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Levell Kensey


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Hello! My name is Levell Kensey and I’m a high school senior. Some of the most important things in life to me include: Church/Religion, Friends, Fishing, Exercise, Academics, and Diversity. Immediately following my planned enrollment at UIC, I would like to pursue undergraduate research related to computer science, especially involving diversity/inclusivity and cultural differences in the tech and STEM fields as a person who is underrepresented in that aspect. Attending a predominately white school showed me how underrepresented I was, but only gave me that much more encouragement. I want to be the difference in a field where there are not many African-Americans.


University of Illinois at Chicago

Bachelor's degree program
2024 - 2028
  • Majors:
    • Computer Science

Lake Central High School

High School
2020 - 2024
  • GPA:


  • Desired degree level:

    Bachelor's degree program

  • Graduate schools of interest:

  • Transfer schools of interest:

  • Majors of interest:

    • Computer Science
    • Computer Software and Media Applications
    • Mathematics and Computer Science
    • Economics and Computer Science
    • Science, Technology and Society
    • Engineering/Engineering-Related Technologies/Technicians, Other
    • Engineering, Other
    • Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services, Other
    • Business/Managerial Economics
    • Computer Programming
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Computer Software

    • Dream career goals:

      Create a diverse video game development team and attend/be nominated for The Game Awards


      • Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature

        Lake Central High School — Student in AP Research
        2023 – 2024
      • Intercultural/Multicultural and Diversity Studies

        Lake Central High School — As a student in AP Seminar
        2023 – 2023

      Public services

      • Public Service (Politics)

        LCHS — Principal's Advisory Board
        2023 – Present
      • Advocacy

        Lansing Church of Christ — Canvassing Team Staff
        2023 – 2023
      • Volunteering

        Lansing Church of Christ — Live Streaming and Media Helper
        2020 – Present
      • Volunteering

        National Honor Society — Assist in coat check at a banquet held within a church
        2023 – 2023
      • Volunteering

        National Honor Society — Volunteering at Protsman Elementary to assist in festivities
        2023 – 2023

