlee Greer, winner of the 2017 YuJa Essay Scholarship Contest. Learn more about Karlee here.
Through The Wardrobe
But for everything I have learned from my classes, I have learned just as much, if not more, from the fairytales that made up my childhood. My favorite storybook when I was young was “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” by C.S. Lewis and it remains to this day one of my favorite stories.
The book was an escape into a world that was much more exciting and meaningful to me than that of my life. The book showed me that someone as seemingly insignificant as a child could be a hero, and have adventures and I could go on those adventures when I read the books. Every step a character took, I was walking right beside them.
“As I get older, I am becoming more aware that while I cannot prevent the evil and the temptation in my life, I can make choices about how I respond to it.”
The lessons I learned from my trips Narnia are innumerable and every time I read it, I gain new insights. I learned from Lucy to believe in magic, that you should be kind to strangers, and loyal to your friends. Edmund taught me that it’s okay to make mistakes, and be afraid. Then, he taught me to learn from my mistakes and grow. Peter showed me that leadership is not just telling people what to do or where to go, it is listening and understanding, so that you can be a guide to those around you. Susan reminded that while it is okay to be a little skeptical, I should never let that get in the way of what is important.
I learned many things but more than that, I realized that the intricate fabric of Narnia was woven with many of the same threads that make up real life. There is good and evil, there is temptation and there is redemption. When I first stepped through the wardrobe, I began to form a new understanding about how life works. As I get older, I am becoming more aware that while I cannot prevent the evil and the temptation in my life, I can make choices about how I respond to it. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” is important to me because it has become part of the foundation on which I have built myself up. The heroes of this story have served to shape me as person and I hope that when I act and speak and think, I do so in a manner that would be worthy of a queen or king of Narnia.
Editor’s Note: This essay was written by Samantha Jones, winner of the 2017 YuJa Essay Scholarship Contest. Learn more about Samantha here.
Technology Powered By Kindness
Nevertheless, not all of us reach the benefits of it, and sometimes we perceive our lives affected by its mismanaged power. Still, we have the potential to define what technologies are truly needed and how we want them to be applied, but to achieve this we must generate more positive and beneficial new practices on our relationship with technology.
Conscious consumption: Most of the technology we use daily is regulated, yet few of us take the time to read the norms and small print of the things we buy and use; some of the products we innocently accept are causing irreparable damage to minorities, creating modern slavery and depleting natural resources. These actions violate the principles of sustainability and human rights. If we adopt more conscious habits of consumption the companies that create products will also adjust to our more sustainable standards. Hopefully, they will stop releasing new phone models every week and protect our planet and people living on the margins.
“We need to ensure that we create standard processes to test and evaluate the impact these technologies will have on the people.”
Transparency and dialog: Nearly all the big technologies have global consequences; therefore there should be a global dialog to ensure that these technologies and their related policies benefit all people and not transnational corporations. Additionally, we need to ensure that we create standard processes to test and evaluate the impact these technologies will have on the people. Technology is today’s most marketable product and we need to keep an eye on it, to ensure we’re not feeding another horrible monster like pharmaceuticals.
The democratization of science: Instead of politicizing science, we should be looking for its democratization, this means that citizens engage actively with science and technology, therefore it becomes popular and participatory. It is in our hands to become analysts, scientists, creators and researchers, so we encourage rigorous politics that serve the public objectives and invest in our own ideas to bring technological innovation out from within our communities instead of passively waiting for ethical technology to save the day.
Suppress anthropocentrism: Technology doesn’t have to destroy the world, there are other ways we can do things, a radical shift to sustainable tech is not only the smarter option but the only one. It is possible to escape from toxic anthropocentrism and support nonhuman biological beings in order to make more balanced societies. Ethical choices will lead us to inspire connections and identities to empower citizens, not to manipulate and distract them from what’s really important: community and connection.
By all counts, and with proved results we can rely on technology to extol the greatest facets of intelligent life and it is in the duty of all to ensure we gain wise at the same time we develop the next technologies that will shape the world.
Editor’s Note: This essay was written by Dara Nicole Díaz Ríos, winner of the 2020 YuJa Essay Scholarship Contest. Learn more about Dara here.
Time, My Most Cherished Gift
The most important one is time. As I see it, there is so much time saved throughout the day. For instance, I no longer drive to school. In my previous life, most things were generally routine. A night of sleep, a drive after school, a load of laundry, a hot bath, a cup of tea, and it goes on. After certain years, these things fall into my category of averageness. Although it becomes a sense of boredom and repetition, this weariness and repetition are the inspirations for my creations. This time and flexibility allowed by the online world during the coronavirus urged me to plan, organize, analyze, and particularly create. I strive to appreciate my daily activities as often as I can.
“Nobody ever figures out what life is about, and it does not matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough”.
This has opened me to an appreciation for ideas, people, and things. Perhaps I also get inspired by not what I know, but by what I do not know. As I glance at the starry night sky, staring at the incomprehensible–the infinite space above me, I experience an overwhelming awareness of how little I know. It reminds me of the unclarity of life. It proves to me that what I think I know is probably wrong. -Richard Feynman said that “Nobody ever figures out what life is about, and it does not matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough”. At the base of almost everything, the conclusion is we do not know. The reason I sleep and dream remains a mystery. People are fascinating; I can’t help but appreciate their creativity. The little moments make me excited and the mistakes become less significant.
To answer the question, navigating online has been hectic, busy, and confusing. It has been an experience of waiting an hour on a phone call, getting an email response after 5 days, not understanding my statistics class, watching excessive Tiktok videos, and much more. However, I have been able to generate ideas like never before. Often my inspirations are random thoughts, memories, illusions, or simply something that I do not know. I wonder if my inspirations are nothing, somehow through me, they become everything. I wonder if I create art by living through it.
I believe that this creativity impacts a great part of my future. This ability allows me to take risks, to be open-minded. It permits me to reveal my inhibitions. This side of me helps me approach situations from many perspectives. I see things differently and better deal with uncertainty. I have become vulnerable to share my art and accept that some of my creations may never see light again. Most importantly it improved my health and life, provided relaxation and serenity; it filled my life with positive emotions such as love, forgiveness, joy, and hope. This is my experience living and navigating in an online world.
Editor’s Note: This essay was written by Annika Pierre Michel, winner of the 2021 YuJa Essay Scholarship Contest. Learn more about Annika here.