Wednesday, March 14

The Essay

As some of you may know, I originally created my video for a scholarship application to Tulane University in New Orleans. If you are interested in more details about how and why I created the video, please check out my interview with teen website

Well, good news... I got the scholarship! The official name for the scholarship is the John Hainkel Louisiana Scholars Award, and it is basically a full ride to Tulane. I am SO excited to attend Tulane starting next fall, where I hope to study public health, journalism, and Spanish, among other things.

The scholarship application also required that an essay be submitted along with the project; so, without further ado, I would like to share with you that very essay:

My mom and I were in a stationery shop; I was five years old. While she was going about her boring grown-up business, I was wandering around the store admiring the pretty trinkets. My sight fell on something unexplainably but undeniably beautiful: a little, pink velvet pillow. My five-year-old self was in love. Please buy it for me, Mommy, I begged. She refused. However, she told me, if you save your own money, I will bring you back here, and you can buy it. I had never bought anything with my own money before. I didn't even know how I would get money. But the elegant little pillow was irresistible: I imagined a glass slipper resting on it, or perhaps a sleeping fairy. I would find a way to save money, and I would have the pillow.

I saved every dollar, every quarter, every dime I earned. After several weeks, I had saved six, maybe seven dollars. I had never had so much money of my own in my life. I'm sure my mom had expected me to forget about the pillow after a few days, but I couldn't stop fantasizing about its magical potential. One night, she came into my room and sat on my bed. Gabriella, she said, I know you have been doing a really good job saving your money to buy that pillow. But I want to tell you about another way you could spend your money. Of course, it is totally up to you—it is your money, and you can spend it however you like. But I thought you might want to know about this. She read me an article about a Jewish organization that took small donations and sent them to a synagogue in Ethiopia. There, the synagogue community used the money to buy meals for the children in their congregation. When she finished explaining that my money would probably be used for a girl about my own age, I immediately got out of bed, gathered my small fortune, and handed it to my mom. I want to pay for a girl's lunch, I said. I have a lot of pillows.

Agernesh in front of her synagogue 2000
Concern for the health of girls around the world has always been a part of me. No other global or local issue touches me like the horrors of child marriage, human trafficking, or female genital mutilation. These abominable yet socially acceptable practices in many developing countries are not only a gross violation of human rights, but they also represent the deeply held cultural belief that women are inherently inferior to men.

More than anything, I want education for every girl and woman on this planet. I truly believe that if you educate a girl, you educate a nation. Since I was one year old, I have attended the school founded by my dad's parents in 1965. My Aunt Karen taught me in the two-year-old class; my Uncle Kurt was the groundskeeper at the elementary school; my Aunt Helen taught me AP Environmental Science, my Aunt Becca taught me AP Physics, and my Pop Pop taught me AP Chemistry. For me, school has never just been school. Education means family. Livelihood. Nurturing future generations and remembering past ones. I want to share this gift with the whole world.

The girl whose lunch I paid for twelve years ago sent me a photograph of herself and a short letter. Her name is Agernesh Sisay Askatach, and she was seven at the time. In the photograph, she is wearing a pink dress and no shoes, holding a little brown bundle, and standing in front of a small stone synagogue. I know I will probably never meet Agernesh. But my dream is to meet many girls like her and to give them what everyone on this planet deserves—even the poor—even the underprivileged—even girls:



  1. Congratulations, Gabriella! What a fantastic essay. I think what you're doing is wonderful, I'm sure you're going to do great things in life :)

  2. This is a great blog, usually i don't post comments on blogs but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so!

  3. wow!Really an inspiring story.
    Education is necessary for every one specially in today's world where competition is so high.
    I truly believes when gabriella meets Agernesh,she will makes her proud.

  4. Hi Gabriella we enjoyed reading this post thank you for sharing with us.

  5. Hi Gabriella great post we all enjoyed reading, thank you very much for sharing we will keep checking back for more!

  6. The essay writing assignment needs much attention in introduction and conclusion part of your essay.