      Future Interests



      Gloria Millender "I am 3rd" - J. O. Y. Scholarship
      COVID-19 impacted everyone in a myriad of ways, and we never could have expected it to appear. I remember myself, on Friday, March 13th, being released for two weeks of school, not realizing the longevity of the lockdown. At times, it was scary. However, God had a plan, and I had no idea I would be a part of it. My church home went on lockdown with the rest of the world. We switched to virtual worship service through live streaming on YouTube, which God had already prepared us for in advance. The future was uncertain. Yet, my dad persevered. He had preached about the year 2020 and related it to having 20/20 vision. He stuck to that ideal and preached every Sunday, as well as hosting a virtual bible study every Wednesday. Noticing how things were set into motion so particularly, and how much zest my dad held for the church and God's work, I felt like I needed to step in as well. This is where I put Him first, others second, and myself third. In May of 2020, with the help of a member of my church, I learned how to maintain/schedule live streams and record audio on CDs to be played on the radio station. My mentor was impressed by how quickly I grasped it, which I can only attribute to God for giving me the talent and passion for technology and computer science. This became a weekly job for me that I'm actively participating in to this day. Focusing on the 'O' in JOY, I put others second knowing that a pandemic could be the downfall of the church. This wasn't only for members who were on lockdown, because even after mandates were lifted, virtual worship service has become a key component of our worship. It's for those who could be sick, late, too far away, or any other circumstances. It was only later that I truly realized how God used (and continues to use) me for the work of His kingdom. In terms of the future, I can't predict what it entails. I want to continue live streaming while I have the ability to. If I've realized anything, especially throughout high school, it's how important it is to not only share the Word but keep those who know the Word in place. I like to think of the church as a hospital for Christians, because spiritual battles are common for us. Church is where we can heal, relax, and rejoice. At the end of the day, I'll always put Him first, others second, and myself third. It's not about me, it's about Him.
      Bright Minds Scholarship
      I plan to attend to UIC and major in Computer Science with a concentration in Software Engineering. What excited me most about this education was not only the major itself but the opportunities I can take advantage of. A concentration in software engineering is perfect as I'm still deciding on what exactly I want to do with my knowledge. Some options I've considered are game development, UI/UX design, or just being a general software engineer. The great thing about computer science is the flexibility one has in terms of career choices. I'm especially excited about game development because it's something I've thought of doing since I was in elementary school. Ultimately, I'm hoping to promote diversity through gaming later down the line by incorporating cultural aspects, better character customization, etc. I completely agree with the panel of this scholarship that diversity is what brings innovation and success, because it incorporates different perspectives. I'm hoping that the panel will put faith in my ideas and help me to pursue my aspirations. Linked below is a Hangman Game I made through Java a few months ago. It might not be much to some people, but this program means a lot to me, because it was the first challenging and time-consuming program I had created. I finally felt that I transitioned from barely understanding code to being a beginner programmer. It also motivates me to keep going with this choice of major/field.
      Charles B. Brazelton Memorial Scholarship
      When I look back over my experiences and growth from extracurricular activities, I realize that I actually did not participate in a great amount of activities, However, I made the most of the activities I pursued, and I was able to understand leadership, activism, collaboration, hard work, and amiability. Firstly, when I imagine leadership and how I’ve begun to understand what it truly means, I attribute it to my involvement in the National Honor Society, my principal’s Advisory Board, and the live streaming I continually do at my church. Within the NHS, I’ve accumulated over 100 hours of volunteer service, so there have been plenty of times where I’ve been put in a leadership position, often with elementary or middle school children (such as monitoring festivities). On the other hand, live streaming for my church weekly has given me a sense of leadership as well, as my church depends on me to ensure those streams are prompt and correct. Ultimately, my definition of leadership has changed since participating in the activities. For a long time, I have looked at leadership as simply being in charge of a group of people, but being a leader requires leadership skills, and those entail more than just being able to command people. Being a leader requires everything I mentioned in my first paragraph, and I believe that without being put in a leadership position, you will never be able to understand that, which is why I am grateful for the opportunities I have been involved in. Being involved in these activities has also allowed me to further understand collaboration and amiability. After COVID, I became very antisocial and didn’t want to participate in anything outside of school. However, the NHS pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me to become comfortable around people and become approachable and less socially awkward. Through volunteering at different schools, banquets, etc., I've been able to understand teamwork with my fellow NHS peers. Plus, I have made many new friends through other clubs such as my school’s culture club and chess club, and this allowed me to develop amiability. In a workplace setting, it is common to work with a team, so having social skills is essential. Activism is another essential quality that I have pursued and gained through my involvement, particularly in my principal’s advisory board. To keep it brief, I can recall advocating for safer student parking in my school and suggesting possible solutions to the hazardous parking situation. As a student driver myself, I knew how important it was to ensure all the students can safely enter and exit the parking lot, as well as the dangers it brought. Collaboration unintentionally played a big role in this situation, because one of the other few students on the board agreed with me and even added on to my point to further emphasize the necessity of safety. Fortunately, my school has worked towards implementing those protocols. Finally, hard work has been a key part of my extracurriculars. Whether it was volunteering, advocacy, etc., each of these things takes dedication and effort. Diligence is an absolute necessity for success. Overall, I’ve found extracurricular activities to contribute heavily towards my personal growth and success. What I’ve taken away from all of these experiences is how each of these attributes tie into each other. Collaboration ties into leadership, which ties into amiability, and the cycle continues. I’ve learned, ultimately, that these are attributes that you need to succeed in life. Thus, I plan to carry all of them with me as I explore new extracurricular opportunities in college.
