2017 Winners' Essays



The Knudson Churchill Scholarship Trust

Applicants for the Knudson Churchill Scholarship are required to submit an essay that outlines their career aspirations in automotive technology or print journalism; how this scholarship would help them achieve their career goals; their specific plans for their educational program; and why they would be an ideal candidate as a Knudson-Churchill Scholar.

The winning essays are printed in the October issue of The Sacred Octagon and will be posted here at that time.

Read the winning essays below. Click on the tab to change essays.

Journalism Winner

Sydney Hoover

The World Needs Journalists
By Sydney Hoover
    It was my junior year. I sat in an auditorium full of my peers and their families, listening to a speaker from Kansas State University informing us on various college preparatory ideas, including how to find and apply for scholarships.
    He asked us, “So, does anyone here actually enjoy writing essays?”
    The room was silent, and the only hand in the air was mine. The speaker and those around me laughed – not in a rude way – as I held my hand up proudly. The speaker made a joke about how, aside from a select few, pretty much no one enjoys writing, and continued with his speech. I do like writing, though. Call me crazy, but writing essays is one of my favorite things to do, right behind reporting for our school newspaper.


    Writing has been a gift to me since the day I could pick up a pencil. I remember vividly sitting at my grandmother’s house at four years old, scribbling across a sheet of paper because although I could write my name and a few words, I was too young to know how to spell out all of the stories in my head. I later translated the scribbles for my grandma so she was able to read the story I was so proud of.
    The first real story I ever wrote was about my Build-A-Bear frog, Froggy, and all the adventures Froggy and her friends went on. Those were my favorite types of stories to write – stories about adventures and people (or frogs) doing really cool things. I think that’s how I developed a love for journalism. I knew from the first time I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up that the answer would always be “an author.” As I became older, though, I grew out of creative writing: I wanted something more to write about. Something real.
    My sophomore year of high school, I joined the student newspaper. Wearily, might I add; my parents and a few friends had to talk me into submitting the application, as I wasn’t really big on the idea – I wasn’t a big ‘people person’ and the thought of having to go out and get interviews made me cringe – but I finally had to give in. However, I soon learned that being apart of the school newspaper would be one of the most beneficial things I would ever do. The school newspaper brought me out of my shell; it allowed me to meet so many people wh

