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Technology Makes Life Easier Essay Contest

Three undergraduate students won Virginia Tech’s Common Book Project essay event.

The contest, titled “My Virginia Tech Values: An Essay Event,” asked students to submit essays around this prompt: What does it mean to you to live a life of service and how do you make life choices that embody this value?

The contest winners include:

  • Nicole Guilbault of Sterling, Virginia, a first-year student majoring in business information technology in the Pamplin College of Business
  • Lillian Phan of Chantilly, Virginia, a first-year student majoring in communication studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
  • Madeline Yaskowski of Leesburg, Virginia, a first-year student majoring in public relations and German in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

The prompt was inspired by the university’s Common Book for 2015-17, “The Heart and the Fist,” by Eric Greitens. The book details his life of service through academics as a Rhodes and Truman Scholar, as well as roles with humanitarian organizations and service as a U. S. Navy SEAL. After his military service, Greitens founded The Mission Continues, a nonprofit that challenges veterans to serve in communities across the U.S.

Contest submissions were not supposed to be a book report on the Common Book, but rather an essay that used the Common Book as an inspiration to showcase how the writer also demonstrates service.

“The theme this year connected to the values of the Common Book, which also resonate with the culture of Virginia Tech, embodied in our motto of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve),” said Jennifer Culhane, director of first-year academic initiatives in the Office of First-Year Experiences. “As a member of the judging committee, it was inspiring to see the varied ways that students truly live that motto.”

Guilbuilt related her experience teaching swimming lessons to an 8-year-old boy with autism to an experience the Common Book author had in Rwanda, helping a boy with an infected wound who had been ignored by others. “While this may seem like a small instance of service, it made a world of difference to the little boy, just as learning to swim had for Jacob. Random acts of kindness are some of the greatest examples of public service and can constitute change in a community.”

Yaskowski’s essay looked at the culture of service at Virginia Tech and how students extend beyond some of the well-known service events such as Relay for Life and The Big Event. “Kindness has a domino effect: Once you act kind to others, they will pay it forward and it will never end.  Kindness – an extension of integrity – is easy to do and can create waves in the world.”

Phan described how she and a friend created a nonprofit and distributed school supplies to students at an impoverished school in India one summer. “I have always had the opportunity and resources to strive in school, but I did not realize how privileged I was until meeting children who did not even have the opportunity — the chance. These children are dedicated to their education and to making a person out of themselves. Some of them just needed the supplies and others needed the love and encouragement.”

The winning essays are available to read on the Common Book Project website. The winners were recognized at the Board of Visitors President’s Luncheon on April 5.

WASHINGTON – There was a time when teenagers used to sit for hours on the family phone, having to fight off nosy, extension-picking-up siblings and parents. Today, most teens simply pull out their smartphones in the privacy of their own bedrooms.

The world is a far easier place, technologically-speaking, for kids these days.

Buzzfeed compiled a list of the “10 Things Kids Today Never Have To Worry About.”

  • Texting full words – There is no use for full words today when you can text messages like LOL, TTYL.
  • Missing TV episodes – Gone are the days of rushing through dinner to catch that favorite television show. “My So-Called Life” anyone? Thanks to Netflix, Hulu and DVR, kids are no longer a slave to the television.
  • Overcrowded inboxes – Remember the days of daily deals sites and newsletters crowding the inbox? Now companies like Hotmail are introducing tools to combat the crowded inbox.
  • Seeing friends and family while abroad – Being away from your high school girlfriend or best friend can be tough when you’re a teenager. Thanks to Google Video and Skype, travelling abroad means you’re a few clicks away from a video chat.
  • Paying for music – Remember the cassette tape? Yeah, neither do we. In fact, CDs are also going the way of the eight-track thanks to digital music downloads and websites like Spotify, where user can stream free music.
  • Reading for school – Forget Cliff Notes, today, high schoolers can listen to audio study guides of Catcher in the Rye.
  • Awkward in-person communication – Facebook and Twitter allow for complete avoidance of human interaction. There is no more need to talk to someone in person, or even on the phone, when you can post a message on their wall or direct message them on Twitter.
  • Writing a letter – It’s no surprise the U.S. Postal Service is struggling. It seems no one writes letters anymore. From thank you notes to party invitations, everything comes via email, or Facebook.
  • Spelling words correctly – The spelling-challenged have no need to worry when writing an essay for school, thanks to spell check and Google.
  • Carrying a camera – Besides a professional photographer, how many people still carry a separate camera around? With high-powered cameras in every smartphone, it’s relatively easy to take professional-looking photos anywhere.

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