      Julia Elizabeth Legacy Scholarship
      Diversity and representation are a necessity in the workplace. They allow a company to flourish, as they promote new, innovative ideas and create a comfortable atmosphere for everyone, increasing satisfaction and productivity. This past spring, I took a class called AP Seminar. In this class, I conducted content analyses on studies about minority and workplace resilience. I found resilience to be undoubtedly essential for the workplace, to prevent or reduce the effects of burnout and stigmatization. What I found most compelling, though, was that, without a comfortable environment for racial minorities such as African Americans and Hispanics, resilience could be weaponized in the form of, for example, stigmatization. In a work environment where company culture is unconsciously racially discriminatory, this is bound to happen. For example, Black employees’ feelings could be stigmatized for being offended by having to wear their hair a certain way in a professional environment. However, in an environment where company culture is racially tolerant (which is easier to find when you have a diverse set of perspectives in your business), hair should not be an issue, especially considering that anyone can succeed in a career with the right amount of dedication. Employing someone should never be based on their appearance, but rather their skills and what they can bring. Unfortunately, this company culture is especially prevalent in STEM related careers, an area I am interested in educationally and professionally for the future. In particular, studies have shown that the “chilly climate” of STEM in higher education is often unwelcoming for historically underrepresented minorities (Palid et al., 2023). This equates to the racial/ethnic gaps that are even larger in STEM-related careers, especially the highest-paying ones such as tech and engineering (Palid et al., 2023). Without good company culture, minorities will be discouraged from having these careers simply because of their ethnicity. Sadly, I have experienced this gap as early as sophomore year, when I took my first computer science course. I was one of two Black students in my computer science classes throughout these past 3+ years, and I felt the effects of underrepresentation. Seeing others who look like you gives the feeling of, “Wow, I can do that too!”, especially in a difficult field of study. Having diversity is also beneficial because of the differing perspectives each person brings to the table. When people from different cultural backgrounds exchange ideas, it can have a “cross-stimulation effect”, and those ideas can germinate new ideas and strategies for attacking old problems (Thompson et al., p. 26, 2020). When company culture takes into account everyone’s ideas, no matter how wild or crazy, they can prosper. Many of us have different skill sets and niches that are important for different facets of the workplace. A pragmatic person can formulate logical ideas, while a creative person might take on a more emotional approach. While these two attitudes differ, they can bounce off of each other. Utilizing facets from the ideas of both people can create something better than either one could have even thought of. Plus, when there is diversity, people can even incorporate cultural parts of themselves into their business ideas. With the amount of varying perspectives, the business is bound to prosper. Overall, promoting diversity and increasing representation in STEM careers is both essential and beneficial. It not only increases the satisfaction of both employers and employees, but it also gives students like me or even younger people that we can do whatever we put our mind to, even if we are the minority. References: Thompson, A., Barber, H., & Cuseo, J. (2020). The Benefits of Diversity Education
      Building a Better World Scholarship
      Christianity has always been the center of my life. As I got older and more interested in technology, I learned what I wanted to have a career in, software development. In 2020, my dad invited me to start live streaming for my church home on YouTube every Sunday so our members could watch virtually while the world was on lockdown. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I quickly understood it. Any new software that I tested with my supervisor was easier to work with because of how interested I was in it. Not only had this confirmed my interest in a tech-related career/major, but it also gave me happiness because, in some ways, I had found my purpose. Every Christian's goal should be to find their purpose on this earth and how it can serve God, and I have been blessed to find it so quickly. As I am approaching college, there are hundreds of opportunities for me to pursue while I'm there. Knowing firsthand how God can close doors to keep you on the path He has for you, I'm positive He will show me exactly where He wants me to use the talents He gave me. Right now, I want to increase diversity in technology because I know how hard it can be to pursue a challenging career path and not see other people who look like you. God made us all in His image, so I know He would cheer me on. I'm also very interested in game development, which ties into software development. Often I've thought about the possibility of creating a Christian game that follows different stories throughout the Bible, including Job, Adam & Eve, Jesus, Joseph, etc. This game would probably be more suited towards children, but it's welcome to anyone. One of the most important objectives we are given is to spread the Word, and I believe this is a great way of doing so. Christianity was such an important influence to me because I was introduced to it so early. Having that foundation is essential, so I want to do the same in a way where children will enjoy it. Finally, I would like to do my best to bridge the digital gap. Knowing that there are so many people who still don't have access to the Bible nor the Internet is painful, and I'd like to contribute towards fixing that. I'm hoping that I can find other people with a similar goal, so that we could work together to provide internet and simultaneously mission to those people. We could even introduce them to the potential Christian game I create! Ultimately, this is all in the future, and I know tomorrow is not promised. So, I believe the most important thing to worry about is the present, and I'm constantly improving my skills so I can be prepared for the opportunity. All of us have a purpose, we just have to find it.
