Scholarship Essay Winner 2019 Announced

Kristin Johnson // March 22, 2019

At Improving, we’re proud to support our communities in a number of different ways, and at our new Improving – Atlanta office, this is no exception. Whether it’s sponsoring a food drive, advocating for more women in the industry or participating as a company in Race for the Cure, there’s a reason we’ve been named one of the top workplaces in America for giving back.

Another way we “give back” is by offering a $1,000 scholarship to help create opportunity for college students of all ages and backgrounds.

In their latest scholarship essay contest, they asked students to submit essays describing how they define the word “bold,” along with an example of a time when they chose to be bold. We were thrilled to receive over 100 submissions, many of which were well-written and thoughtfully crafted. Ultimately, the winning essay impressed us with its relevance, compelling story and high quality.

Without further ado, we’d like to present the winning essay of our 2019 scholarship contest, submitted by Oberlin College student Colby Fortin.

Essay prompt: The word “bold” is hard to define because it means different things to different people. Please tell us what being bold means to you and give an example of a time when you were bold.

To be bold is to be willing to confront fear in order to create change. The times in my life when I have been the boldest, I have also been the most afraid. In these challenging situations, I have truly learned what my values are.

Following the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, I was petrified. I remember seeing the breaking news on Twitter in between classes. I had family living near there, though their children wouldn’t yet be in high school. The brick building quaked around me. I was confronted with a loss of childhood.

The next day school was in session, I was called down to the principal’s office along with other student representatives. We were proposed various ways to help our community heal and pay respect to those who were unjustly lost. I found myself stepping up to take a lead. While peers seemed indifferent or lacked motivation, I felt driven by my sadness and anger. Collectively, we decided that we needed to, at the very least, hold an assembly to talk about resources for those grieving and for anyone else struggling. I decided to reach out to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, who I had an established relationship with through prior service work, to ensure our presentation was effective and considerate.

I was torn between following the rules and following what I knew in my heart was right. I felt that no matter what, I would be compromising my morals.

My high school’s administration made it clear that we were not allowed to back the National School Walkout on March 14th. My school was in a politically divided area and they wanted any school-sanctioned event to be bipartisan. The fear was that a call of stronger gun regulations would lead to controversy. I was torn between following the rules and following what I knew in my heart was right. I felt that no matter what, I would be compromising my morals. By talking to other politically active students in my school and across my county, I knew what I had to do. The morning of March 14th, I led an assembly to memorialize and mourn the 17 students who had tragically passed a month prior. We had a moment of silence and read the names of those lost. We outlined resources in our community and opened the floor for some questions. It was quick and highly scripted.

Later that day, I led the school walkout with a group of my peers. This nonviolent protest is where I truly healed. I went on to participate in the March 24th National March for Our Lives. I learned that there is power in numbers and educated messages. Massive gun retailers like Walmart, Dicks, and Kroger have all changed their gun policies since March 24th of 2018.

I chose to both fulfill my duty as a student representative and also fulfill my duty as a human being. I chose to be bold when it would have been easier to be meek. I continue to choose to be bold because I believe in myself and the power I hold.

About the winner

My name is Colby Jeannine Fortin and I’m a freshman at Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH. I am double majoring in Political Science and Comparative American Studies, and I plan to attend law school. I’m from a rural town in the Adirondacks of New York, where I grew up working with many service organizations. I spent three years working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, alongside psychology graduate students at SUNY Plattsburgh, which has led to a love for people and community resources. I also worked with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which inspired me to go into advocacy work. Most recently, I have interned in the law department of the Department of Social Services in Clinton County, NY. I am a Sexual Harm Information Liaison at my college’s Title IX office and I’m passionate about serving my peers.


Scholarship Contest Winner 2019: Colby Jeannine Fortin from Oberlin University

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