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Please join us in congratulating the winner of the NFC Performance 2018 Guiding Light Scholarship Essay contest:

 NICOLE WILLIAMS

Princeton University

 

Thank you to all of our applicants who participated in our Scholarship contest. We appreciate the numerous submissions we have received and wish everyone luck in their upcoming semesters.

 

Read Nicole's winning submission below:

 "Beautiful, Black, and Bold. These are the characteristics I would use to describe myself today, but they are not the adjectives I would have used four years ago. In fact, I would have used an utterly opposing set of attributes: Ugly, White, and Fearful. Up until I was nine years old, as a young black girl, I thought I was white. While my dad eventually dispelled this belief, the concept of white superiority still plagued my subconscious mind. Like many, while I knew that all people were equal, I had many unchecked internal racial prejudices. When I became conscious of my black skin, I always hoped that I could be white. I would pray every night that I would wake up in a white body. On top of that, I struggled with my weight throughout high school and middle school. I hated myself. I wrestled with shame, comparison, and self-hate.

My sophomore year World History course was when I would first meet Ms.Tanya Cepeda. Little did I know at the time, she would completely change my life. I vividly remember some of my first times in the classroom with her. She would teach with so much passion and knowledge in a way that was not dull, but invigorating and inspired others to learn more. The most memorable moment was when she taught about colonization and white supremacy. Before her class, no one had ever introduced me to the racial complexities of modern society. I would sometimes stay after class and ask her more questions about America’s racial history and how I fit into this greater societal context. It wasn’t until Ms.Cepeda’s course that I began to challenge my own subconscious beliefs actively. It was Ms.Cepeda’s lessons that led me to cut out my relaxer and go natural. It was through her teaching that I began to appreciate my beauty rather than trying to conform to white standards of beauty.

My journey of self-acceptance moved even farther than just myself. All of this learning led me to question the present societal constructs continually. I began to notice the distinct racial divides within my high school. While my high school is considered to be one of the most diverse school districts in the state, its hallways are still separated by race and class. I was driven to discover why this divide occurred, if it was intentional, or possibly an indirect result of something more significant. After extensive research and discussion with Ms.Cepeda, I was led to the realization of the socioeconomic divide in my community, that my segregated high school was a smaller reflection of something more significant. However, more than just identifying the source of the issue, I wanted to begin a discussion about the issue. This way those cultural barriers would no longer play a role in the hallways of my high school. Thus, with Ms.Cepeda as the advisor, I co-founded an African American Culture Club (Melanin Minds) which provides weekly open forums in which students can openly discuss race and the subsequent issues. All ethnicities contribute to a safe atmosphere which has inevitably enlightened and advanced the discussions where all voices are heard.

She not only inspired me to do great things, but Ms.Cepeda also encouraged me to be a better person and to, more importantly, be my most authentic self. Through lunchtime conversations, class discussion, taking Ms.Cepeda’s African American history course, and even doing outside research and readings, I continue to learn and fight for social justice issues. Every morning I wake up proud of the woman that I am. None of which would have been possible if it was not for Ms.Cepeda. My drive to simultaneously work towards social equality and be myself carries its weight far beyond the walls of Ms.Cepeda’s classroom. The fire that Ms.Cepeda ignited in me will instill itself throughout my life."