      Angelia Zeigler Gibbs Book Scholarship
      Next Chapter: "Putting All My Trust in God" As I start this next semester of school, I have so many things to reflect on and so many things to look forward to. Although I could go on and on about them, I know I have a word limit, so I'll mention the most prominent ones that relate to the title of the next chapter in my life. Firstly, colleges have started to send me my decisions. I was accepted to UIC, but unfortunately rejected from Purdue, UIUC, and Georgia Tech. It truly set me back. Many of my friends had applied to Purdue and received an acceptance letter, and it made me feel like I wasn't enough and humiliated. Then, being rejected from my top 2 schools was like icing on the cake. Still, I'm questioning what exactly I was missing. However, this helped me to realize a quote my friends and family have told me, which is, "Rejection is God's protection and redirection". Rather than being upset, I realized I should be glad that God has just revealed to me part of the path he is taking me down. As much as I wanted to go to Georgia Tech, I know now that it isn't for me. Having trust in Him helps me to feel prepared to utilize the resources UIC can offer me. I can't let rejections stop me from pursuing my aspirations. The next biggest things are the upcoming senior class events. From Formal, to Prom, to Graduation, to Senior Banquet, there are so many events to look forward to. With events comes preparation and (usually) stress. There's the issue of figuring out what to wear, possibly finding a significant other, and balancing academics through it all. However, this ties back to God once again, because I know that He has it all figured out. Things like finding a significant other are those things that I'm allowing to come naturally. Balancing academics is something I've always had to do as an AP student, so I know that if I just keep doing what I do, everything will be alright. Finally, while not exactly the last thing lingering on my mind, career choice is also a stressful thing. Many times, I find myself thinking about the exact career I'm gonna take, the preparation to get there, and if I'll be able to support myself financially. Sometimes, it's stressful thinking about becoming a full grown adult and being "out in the real world". Yet, again, a spirit of reassurance always steps in when the stress tries to take over my mind. I know that God has a plan and will direct me exactly to the career that is for me. And I don't believe he will allow me to struggle to the point where I can barely survive, unless I were to forsake Him. That is something I wholeheartedly believe in. Overall, the uncertainty of where life will take me as I continue to progress through life can be scary. However, realizing that there is someone directing my steps as long as I stay faithful reassures me that everything will be fine. I'm happy wherever He takes me. Ultimately, I've realized that focusing on the future is futile, because I can't predict what will happen. In writing this essay, it is my ultimate hope that anyone (including the scholarship board) reading this with the same faith will truly resonate with this. This chapter, I'm putting all my trust in Him.
      Joshua’s Home Remodeling Scholarship
      Computer science is a field I have been interested in since I was little. It started off as simply watching Youtubers play video games to me wondering how to create video games. I then discovered coding and was thrilled by it. Coding is an integral part of computer science. Whether you're a front-end or back-end programmer, having programming languages under your belt is essential. More importantly, coding requires patience and perseverance. I believe it's a universal experience for a programmer to finally fix what was wrong with their program and feel a weight lifted off their shoulder as it runs smoothly. However, getting to that point can be stressful, and sometimes can even make you question why you chose this field. Personally, I like debugging and figuring out solutions with critical thinking and problem-solving tactics because as you continue to practice debugging you become more knowledgeable about bugs and issues. It's like practicing a game. You continue to get better at it the more you do it. In essence, debugging is a prominent task of being a software engineer, and (based on my personal experiences with it) I believe I possess the patience and determination it takes to succeed in this field and career path. I also believe creativity is an important part of being a programmer. Creativity doesn't just mean creating cool ideas, but it also means coming up with different solutions. For example, when I was creating a Hangman game on CodeHS (my hardest project to date), I ran into multiple bugs. One that I vividly remember is when I tried to allow the user to try again if they choose a letter they already guessed. Every time I did one thing, a new issue arose to combat it. However, after some deep thinking, I was finally able to come up with a time-efficient solution. As I mentioned earlier, watching your program run smoothly is incredibly exhilarating! I was relieved to finally finish it. That feeling reassures me that this is the correct field for me. So far, I've been accepted to UIC and already have looked at some of the amazing extracurricular and pre-professional opportunities I could pursue. That's another great thing about computer science. The versatility. The amount of access to resources which can prepare you for whatever specific career path you want to take on, whether that's online or in-person. If I want the scholarship board to remember anything from this essay, it would be that I know this is the field for me!
      “I Matter” Scholarship
      COVID-19 hit everyone differently. For most, it was a bad outcome. This could have been the case for my church family, too. However, with my passion for computer science, I decided to help during that time of need, and now it's become more of a hobby than a job. The moment the world went on lockdown, so did my church. We went from 100+ members sitting in the audience every Sunday to 0. As the preacher, my dad felt this. What bothered him more, though, was our attendance. We began virtual service, and he was unsure if all our members would stay around. This is an important detail for later. Noticing that my dad did not have much help and could only rely on one person to live stream the worship service, I decided to step in and help him. I grew up with my church, so it has always felt like family to me. I couldn't imagine what it would be like no longer having Lansing. Thus, I decided to learn how to live stream, as well as record audio on CDs. I took to it quickly, and it became my job every Sunday. I enjoyed it, just as much as I do today. Not only did I enjoy working with streaming software and making the stream went well overall, but I enjoyed looking at the comments from some of our members cheering me on (my dad shouted me out during his sermons sometimes) as well as being thankful that we even have a virtual service. This is something I will never forget. Starting July 2022, members were allowed to come back in to church. It was less than before, yes. But I knew we had to trust the process. I kept working. We all did. As the months flew by, more and more returning members as well as new members came into church. By now, we're practically at the amount we were at before. I'm grateful for that, and so is my dad. I'm especially grateful that I was able to help him and help the church during its time in need. It's only up from here!