om I never would have met otherwise. I have gotten incredible experiences out of being apart of the press that no other student can claim. From spending every football game on the sideline to doing interviews with holocaust survivors, I have been apart of so many amazing things that have gone on at my school.
    Through journalism, I have made my school of 800 people in a small town in Kansas seem much larger. With our print and online publication, students have been able to see the diversity that really does exist at De Soto High School, as it can be hard to recognize at times. My adviser’s favorite saying is “everyone has a story,” and he is absolutely right; there are so many unique faces in the crowd of 800, from competitive horseback riders to models in Kansas City Fashion Week to at-home beekeepers. I have been able to share the stories of so many at DHS that otherwise would not have been told. High school is a tough place, truly, and one of my top goals in my time on staff has been to recognize people for their hidden talents and allow their peers to see all the amazing things they have accomplished.
    One of my favorite stories I ever wrote was a feature story about a boy named Gunnar. Gunnar has autism, and is one of the most beloved people at my school. I pitched the story on the fly, and to my surprise, the Editor-in-Chief that year chose it as the cover story. I got to hear more stories I can count about all the funny, quirky, and awesome things that make Gunnar the person he is from students and faculty, and I got to spend time with him, writing down any quote he gave me about his favorite car, his best friends and his hopes for his senior year. The issue was easily the best of that volume.
    As a senior, I was chosen as the Editor-in-Chief of our newspaper, much to my excitement. I was confident when I submitted my application, as I was promoted to a section editor my first year on staff and was the Associate Editor to the Editor-in-Chief my second, but when I received the email from our adviser confirming that I had gotten the position, I was on top of the world. Being Editor-in-Chief has easily been the best experience of my high school career. Not only was I able to create a volume of our paper based on my own vision, but my Co-Editor and I have also been able to make the newspaper staff a more fun and welcoming environment, something it was previously lacking, especially to the first year staff members; now, everyone in school talks about how crazy (in a good way) the newspaper staff is, because we just have so much fun. As my senior year comes to a close and we begin on our final two issues, the idea of leaving the staff has become very bittersweet. The staff has become my family and the journalism classroom, my home away from home. Throughout high school I struggled with finding a group I really fit in with and becoming so close with the staff has impacted me more than words can describe. When I don’t have anyone to sit by at lunch, I hang out in the journalism classroom. When I have free time in a different class, it’s pretty much a guarantee I’ll be out the door and on my way to the technology wing. Every time another issue comes in the mail, I get so excited – I may have teared up when the first issue came this school year, and I will surely be a mess when we send off our final ‘senior’ issue.
    Journalism has brought me opportunities outside of my school as well. A controversial piece I wrote about recent legislation on education in my home state of Kansas became a hit across Facebook, and the link to the story was posted on various pages, such as ‘The Moderate Party of Kansas.’ Only a few hours after publishing the story, I had received an offer for an internship with a young politician named Logan Heley who was running for the Kansas State Senate. I was able to work on his campaign for eight months and learned so much about the way the government works and what it takes to run for office; this experience also opened up a new door for me, as I was later connected with groups such as the Kansas Young Democrats (through Young Democrats of America), and am now in the process of starting a chapter at my high school.
    As my senior year comes to an end, it is saddening to see my time with our school publication go, as I have made lifelong friends and unforgettable experiences from it. My time as a journalist is not over, though; because of the pressure from my parents and friends, the support of my journalism teacher, and a number of other factors, in July of 2016, I made the decision to attend the University of Kansas as a journalism major. I was automatically accepted into the William Allen White School of Journalism at KU and have even been in contact with staff members of The University Daily Kansan newspaper.
    The most exciting part of attending KU, though, is having been accepted into the University Honors Program. The KU Honors Program is a prestigious program, receiving the highest ranking of a 5.0 in a judging in 2016 by Top Honors Programs. I can say in all honesty that my acceptance into the University Honors Program would not have been possible if it were not for my passion for journalism. The honors program application requires an essay based on a selected prompt, along with many other factors including a resume and ACT score. The prompt I chose was based off of a quote by Albert Einstein: “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” With this quote, I wrote about the poor reputation the press has developed, especially in the past few years from the 24-hour news cycle and the vulture-like  paparazzi. My goal as a journalist is not to write stories on the downfalls of humanity or be known as an unreliable source just to make a deadline. My goal is to be a journalist like CBS broadcaster Steve Hartman, who writes stories on inspirational people around the world; some of his headlines include “Partially-paralyzed pianist refuses to stop the music” and “Michigan woman on a mission to revitalize her neighborhood.” With this essay, I was accepted as a KU Honors Program student, one of my greatest achievements thus far.
    With a major in journalism under my belt, as well as a second major in Spanish and a minor in political science, I am sure that I will be able to be successful in a journalism career. I have the dedication and determination to do so, and I am confident and passionate enough as well. I often have people tell me that journalism and the printed word is dying – but it’s not. There will always be news and there will always be people seeking out that news and there will always be people worth covering in the news. Journalism is not dying and it never will. I hope that someday I might accomplish my biggest dream as a reporter or photojournalist for Time or National Geographic and have the opportunity to spread people’s stories that otherwise would never get told. Maybe I’ll even win a Pulitzer prize someday.
    I believe I am the best candidate for the Knudson Churchill Scholarship because I have the passion and drive to be successful at what I do. I will never stop trying to achieve my goals, no matter how many times I am knocked down. I am fully aware that journalism is a competitive field, that many times it can come with difficult and exhausting hours, that many people believe the media has become unreliable, and that journalism has recently gained the title of ‘dying.’ I am willing to put everything it takes into becoming successful in this field, though, because there is nothing in the world I am more passionate about than this. I do love writing, more than anything in the world. I am willing to lose sleep, gain stress, and be told no over and over again to accomplish my goals. The world needs journalists who are going to focus on integrity, not on personal gain, and the world needs journalists who are going to shine a light on the good in society amidst much of the darkness there is today. I intend to be of those journalists.