SMNOF fall 2011 essay winners announced


Eric Berndt

SMNOF essay contest winners presentation

Callie Byrnes

Senior Micaela Hegarty stood in the middle of Times Square, beaming as a panel of North alumni took turns shaking her hand. To her surprise, Hegarty was the Fall 2011 Shawnee Mission North Opportunity Fund (SMNOF) Essay Contest winner.

“I was shocked and filled with disbelief when I found out,” Hegarty said. “I’d been driving home from work when I got the phone call that told me I won, and I almost crashed my car. I honestly thought he made a mistake. It felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest.”

The essay contest, which is held every semester by the opportunity fund, gives students a chance to answer a specific essay prompt that a panel of SM North alumni judges. The fall 2011 prompt had students highlight three specific services that students might provide to “give back” to the SM North Community during such tough economic times.

“[The prompt mattered to me] because volunteers helped me when I was growing up,” Hegarty said. “Writing this essay and telling students how they can help made me feel like I was giving back a little of what those volunteers gave me.”

First place winners, such as Hegarty, received laptops donated by supporters. Second and third place winners, such as freshman Benjamin Harrison and senior Randi Nimz, received gift cards for different venues. Members of the opportunity fund hoped that the prizes could help out students in struggling financial situations.

“The primary mission of the Shawnee Mission North Opportunity Fund is to provide assistance to low-income families and students at North,” said SMNOF president Eric Berndt. “The essay contest was created to offer a benefit to students that may not be in need of SMNOF financial assistance. Giving away two laptop computers annually is certainly a great way for SMNOF to help North students.”

While the contest is relatively new and is not widely recognized by the student population, the fund hopes that more students will learn about the contest and participate.

“What do you have to lose by giving it a try?” Berndt said. “Test your writing skills, and express your personal views on subject matter that is important to your school. Even if you do not win a prize, you will help the Opportunity Fund staff learn more ways that SMNOF might help the North community. We will use your essays to expand and tailor our assistance programs to try and reach more students, more effectively.”

The next essay prompt will be released in February. Students can check for updates and more updates.