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Congratulations to both Melissa Pavlicek of the University of North Dakota and to Levi Boehm of Mandan High School. They each won a $500 Visa Gift card for their essay submissions this spring. They submitted an essay, in 250 words or less, on how they plan to change the world after graduation this year. You can read their essays below.

We want to give a quick shout-out to all of the graduates who submitted entries. We were impressed by all of the thought leaders graduating this year.

Melissa’s winning submission:

My name is Melissa Pavlicek and I am a retired United States Marine. Upon my retirement from the Marines in 2006 I went back to school and obtained my undergraduate degree from Minot State University in social work. I enjoyed the social work profession, but I was still not feeling that I had the access to the jobs that I wanted to work with the Veteran population. My dream is to work with Veterans and help them be productive happy citizens after returning from deployments and combat. So, I went back to school again and will graduate with my Masters in Social Work from the University of North Dakota in August of 2014!

After I graduate I hope to secure a job with the Department of Defense and work with Veterans in their assimilation process in rejoining society. I feel that there are too many Veterans who are not being helped in this capacity and because of this gap in services the Veterans are on their own to seek out and access the help they need. Many Veterans feel a level of shame in accessing services because of the stigma that mental health services carries with it. I feel with my education and 23 ½ yrs. of military service I will be able to join with and empower this population in accessing and achieving a healthy, productive life after military!

Levi’s winning submission:

Changing the world can be a tough project for one individual, if not impossible. I am going to focus more on the small picture of changing one life at a time. I plan on being a Paramedic in our town. It will be a rewarding job, for I will be saving many people’s lives. I also plan on learning from experiences of what people do to put themselves in harm’s way, and talk to the youth about what they can do to prevent incidents like the ones I will have seen. This can change the way people live, which will affect many lives indirectly by changing habits, and becoming safer as a community. This can teach other communities safety and good habits, turning towns and states into safer communities for all. Safer communities can mean a greater education for all, which may lead to cures for diseases such as cancer. The key to changing our world rests in the hands of all people. Not just a single individual. Stronger communities and greater morale come out of towns that are safe. Kids that can feel safe going to school, or driving a car, or even just going out to movies can have a greater understanding of the world, and want to make the difference in other communities. They will want everyone to have the same opportunities they had, and this will make the world a better place, saving one life at a time.

Have a great summer and don’t forget to enter our Summer Photo contest for a chance to win another $500 Visa Card being given away in TWO different categories…Photo AND Video!