      Inflow Digital Marketing Scholarship
      Software development is multifaceted. There are so many different ways to express yourself, create innovative and/or fun projects, and make a difference in the world just by being knowledgeable when it comes to programming and designing. In my case, I have always been interested in gaming and learned about coding in 8th grade. Thus, I've taken interest in UI/UX design and game development and design, both falling under the category of software development. I'd be thrilled to own my own diverse game company someday and attend The Game Awards, as well as have some great website development/designing skills under my belt. But, how exactly do these two relate to digital marketing? Well, let me explain! Firstly, UI/UX design and digital marketing go hand-in-hand. The GUI is the first thing that the user sees when they click on your website. If a website me and my hypothetical team created were to show my company, our achievements, our latest releases, and our most popular games, we would obviously want it to be aesthetically pleasing to the user. Not only does this cause the user to become more interested in us, but it could even bring potentially new customers and/or new employees to join our team! That is the premise of digital marketing, to benefit both the customer and the company/creator, a win-win! Game development is also closely tied to digital marketing. When I establish my game company someday, I want users to feel happy playing the games. As aforementioned, I want to attend The Game Awards someday. This award show is for some of the best games to ever be created. As such, digital marketing is essential if I want my team and I to be nominated. A great example is Pokemon. It wasn't always famous. However, with digital marketing in the form of commercials, TV shows, and side-games, it became one of the biggest video game franchises in history. It went from simply being in Japan to being a global phenomenon. People fell in love with Pikachu, and Game Freak (and eventually Nintendo) noticed this. With digital marketing tactics, they utilized Pikachu's stardom and thus maximized their popularity and profits. Had they kept Pokemon strictly in Japan without it ever being advertised to the rest of the world, it's undeniable that its popularity wouldn't be nearly as immense. To bring it back to my ideal future company, I want to be able to utilize digital marketing so that my company and our best games are known, loved, and maybe even nostalgic when people look back on them. Without digital marketing, this would be impossible. Thus, digital marketing is essential, even when we don't realize it.
      Jiang Amel STEM Scholarship
      Growing up, I have always been interested in technology. I found myself constantly interested in gaming and viewing it on YouTube. Watching video after video, I gradually began to ask myself critical questions, such as "How are these games even made?" and "Can I learn how to create something like this?". It was in 8th grade when I realized that coding was behind all of this, and it immediately encapsulated me. When I first discovered coding, I started on Through the curriculum, I selected a story game activity, where one could create a mobile story game. There were different endings to the story depending on the choices you made throughout it. It was exhilarating to develop a narrative and different outcomes for it. What I found to be the most thrilling, though, was the satisfaction I felt when my code would work. I believe it is a universal experience for every programmer to have a feeling of exhilaration and fulfillment when they eliminate all of the bugs and witness their code operate seamlessly. That feeling has persisted throughout my high school computer science classes I vigorously sought after, where I wrote in Python, HTML, CSS, Visual Basic, and (currently) Java and Pyret. In these classes, some of the most memorable, exciting things I developed both alone and with others include a slot machine, a Rube Goldberg machine and 3D game on Unreal Engine, a game of chance, and a birthday calculator, to name a few. In particular, I recently made a Hangman game on CodeHS using Java for my AP Computer Science A class project, which was probably the hardest thing I've coded so far. However, as difficult as it was, I enjoyed debugging and being able to finally complete it and let my friends play it. While I haven’t delved into advanced college-level coding yet, my aspiration remains strong to develop skills to a level where I can create successful video games or AI. Thus, computer science also connects to my future aspirations. After my collegiate years, I will improve diversity in the tech field and bridge the racial/ethnic gap in STEM jobs by creating a video game development team where colleagues will be able to cultivate a community where they can celebrate all types of cultures because of how diverse and culturally different each of the members are. Our mission would be to promote diversity in the games we develop and design, such as diverse character customization and accurate cultural differences featured in-game. In a day and age where people like me make up such small percentages of jobs in the tech industry, it's important to have diverse teams like the one I aspire to create because it gives other historically underrepresented people the opportunity to see others who look like them and have the assurance that it's possible to pursue a STEM degree or career regardless of their race/ethnicity. It gives the feeling of "Wow, I can do that too!". The digital divide is real, but I believe this strategy is one of many ways to combat it. I realized the importance of representation firsthand by attending a predominantly white high school for the past (almost) 4 years and being only 1 of 2 Black people in my computer science classes, and I'm excited and determined to make that difference. I'm hoping that, by winning this scholarship, I will be able to do just that and more. Not just financially, but also having that assurance that the creators of this scholarship believe in me and my aspirations, is what will push me to move forward.
      Novitas Diverse Voices Scholarship
