Mesothelioma Scholarship Essay Example

2014 MesotheliomaHelp Scholarship Essay Contest Finalists

1st Place – Grand Prize ($5,000)

Jennifer Schnalzer

I am a current Nursing Student at Rockland Community College and work as a paralegal at a law firm in White Plains, NY. I receive my associate’s degree in Paralegal studies in 2005 from Rockland Community College and my bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Pace University in 2008. Always being intrigued by the medical field and helping others, I reentered Rockland Community College to pursue my Nursing Career in 2012.

2nd Place ($2,500)

Fernando Salazar

I am a Biology and Latin American Studies Major and I’ve been doing research on Infectious Diseases for the last two years. I hope to pursue this passion to become and Md/PhD focusing on infectious diseases. I have a personal connection to this topic and I wanted to raise awareness of Mesothelioma and the ubiquitous nature of Asbestos.

3rd Place ($1,250)

Erienne Overli

Aria Overli is getting her Master’s degree in Anthropology at the University of Nevada in Reno. She’s studying undocumented youth and their struggle for recognition. She decided to enter the scholarship contest because she likes the idea of spreading education and awareness for the betterment of all kind.

4th Place ($500)

Justin Hellier

Justin Hellier attends Irvine Valley College and plans to transfer to a 4-year university in 2015. Justin was able to relate very closely to the contest and the essay as his grandfather battled Mesothelioma for over two years. Justin’s message to families fighting mesothelioma is that “this is when family matters the most”.

5th Place ($250)

Samantha Robeson

I am a Sophomore studying engineering at the University of Delaware. My goal is to get into the Bio-Medical Engineering Program so that I can help in the search for a cure and the development of better treatment for those with cancer. My grandfather’s brave fight against mesothelioma has inspired me to enter the field of cancer research, and I hope to make a difference.

2014 Honorable Mentions

Travis Wayne Fergason – Honorable Mention ($100)
I am a part-time graduate student as well as a Pastor of a rural congregation. I love success stories of people who succeeded against the odds. I didn’t know much about mesothelioma before the contest so I thought that by participating in the contest, it would be a good chance to learn more about it.

Kishan Patel – Honorable Mention ($100)
I am an incoming freshman at UCLA as a Neuroscience major. I one day hope to work with Doctors without Borders and provide medical care to underprivileged communities in the world. Why my essay and my experiences with mesothelioma, I wanted the world to know how some things as small as asbestos can affect a person, a family, a world.

Ciara Speranza – Honorable Mention ($100)
I am an undergraduate student at Texas State University in San Marcos, majoring in International Business and minoring in Music Composition. I hope to work with Non-Profits and earn a masters degree after graduating from Texas State University. My grandfather was diagnosed with Mesothelioma so I was aware of the disease, however I did not know some of the key facts about asbestos and what it can do to the body.

Kellie Walsh – Honorable Mention ($100)
I am a Marine Biology / Environmental Science major. Even though I work a lot, in my spare time I enjoy painting, reading, and getting involved in community events. My grandfather passed away of mesothelioma after working many years in naval shipyards. My essay was about the treatment of mesothelioma, I learned more about the modern treatment options that are available.

Josh Page – Honorable Mention ($100)
I am a 29 year old former Marine with an unbounded love of learning. My career path is a journey towards completely understanding the biological workings of the human brain, so that we can systematize human activity with the accuracy of a “hard science” like math or physics. By participating in the contest I learned about technical aspects of the disease, statistics and treatment options.

2013 MesotheliomaHelp Scholarship Essay Contest Winners

1st Place – Grand Prize ($5,000)

Cortney Segmen

I am a Senior at the University of Michigan majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience and minoring in Writing. I hope to attend a Master of Public Health graduate program in the fall. On campus I have been involved in the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program, Chaldean American Student Association, and Camp Kesem, a summer camp for youth whose parent has (or has had) cancer.

2nd Place ($2,500)

Emily Garst

I am a General Engineering student at Virginia Tech. I am on the club gymnastics team and I am in the Women in Engineering living/learning community at VA Tech. I am very intrigued and interested in mesothelioma research.

3rd Place ($1,250)

Karalee Collins

I am a surgical-trauma ICU nurse and will be attending the Nurse Anesthesia Program at Duke University to receive my Master’s degree in nursing. I love my job as a nurse and I can’t imagine doing anything other than touching lives through my career. As a Marine, I am motivated to show support for my fellow service members who were exposed to asbestos while serving our country. I want all mesothelioma victims and their families to know that people do care and want to fight for them.

4th Place ($500)

Ashley Barasa

I am a transfer student to TAMU-CC and I am majoring in Chemistry with a focus in Biochemistry.My goal is to one day become a doctor, and perhaps join in Doctors Without Borders.My most favorite outside school activity is going to church and being with family.

