The Best of Our 2021 Scholarship Essays

July 1, 2021 by Spectrum Credit Union

Chevron Federal Credit Union believes in the value of education. That’s why we're committed to investing in students and their dreams. Each spring, we award David P. Smay scholarships in the amount of $1,000 to 12 winning applicants to support their educational goals.

All student applicants were required to submit their transcripts and an essay based on the year’s theme. This year’s theme was “If you had to be either a diamond with a flaw or a pebble without a flaw, which would you choose, and why?”

This year, we received dozens of amazing applicant essays and we want to showcase two that uniquely addressed the essay topic.

This essay written by Miranda Bowdish addressed being a diamond with a flaw.

If I were to choose between being an imperfect diamond or a perfect pebble, I would prefer to be an imperfect diamond. I think having no flaws is an unrealistic expectation; no one can be perfect. Human life should always strive for perfection, but always understanding that closer proximity to the target is the best possible outcome.

The need to improve, to grow, and to adapt to new challenges is the drive that makes each day worth living. This push gives us a reason to get up every morning and face each new hurdle, even if that hurdle is just to get through the next workday. If I were to assume perfection, what goals would I have? Becoming better would no longer be a possible outcome, and each day would merely be a struggle not to become less than how I started out the day.

Our flaws are the elements with each of us that provide our unique personalities. They shape who we are, how we act, and expose what is important to each of us. While flaws can be seen as a limitation to one’s abilities and define us in a negative light, I prefer to view flaws as motivators. I can choose to become a better friend, become a more caring family member, and become a better example to others. In this way, our flaws can actually be our personal “superpower”, and our own recognition and acceptance of our flaws can give us incredible personal strength.

In contrast, I believe I would find existence as a perfect pebble to lack enjoyment and meaning. I would have no drive to better myself, as I would already be perfect. I would not find the motivation to do almost anything as any achievements would have no real value. Each day would be like the one before it, void of challenges and lacking in any perceived personal advancement. I believe the choices offered within this topic self-illustrate their differences visually. Even an imperfect diamond is likely to shine brightly, taking in all light given and redirecting the rays outward in multiple directions. Additionally, the light radiating from a diamond is likely to be more colorful than the light received. On the other hand, the shiniest and most perfect pebble would not shine nor share its light as beautifully or unselfishly as the cloudiest of diamonds. I believe this imagery of a diamond contrasted with that of a pebble represents my expectations of being a diamond or a pebble, regardless of their respective quality.

In conclusion, the choice is clear to me. The lure of perfection is an unrealistic one, and so I would prefer to be labeled as flawed as I share my light and continue to shine as I strive for growth. Existing without that opportunity for improvement would be existence without purpose, and would ultimately be as dull as even the most perfect pebble.

Taking the view of a pebble without a flaw, here is an essay by John Phillips.

The pebble appears perfect when you see it in the clear, sparkling stream. The water has shaped and polished it through the years in to a smooth, round rock with no rough edges. Sunlight filtered through the rushing liquid highlights colorful veins and variations. Small flecks of mica reflect the sunlight. While in the folds of the stream, the pebble has served as a refuge for tadpoles evading snapping turtles as they journey to maturity. It also shelters the eggs deposited by fish entrusting the pebble with their protection. The pebble relishes moments when it is lifted from the water and human fingers rub its smooth surface. Its perfect roundness and size are admired and stories are told of afternoons spent with grandparents sharing memories and skipping stones. Then the pebble flies! It jumps and skims across the surface of the stream. Finally it settles to the bottom, waiting to discover its next task and purpose. While the pebble’s appearance looks and feels perfect, its true perfection is in fulfilling a purpose of serving, sheltering, delivering comfort and provoking joy!

I would prefer to be the perfect pebble not because of its flawless, smooth surface and perfectly rounded shape, but because of where it lives, the service it provides, and its connectedness to the world around it. I am committed to a life of service and involvement. I have an intense commitment to my community! As I followed my passions, I stretched myself and took active roles in leadership within organizations that benefitted the greater community and world. I reached out to a living historical park  in my community where a teen volunteer program had been established to cultivate preserving the past for future generations. As I developed a deeper understanding of the needs and goals of this service organization, I aspired to actively reach beyond the group’s basic responsibilities. Our 1880’s sharecropper cabin desperately needed a working smokehouse to replace one that had burned two years earlier. This structure enriched the immersive experience of visitors because they could see, hear, smell, and taste the sharecropper’s life and time period. So, I started to develop a smokehouse that would double as my Scout Eagle Project. I also found a leadership niche as a part of our city zoo. They had an established teen volunteer program that had been ongoing for over 20 years. Working with the Youth Programs Director I saw a possibility for a more youth directed program, and helped to develop and establish a leadership team within the larger program. As a result, tasks once led by adult staff (such as orientation and activity station development) are now handled almost exclusively by the teens in the program. In both experiences I hold a true passion for the organizations and who they benefit. This passion was a compelling force to explore ways to develop stronger youth contribution. My junior year I was accepted into the YIP (Youth in Philanthropy) community organization. With a team of other high school juniors and seniors in my county, we travelled to various service organizations in our region to provide support through refurbishment projects and community engagement. During this process I learned more about the many areas of need within my own community and the importance of lifelong service. Overall during my 4 years of high school, I have contributed 950+ hours of service to my school, community, and nation! Just as the pebble, I have tried to support my community through acts of service.

As the stream shaped the pebble throughout years of growth, I have been shaped by the strong forces around me. Teachers, scout leaders, advisors, my friends, and my family have all naturally and diligently smoothed my rough edges and contributed to creating the man I am today. Just like the water of the stream, this has been a consistent process from the beginning and will continue to smooth my chips and rough edges. I would like to be a pebble, not because it is perfect, but because it is formed naturally, over time and the process never ends. It relishes what it is able to accomplish and strives to serve wherever it lands.


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