      The power of diverse voices can be seen as early as Brown v. Board of Education, where parents who realized the immorality of racial segregation took a stand against the Supreme Court and thankfully won their case. These parents were average people, just like us. Yet, they knew that a difference needed to be made. The key to their success was the diversity in their voices, something that is undoubtedly important when advocating for change. Having a diverse group of people allows for new strategies that attack old problems to generate, as well as different perspectives. Without multiple perspectives taken into account, things can go wrong because of unconsidered possibilities. To put it into perspective, I like to think about my ongoing personal experience with the impact diverse voices can have in a collaborative setting. Being nominated for the Principal's Advisory Board this year, I have discussed with parents, faculty, administration, and other hand-picked students the problems of the school and potential solutions. In this previous meeting, I mentioned how I recently started driving and the hazards of the student parking lot. While many of my peers are defensive drivers, accidents have still occurred. I noticed a potential danger in the lot as students drove through a lane on the lot which had an arrow pointing in the opposite direction. If two drivers from opposite sides were to go down the same lane, it's nearly impossible to avoid a head-on collision. Thus, I encouraged the use of cones to prevent drivers from going down the lane the wrong way. However, the most important thing about this was the other members of the board who agreed and added to my point, providing various recommendations. It was relieving to have other student drivers agree with me. Having additional perspectives not only solidifies the severity of the issue but also generates new ways to resolve it. If we work together, we can accomplish many great things. In the future, I'm hoping to see those cones every day! The power of diverse voices and shaping public narratives is also commonly seen in a political sense. As my generation grows older, more and more of us are becoming eligible to vote. However, I have seen many people state that they feel their vote is invalid or unimpactful. When I hear statements like this, while I understand their viewpoint, I'm taken aback by the fact that they truly believe it. If parents were able to make racial segregation in schools unconstitutional, why don't we have the power to put someone in office who has our best interest at heart? And I believe the most important factor to consider, especially when voting, is the power in numbers. Having a plethora of people who agree on something is huge because each person can contribute in their own way. As I've stated in a different essay on my profile, everyone has their own niche, whether that be technology, engineering, public speaking, writing, etc. When everyone takes their niche and passion, and uses it for the greater good, the impact is undeniable. In this particular topic, speaking out is especially important and motivates people to be active and fight for what is right. Without that motivation and zeal, many people can feel like their role is pointless and there is no point in trying to change things. If we are intentional about change, we can make a difference. So, if nothing else, understand that the power of diverse voices can have an immense impact on shaping public narratives and making the world a better place.
      Ethel Hayes Destigmatization of Mental Health Scholarship
      Any kid with strict parents who want them to perform perfectly in school will probably relate to some of what I’m about to discuss. What may shock them, though, is that I have found it is possible to crave academic validation while balancing your mental health. Let me explain. From the moment I started Kindergarten, the expectation set by my father has always been to receive straight A’s on my report card. It was fine at first. Sometimes stressful, but manageable. I wasn’t struggling with understanding school subjects, especially since my dad had given me math tutoring outside of school, as well as reading comprehension tutoring from one of his peers. But it would only get worse. By the time I reached 7th grade, I realized this expectation would require exponential amounts of dedication. It wasn’t necessarily the thought of not understanding a subject, but rather the thought of receiving a bad grade that stressed me out. I had an example of what could happen when I received a D on my project. He was furious. Even though I knew I could pull the grade back up, the thought of my father seeing the grade and his reaction to it was a nightmare in itself, especially after seeing what could happen firsthand. This terror combined with the mindset he instilled in me cultivated a craving for academic validation. I’d stay up into the wee hours of the night to keep a good homework grade, and wouldn’t get the recommended amount of sleep. I’d avoid my friends. I’d even psych myself into believing that I would never be successful if I couldn’t perform well academically. There was no room for prioritizing mental health. I even tried to explain to my father that he was putting an unnecessarily immense amount of pressure on me, but he invalidated it by comparing it to his own pressures at work. Unfortunately, this carried on into high school as well. My freshman year was when I had enough. I was online because of COVID-19, and I saw the slight effects it was having on my grades. I stood up to my father and told him his expectations were too much. At the end of the day, I couldn’t necessarily blame him. He had the right idea of wanting me to be successful and better than he was, especially as a Black male, but he went about it the wrong way. As scary as it was to speak up, my dad eventually calmed down a bit. At least, enough for me to perform even better than before without pushing myself too hard or having an immense amount of pressure. (Spoiler Alert: the sleep schedule is still messed up, but we’re working on it). Now, I had to figure out how I could still receive all A’s while maintaining good mental health. Time on the weekends to play video games helped, but it alone couldn’t remediate the years of stress I had built up. I needed to find something that would make me feel good about myself. The summer before junior year started, I finally did just that. I decided I would start working out. If I’m being honest, I began working out because I disliked my physical appearance. I had no idea that it would become a routine and a pastime, as well as a method for relieving stress. I’ve been working out at home for the past year, and the benefits are great. The physical benefits alone are awesome. The aesthetics, the increase in strength, and the compliments from other people barely scratch the surface. In particular, my dumbbells are important to me because they serve as a constant reminder of my fitness journey, from when I started to where I am now. Seeing the weights on them gradually increase reassures me that I’m improving. Not only do the dumbbells symbolize physical development, but