5th Place ($250)

Michaella Hammersberg

I am 23-years-old and I have dreamed of helping others since I was little. I hope to get a degree in psychology, and I want to make helping others my career.


2013 Honorable Mentions

Erika Graham: Honorable Mention ($100)
I am 23-years-old and I have dreamed of helping others since I was little. I hope to get a degree in psychology, and I want to make helping others my career.

Matthew Hassan Harbawi: Honorable Mention ($100)
I am a Respiratory Therapy student in San Joaquin Valley College. After graduation I hope I can help people with Mesothelioma.

Devin Jurczak: Honorable Mention ($100)
I am a freshman at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I am involved in the Latino Student Organization, fencing, and volunteer work with the community. I was a member of the National Honors Society and recognized by the Fayette Chamber of Commerce as Student of the Month. I have spent the past tow years working at a daycare center.

Yesenia Leon: Honorable Mention ($100)
22 years old, native to California and studying architecture and sustainability in ASU. Hobbies include wildlife preservation, dancing and sustainability.

Juliana Polson: Honorable Mention ($100)
I am from Superior, WI and I am currently pursuing a degree in accounting from the University of WI-Superior.


2012 Scholarship Winners

Every year runs a $10,000 Essay Scholarship Contest sponsored by Belluck & Fox, LLP, with the objective of helping the educational efforts of students while raising awareness of mesothelioma and the dangers of asbestos.The 2012 Scholarship Winners are:

1st Place – Grand Prize

Betsy Warren
Betsy grew up in the Northwest where she enjoyed trips to the beach with her family, music, and quilting. Upon graduating with a degree in biology, she enjoyed working in the opposite fields of nutrition research and interior design. After cherishing a few years at home raising her children, Betsy is pursuing a degree in Nursing at Rhode Island College, with the desire to work in maternal, newborn, or child health.

2nd Place

Kimberly McCauley
My name in Kimberly McCauley. I am 26 years old and a fulltime student at AIU in the Criminal Justice field. I am currently working as an Inside Sales Rep for Qubica AMF. When I am away from school and work I love spending time with my family. I have a wonderful fiancé (Bill) and we have an amazing 5 year old (Little Bill) who means the world to us; he keeps us plenty busy at home as any child would with all the energy and imagination they have. I love cooking, dancing, movies and spending nights out on the town.

3rd Place

Kim Forgione
Kim Forgione graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in wildlife biology. She is now looking forward to starting a doctorate of optometry program next fall at Pacific University College of Optometry.

4th Place

Kate Nadeau
I am a second-degree nursing student entering my senior year this coming spring semester. My first bachelor’s degree is in Health Policy and Management. In addition, I have a Master’s Degree in Public Health. While I am completing my nursing degree from Rhode Island College, I work as a consultant at Advanced Pharmacy Concepts.

2012 Honorable Mentions

Jodeen Henry
My name is Jodeen Henry. I was born in the West Indies in 1994 and I lived there for thirteen years until I moved to America in 2007 with my family. We currently reside in North Carolina. I am a sophomore at North Carolina State University, with a major in Anthropology and two minors in Criminology and Forensic Science. I hope to be a Forensic Anthropologist when I leave school.

Carla Patton
Carla Patton is a Masters of Business Administration candidate at Murray State University, who currently works with Department of Education grants aimed at increasing college access for rural Appalachian students. She hopes to go into nonprofit management when she completes her Masters degree. She enjoys spending time with her family.

Brittany Brooks

Lisa Hu
My name is Lisa Hu and I’m a Physician’s Assistant student at Saint Louis University. Prior to starting graduate school, I worked in clinical research for 4 years and had lots of experience with new clinical trials. This essay contest has made me more aware of mesothelioma, this rare and fatal disease. I will be sure to apply what I learned about mesothelioma to my future patients, in the hopes of preventing or treating them more effectively.

Rachel Norton
Rachel is an Environmental Studies graduate student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her academic interests include examining the environmental and health impacts of natural disasters. Currently she works as a Teaching Assistant for an Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies course in addition to working as a Sustainability Intern for EnergySmart. In her spare time she enjoys running, skiing and biking.

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Mesothelioma Help is pleased to announce the “Jan Egerton and Don Smitley Mesothelioma Scholarship.” We are proud to offer 4 scholarships in the names of these two mesothelioma warriors.

Jan Egerton battled mesothelioma for over 10 years and during that time she dedicated her life to raising awareness of the dangers of asbestos and to championing the researchers to continue to focus on finding a cure and new treatments for the cancer. Jan’s husband said, “I know Jan would be delighted to have this accolade, and I would be honoured for you to use Jan’s name. This is a legacy of which she would be proud.” Jan was one of last year’s judges.

