2021: Write about a time that you helped another person, whether it was a friend, family member, or total stranger. How did this experience impact your life and change how you show compassion and generosity to others? What are ways that we, as a community, can be better at helping those in need?

We had hundreds of submissions detailing incredible stories of selflessness that filled us with inspiration, pride in our young people, and full of hope for our next generation. We send our sincere thanks to each student who took the time to apply. It was a difficult choice, and we narrowed our field down to the top 5 essays that resonated most with us. 

The top 5 authors were:

Isaac K

Laken K

Patricia A

Sophia R

Sydney A

As we said, it really was difficult to choose a winner! However, Sydney’s willingness to open herself up and meet her dad’s new girlfriend, her ability to find the good in situation that can often be painful, and kindness to (her ultimately, new step-brother) a young person with special needs swayed all of us. By allowing herself to be open, Sydney was gifted with the love of another human being, whom she brags about and has grown to love and adore. 

2021 Scholarship Winner: Sydney A.

Sydney is from Virginia Beach, Virginia, and plans to graduate from Kempsville High School in 2022 to eventually pursue genetic counseling in a Virginia college. When she’s not working, she loves to spend time with her family and volunteer at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center.

Reaction Statement: “I am beyond grateful for the Ye Law Firm choosing me as this year’s Generous Heart Scholarship winner! With the money I’ve received, I am one step closer to receiving a college education and giving back to my community by making a difference wherever I can. This is an incredible opportunity, and I can’t thank everyone enough for the chance they’ve given me throughout this process.”

Sydney A wrote:

When my father had told me he wanted to introduce me to his new girlfriend, I wasn’t the happiest camper. I wasn’t completely opposed to adding someone new to the family, but the fact that another woman other than myself would be in my dad’s life concerned me that my spot in the household would lose its significance. However, I put on a smile and obliged for the sake of my dad. I met Robin in the middle of January outside of a coffee shop about six years ago. She was extremely nice and immediately eased all of the anxiety that came with meeting a stranger. Not long after our conversation started, Robin pulled out her phone and began showing me some of the hundreds of photos that she had of her son, Bilal, in her camera roll. She looked at me with proud eyes and a smile as she told me about his diagnosis of both Down Syndrome and Autism. She was more than happy to share stories about her pride and joy while bragging about the son she loved more than life which made me beyond excited to meet Bilal. But strangely enough, the first time we met consisted of me maintaining a safe distance of 10 feet away from him after it was decided he was too fragile for me to tamper with. I was faced with the fear of hurting him if I got too close. However, once I gathered enough courage to eventually interact with him, Bilal welcomed me into his life with curious eyes as he intertwined his fingers with my own. It was at that moment that I knew he was worthy of my complete attention. I was still in middle school at this point and didn’t have much free time to see him, but I visited as much as I could. It wasn’t until long after Robin saw Bilal and I’s instant connection that she started to depend on me. She would ask me quite often to babysit him when she had to run errands or take work trips. During this time, I learned how to make Bilal’s meals, bathe him, take him to the bathroom, and keep him company while he watched Sesame Street. With every time I babysat him, Robin would always thank me for my help and dedicating my time to keeping him safe. But I didn’t see these acts as a burden at all or a favor that demanded praise. If anything, Bilal was doing more for me than I could ever do for him. Just having him by my side in life was more than enough. He has shown me how to truly love someone and effortlessly display selflessness for the ones you care about. Knowing now that Bilal and I have become close, I am extremely grateful for helping Robin out whenever she needed it. I may not have received money or any form of compensation for my acts, but I gained something priceless: a beautiful brother. This experience has made me realize how fulfilling life can be after meeting Bilal and being named as his caregiver. Now that I am more educated about the disabled community, I am not ashamed of outwardly expressing my love for my brother or scared to interact with any special needs people that I meet. Helping both Robin and Bilal has redefined my definition and expression of compassion for others in my community. However, not everyone has had the chance to change their mindset like I have. Much of society still has to learn to let go of their biases or any preconceived notion they might have about others. Relinquishing this hate and learning to love others despite what you have been taught is the first step towards every community addressing the needs of all groups. Seeing everyone as equals and giving them the chance to be equally treated is how I think we can address many problems in this country. We must also realize that some groups are in need of more help than others. Providing equitable opportunities and help according to those who need it most should also be prioritized. But none of this can become reality if people within America’s communities don’t put forth the effort. Educating themselves, going out of their way to complete small acts of kindness, or learning to accept others is seen as too burdensome to many individuals. Society is now in a place where everyone focuses on themselves and their own success. Although this is perfectly valid, these selfish tendencies have left no room for kindness or generosity for others. But this fact does not necessarily have to be set in stone. Showing everyone that they can be agents of change and make a difference with their kindness can give communities the push to be vulnerable and express empathy for whoever is in need. It is not too late to restore faith in humanity and lend a helping hand to those in your community.

Thanks again for sharing your story with us, Sydney. We are excited to watch all the wonderful ways your generous heart will continue to touch people. We have no doubt your hard work and dedication to your studies will continue. Good luck with all your future endeavors and please keep in touch with us!