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Announcing the RightSignature Signature Stories Scholarship Winners

By: Unknown / Friday, July 7, 2017

Guest post by Lauren Pritchett, SEO Specialist at Citrix.

When our First Annual Signature Stories Scholarship launched this spring, we asked eligible students to write an essay about an important signature they have either given or received. We feel honored that so many talented students shared their truly inspiring stories with us. After reading hundreds of heartfelt stories that made the judges laugh out loud and tear up with empathy, we are thrilled to announce our winners and share an excerpt of each of their essays.

$5,000 1st Place Winner: Ivona Ogramic of Seattle University School of Law

Eighteen years later, I write this as a citizen of the United States. I write this a second-year law student who, in a year’s time, will be taking the oath to uphold and support the Constitution of the United States. I write this as a future lawyer who will fight, relentlessly, for the country that gave a young refugee like me a chance at a second life. There are children now across the globe that are waiting for that very same signature that my family received. Only now, the United States does not have its arm out ready to embrace kids, much like myself twenty-five years ago, who are caught in the crossfire and live in inescapable tragedies because of wars they did not start and wars they have no stake in.  Only now, the signature of approval is not so easily given. I recognize the dire similarities that other young children and their families share with the situation my family and I were trapped in. The signature we received has played a pivotal role in shaping my life. I have made it my goal through my legal education and profession to help those who, like me, yearn for that one signature that will help them escape chaos.

Without that one signature, I would have not received a second chance at life. I would have never had the opportunity to be the first person in my family to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree. I would have never had the opportunity to be the first person in my family to attend a doctorate program. I would have never had the opportunity to help impact the lives of others through my profession, my advocacy, and my passion for a cause. Most important of all, I would have never received a chance to live life the way everyone should live their lives.

A few can say that a signature saved their life. I am an individual that can say that a signature saved my life.

$3,000 2nd Place Winner: Michael Simon of Rutgers University, New Brunswick

Then something strange happened. My grand, self-assured signature looked less grand and self-assured. My smooth stroke became shaky again, and my words grew smaller and constricted, almost apologetic. A doctor sent me to another doctor who sent me to another doctor, who drew a conclusion: Parkinson’s Disease.

My right arm and my right leg stiffened and shook with ever greater severity. Writing became difficult, as did walking. Medications had notable but limited effect. The shaking disrupted my concentration and I began to lose work as an editor. While I could hide my shaking hand from my students, my shaking leg threw off my balance. There were times when, standing or walking in front of a class, I nearly toppled. I had to reconsider my career.

Over the years, I’ve worked to create an office where students would feel welcome, where they could stop in to talk about school or their future, and leave feeling hopeful. But now I want to take it further. I’ve been teaching students to be better writers and public speakers. I want to teach them to live happier and more productive lives.

This Fall I’ll begin my Master of Social Work, on the path to becoming a therapist. I’ll teach people to develop their strengths and work with their shortcomings. Instead of following one counselor’s suggestion that I apply for Disability, I’m taking this opportunity to move forward in life, to create a new beginning. I’ll contribute to society.

People with Parkinson’s Disease tend to take small steps, write small, become small. So it’s again deliberate that I fill in my Social Security number on my college forms and spread out my signature, taking my rightful space at the bottom of the page. I don’t apologize for my disability. I work with it. My signature declares This Is Who I Am.

$2,000 3rd Place Winner: Jenna Holliman of William & Mary

I was found in a box when I was 3 days old. The box was in a dark, crowded farmer’s market, damp from the rain outside the open doors. In the box with me were some old, worn baby clothes — dress, tights, shirt — and a rectangular red note that said “This little girl was born [Date Omitted]. Thank you good hearted person.”

This was China during the middle of the One Child, One Family policy, and little girls — at least the lucky ones — were being found all over China, in bus stations and farmer’s markets, abandoned because they were not boys. I was lucky I wasn’t killed — the fate of thousands of other baby girls.

The handwriting on the note has long since faded, leaving only a red strip of paper. And, of course, the writer could not sign his or her actual name since it was (and still is) against the law to abandon a child in China. They would have been arrested and thrown in jail. But the fact that my birth parents wrote the note and left it with me is incredibly important to me. It tells me a lot about them. It tells me all I will ever know about them.

I also have been told by a Chinese friend that the writing on the note looked rushed, as if someone had written it in a hurry. Did my birth mother write the note, while my birth father impatiently waited to take me to the market? I suspect my mother would have wanted to keep me, while my father was probably more practical and felt, as most Chinese families did, that a boy was needed to help support the family by performing manual labor in their rural village.

The note also tells me that they wanted me to know the date of my birth. They couldn’t give me much, but they could give me that vital piece of information about my past, and they chose to do so. I am so grateful that I know what day I was born.
Thank you again to everyone who submitted a Signature Story for our consideration, and we can’t wait to see the tremendous impact you all have in this world. Stay tuned for details on next year’s scholarship, coming in the spring of 2018.


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