they also symbolize principles of hard work and determination that I intend to carry with me in the future. They are not just pieces of metal, but companions on my journey towards self-improvement and a constant source of motivation. In essence, working out has truly given me immense joy that is hard to acquire. Overall, I believe that some of the experiences we go through are necessary because they build us both mentally and emotionally, (and in my case, even physically) and allow us to develop new strategies for our problems. Without the imbalance of academic validation, procrastination, and mental health that I developed, I might not have been able to truly value academics or working out. Finding that balance was one of the best things to happen to me, especially as I look forward to college soon to pursue a degree in computer science. Now, I can enjoy both the happiness of good grades/study habits, and the happiness found in hobbies outside of school, like fishing, exercise, and video games. Mental health is real, and sometimes men especially can be taught otherwise. I agree that this is especially prevalent in the Black community, which gives us all the more reason to normalize the prioritization of mental health. Realizing it exists and developing methods to actively combat and maintain it is one of–if not the most important–things you can do for yourself.
      Eden Alaine Memorial Scholarship
      In March 2020, the world went into lockdown due to COVID-19. I had no idea what to anticipate in the following months, but I was excited to be out of school. My dad decided to protect my grandparents by taking them into our house for a few months. Little did I know, my grandma would soon pass on. My grandma had dementia. Despite the troubles it brought her, she drove me to school every day at 80+ years old, and would even walk me into the school until I felt comfortable enough to walk in by myself. To see her gradually transition from this joyful, passionate, hard-working woman, to an irritable, distraught, tired woman was painful. When I received the call from my father that she was gone, it was bittersweet for me. While I was heartbroken that she passed and I would never see her again, I was grateful that she believed in God because I knew she would be in a better place and that she would no longer be in pain. Reflecting on everything my grandma did for me despite her age and ailments gave me the realization that determination goes a long way. My grandma did everything with a purpose, and in turn, I was given the motivation to do things with a purpose as well. As I got older, I understood what I wanted to do after high school and as a career, and I know that these are not goals that are accomplished without effort and determination. Hence, I anticipate pursuing my goals both in and after college, especially knowing that my grandma would be rooting me on if she was still here. Moreover, my grandma was strong in her faith. As a teenager in this society, it's difficult to stay faithful. However, with her in mind, I have been able to keep my faith, especially knowing that she would want me to. The realization that people come and go at any time doesn't hit until it happens to someone that you were close with and knew very well. When that realization happened, faith became the most important thing to me. Overall, loss opens the door to realization and growth for those who are affected by it. I am excited to pursue my aspirations, keeping my grandma in mind. While this scholarship essay doesn't even scratch the surface of everything my grandma was, I hope that it encourages anyone who is reading it.
      William A. Stuart Dream Scholarship
      Throughout high school, I have always been one of two black students in my computer science classes. Making up only about 3% of the class always made me feel like an outlier. However, falling into this percentage made me realize I needed to be involved in something impactful that could make a difference for myself and every other minority underrepresented in this field. After my collegiate years, I will improve diversity in the tech field by creating a video game development team where colleagues will be able to cultivate a community where they can celebrate all types of cultures because of how diverse and culturally different each of the members are. Our mission would be to promote diversity in the games we develop and design. This is especially important for those who are historically underrepresented in this field and rarely see others in their field who look like them. I realized the importance of representation firsthand by attending a predominantly white high school for the past (almost) 4 years, and I'm excited and determined to make that difference. However, if I want to develop successful games with others, I need to first understand the theory behind computer science and the many technical aspects of it. Coding, for example, is something I am striving to receive a better understanding of to the point where I have mastered multiple programming languages. Additionally, I need a place that would provide the foundation for me to build a community upon, an institution that prioritizes diversity in STEM while creating a space for me to inspire others. That is why I want to pursue college. While all colleges are different, I specifically applied to the ones that enticed me the most in the aforementioned aspects because I know that community and academics are the two most important things to me. In particular, I'm determined to find a community of like-minded people who also value the importance of diversity and could potentially help me in my goal. There is an obstacle that halts all of this, though. It's green, it's made of paper, and some might even say it's the 'root of all evil'. Money. Any currently applying student knows how much these colleges cost. And with the competitiveness of other students who are also applying to your same college, it can seem that your chances of winning any merit scholarships are bleak. This is exactly how I feel. In turn, I decided to look for other scholarships outside of the universities I applied to. Finding Bold this past summer was one of the best things to happen to me, and just a few days ago, I was notified that this scholarship was published. How will this scholarship help me? This scholarship puts me $1,000 closer to the goal that I anticipate achieving. And it's not just the money that helps. Winning this scholarship gives me hope and assurance that there are people who are rooting for me and that they want to help me. This gives me the encouragement I need to push on and strive for my goal. Through achieving my goal, I want to be a symbol for minorities in STEM that it is possible, and your race/ethnicity or any other difference you have from the "norm" cannot hinder you. William Stuart was a great example of this, and I plan to keep him in mind as I pursue my aspirations.
      RonranGlee Literary Scholarship