Don Smitley spent his days enjoying time with his family, his dog, Charley, and playing in his bluegrass band, The Dunbar Boys. No one ever heard Don complain or wonder, “Why me?” while he fought mesothelioma. But everyone that knew him would say that faith and a positive attitude carried him through each day. Don’s daughter, Jennifer Gelsick, chronicled her family’s journey during mesothelioma, and now discusses life after losing a loved one to mesothelioma through her blog. “We are so honored to have Dad’s name on the scholarship. It’s such a perfect way to remember and honor him,” said Jennifer. Jennifer will be one of the essay judges this year.

The scholarship is available to students in high schools, colleges and universities throughout the United States. Our goal is to help the educational efforts of students while raising awareness of mesothelioma, provide information about its prognosis and the dangers of being exposed to asbestos. Mesothelioma is a disease that affects men and women – both young and old.

See the list of past essay winners here and iPad-mini winners.

See the list of the 2017 Scholarship Finalists


The four scholarship amounts are as follows, and will be distributed after the winners have been notified:


  • $2,500 – First Prize
  • $1,250 – Second Prize
  • $750 – Third Prize
  • $500 – Fourth Prize

Important Dates and Deadlines


  • Essay submissions open: Mar. 7, 2018
  • Essay submissions close: Mar. 25, 2018
  • Essay judging complete: Apr. 18, 2018
  • Top 4 finalists notified: Apr. 21, 2018
  • Public voting period opens: Apr. 24, 2018
  • Public voting period closes: May 11, 2018
  • Winners contacted by: May 15, 2018
  • Winners announced: May 16, 2018

Type of Scholarship

Each winner of this essay contest will be awarded a check from the law firm of Belluck & Fox, LLP. These funds must be used to pay for college tuition ONLY.
One (1) essay per student is allowed.


This essay contest is open to undergraduate and graduate students who are 18-years-old or older and have a letter of acceptance or are currently enrolled in a college or university located within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia. U.S. territories are excluded.

Previous first place winners are not eligible for participation.

Essay Topic

Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer diagnosed in close to 3,000 Americans each year. The only established cause of mesothelioma is exposure to asbestos. Most victims were unwittingly exposed to asbestos at work or while serving in the military. Still others developed mesothelioma through exposure from family members coming home from work with their clothes covered in asbestos fibers.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the annual number of mesothelioma deaths is increasing. According to experts, over 20 million people in the United States are at risk of developing malignant mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure.

We believe it is important to get the facts out about mesothelioma and asbestos exposure, and especially, to help educate young Americans. Please address some or all of the following questions in your essay:

  • Share your personal story dealing with asbestos disease or cancer. Talk about how it affected your life and how/whether it impacted your education/career choice.
  • What do you hope to do with the education you are receiving to help cancer patients?
  • Why is raising awareness and educating the public about the dangers of asbestos and the impact of mesothelioma on a family important?
  • What would you say to someone who is fighting mesothelioma or to a family member who recently lost a loved one to the disease?

Essay Length

The essay must be no fewer than 750 and no more than 1,500 words long.


  • Essays will be judged by Jennifer Gelsick, former caregiver for her father, Don Smitley, who passed away from mesothelioma in October 2013, and Lisa Hyde-Barrett, a thoracic surgery nurse.
  • Submissions will be judged on content, correctness of facts, grammar, style, and originality.
  • Judges will look for clear, original essays that are logically organized and well-supported.

Selection Process

Due to the popularity of social media and the ability to reach a wide number of people to educate them about mesothelioma, this year’s contest will include a public voting aspect. The judges will select the top 4 essays through the criteria listed above. The top four finalists will then have an opportunity to use social media to help determine their final placement.

A page will be created on for the essays. A link to the essays will be provided to the finalists when they are notified of their placement.

The top four winners will be notified on the dates found on the sidebar on the right and will have three weeks to garner votes for their essays and to request citations (links) from other academic sources. Finalists should encourage their friends and families to read their essays through sharing on Facebook, Google+ or via Twitter postings. A specific #hashtag will be used to track the activity.

The winners will be determined by a combination of the number of votes for their essays and for the number of citations (links) from other academic works. Note that links are weighted more heavily than votes and each citation counts as 100 votes. Please note that we reserve the right to exclude any websites from the final tally that we deem inappropriate or irrelevant.

Please refer to the FAQs for examples of appropriate and inappropriate citations.

At conclusion of the voting period, the top five finalists will be selected and notified.

Winner Notification

  • The top four finalists, as selected by the judges and will be notified via email
  • Winners will be announced to the public

To Apply to the Essay Contest

  • Fill in “Your Information” in the downloadable application to the right.
  • Read the Rules and sign the application.
  • Return this form by email (also download the PDF application here).
  • Email your original essay to [email protected].

Specific dates for applying and announcing the winners will be published on this page in the coming weeks.

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