      Beauty exists in everything and does not require praise to be validated. Marcus Aurelius does a fantastic job of proving this claim through his book as shown in the text below. "Everything which is in any way beautiful is beautiful in itself, and terminates in itself, not having praise as part of itself. Neither worse then nor better is a thing made by being praised. I affirm this also of the things which are called beautiful by the vulgar, for example, material things and works of art. That which is really beautiful has no need of anything; not more than law, not more than truth, not more than benevolence or modesty. Which of these things is beautiful because it is praised, or spoiled by being blamed? Is such a thing as an emerald made worse than it was, if it is not praised? Or gold, ivory, purple, a lyre, a little knife, a flower, a shrub?" - The Meditations Book 4 by Marcus Aurelius. The point Marcus Aurelius tries to prove here is simple yet powerful. What is most fascinating about this specific piece of text is the relevance it holds in modern times despite its age. Marcus Aurelius puts it plainly that anything beautiful is just that, beautiful. The analogy he makes with emeralds, gold, ivory, flowers, etc., fits perfectly. These things are beautiful despite the negative opinions someone might have about them. He goes on to say that praise is not a prerequisite or requirement for something to be considered beautiful. Again, the analogy works here because gold does not need to be praised for it to hold value. This can also be applied to a plethora of real-world situations, especially with social media. For example, I have many friends who feel insecure based on the amount of comments and likes a post gets. As understandable as that is, the praise given by those is not necessary and does not define beauty. A post with 0 likes could subjectively be infinitely better than a post with 100,000 likes, especially considering the traction a post receives relies on an algorithm, something uncontrollable by us as users. In short, this means that your beauty is not defined by other people, nor do you need their praise. Marcus makes beauty objective rather than subjective. He highlights that anything could be beautiful in any way possible, meaning appearance is not the only aspect. In a society where "pretty privilege" exists, it can be difficult to appreciate other aspects of a person. A person's beauty is not simply their looks, but their character as well. Nowadays, it is hard to find someone who appreciates the personality and behavior of a person rather than their looks. People are bullied because of their outward appearance as if it is some sort of socioeconomic class that they do not fit into. I think this text could, in that aspect, be used as a wake-up call to society that we are not to be so shallow in that we focus solely on one detail. It is also worth noting that Aurelius mentions how even the ordinary facets of life ("material things and works of art") are beautiful in their own way. This particular part of the text holds great importance in that it calls the reader to enjoy the small, ordinary things in life. As fast and busy as life gets, it is hard to take a moment to notice the world around you and the beauty within everything. Time waits for no one, so it's important to enjoy moments while they last. Overall, beauty is objective. There is no point in searching for validation. I'd go as far as to say that this text contradicts the commonly known phrase "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder", which makes beauty subjective. Aurelius unintentionally creates a piece of text that motivates and gives the reader a sense of security they may have lacked. What I appreciate most about this text is the values that can be learned from it. As this is one of his many pieces of literature, it is also made clear the significance of literature itself and its timeless value. Without literature, where would our basic fundamentals reside? How would they even come to fruition? Literature is integral to our society, and this piece of text only proves so.
      Lyndsey Scott Coding+ Scholarship
      Have you ever been in a room where everyone looked much different than you? Now imagine it 5 times a week. This is something I experience as a black male in a predominately white school taking a predominately white class. It doesn't deter me, though. As a matter of fact, it only encourages me to pursue my goal. Since I was little, I have always been interested in technology. This was bound to happen in an age where technology was common for children. I found myself interested in gaming and watching it. Watching video after video slowly made me start to ask critical questions, such as "How are these games even made?" or "Can I learn how to create something like this?". As I got older, I discovered coding and immediately liked it. Though I have not gone into advanced coding just yet, I still have a desire to learn coding to the extent that I can create video games or AI. However, something bothered me. I have always been told by my father how people might doubt me and my abilities because of my skin color. Even though I have not yet experienced it firsthand, I know that it is possible. It appeared to me as I learned about the underrepresentation of minorities in tech. Seeing this has made me want to combine my goals by becoming an inspiration to many who want to pursue STEM but feel they are not good enough or think their abilities might be doubted. I'd like to become someone a young minority can look up to when they see my accomplishments because I have even fallen into that horrible mindset before. I have considered myself lower than other races based on biased rankings. The truth is, everyone is human. Intelligence is not defined by race. If you work hard enough at something, you can achieve your goals. Considering this fact, all must have equal opportunity to show their ability and make the impossible possible. Representation in tech is also important in my opinion because of the biases which could be mitigated. I would argue that there is a correlation between underrepresentation in tech and AI bias (chatbot bias, facial recognition error for dark-skinned people, etc.). If there were more people of color in high-level positions, they would be able to recognize and fix these issues related to race or ethnicity. Additionally, having a diverse team helps to cultivate a beautiful community. It could spark conversation, new business proposals/ideas, marketing advice, etc. This is why one of my biggest goals is to someday lead a diverse team of like-minded computer scientists (possibly even starting my own company with this mission in mind!). If possible, I’d like to create a game with my company that has diverse characters in it. This gives representation in and outside of real life. I would feel much better in a work environment that is diverse rather than one that is mostly dominated by a single race. That is why I hope to be able to pursue these goals during and after college for the betterment of STEM!