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VOTE FOR YOUR FAVORITE
1. Read each entry below.
2. Vote for your favorite by clicking on the link at the end of the essay. Only one vote per email address will be counted.
3. Voting ends July 21, 2011.

The 2011 Las Olas scholarship winner will be announced on August 4, 2011 on Las Olas Facebook fan page. Become a fan.


SCHOLARSHIP WILL INCLUDE DONATIONS FROM THE FOLLOWING:

Las Olas Surf Safaris for Women
  Sherpani Lifestyle Bags for Women
  Athleta active sportswear

Las Olas donates full tuition for a seven day/six night surf safari, including daily surf and yoga classes, spa treatment, daily breakfast and ground transportation. See Las Olas website for inclusions.   Sherpani Lifestyle Bags for Women donates airfare to the Las Olas safari location from any major airport in the continental US. Sherpani also includes a three piece set of eye-catching luggage for your surf safari gear.   Athleta donates a $500 Gift Card so the scholarship recipient can shop for a surf-worthy wardrobe from their collection of hip, feminine designs with a performance core.



WE ARE PLEASED TO PRESENT ESSAYS FROM OUR TEN FINALISTS:


Tanya   •   Diana    •    Jessica    •    Nathalie   •   Carol   •    Lisa    •    Rachel    •    Molly    •    Andrea   •   Erika



Tanya

I believe that one of the biggest challenges facing communities today is the quality of schools and education.  As the mother of two young girls, four and six, I hear about it everyday on the news, from friends, and from state and local leaders. I believe that if people want to see a change in education they need to put their TIME where their mouth is. I believe if everyone in a community can dedicate some of their TIME helping teachers in the classrooms, working with the Board of Education, fundraising and other necessary tasks, it can create a successful school system.

With classroom sizes upwards of 25 or more kids it can be daunting to make sure that each child gets the materials and time needed to learn. We create rotating volunteer schedules so parents can come in and take some of the burden off the teachers. We take smaller groups of children and work with them on crafts or reading while the teachers and their aides can do more focused work with smaller groups of children. 

People complain that they don’t have the time to help out but I suggest they look at time they spend going out to dinner, seeing movies, grabbing drinks with friends, or just surfing the Internet. A few hours a week or month dedicated to helping out your local school can make a world of difference. Being there shows teachers, your child and others that making time for school is important. And it is.

To cast a vote for Tanya, click here »



Diana

The strength of the world has always been in the hands of men but the heart of the world has always been driven by women. This is not a sexist statement. Society’s structure places men in positions of strength the backlash are that women are placed in situations to face fear. Fear is constant and everywhere.  

Role models are essential connections that a young girl/woman needs to have to overcome their fears. Mentoring is THE greatest way to give back to the health of society. Growing up, I was taught the mundane skills that Hispanic women are expected to posses, I was never taught to have a sense of adventure or shown the endless possibilities that exist for me. Fear can paralyze you and hold you from potential positive and new heights and possibilities.

I have had a fear of the ocean. To overcome this fear and help others I must challenge myself daily. I must give myself a voice. Allow myself the opportunity that all women deserve; to also convey and model to men that women can be viewed with both strength and heart.

Las Olas can help women/girls to overcome their fears, by establishing satellite surf camps throughout the US, a mentoring program will provide spiritual guidance and self empowerment through the waves, the sand and by the beauty that the ocean has to offer. It will give others the opportunity to face their fears and help meet their challenges head on to move forward without ANY Fear! 

To cast a vote for Diana, click here »



Jessica

We live in a dynamic, interconnected society, with information a mouse click away. How do we use this information to support others?  

The challenge: As Western women, we enjoy a wealth of freedoms and opportunities. But internationally, we have a long way to go. Unicef estimates that 1.8 million children enter the sex trade each year. In places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and many others, women and children are voiceless – forced into silent submission.

The solution: A three-step process of awareness, networking, and mobilization, has the potential to make a huge difference.  
Plan of action: 1) Awareness - through using technology to promote and support change, we can educate Western women about the realities of modern slavery and sex trafficking in third world countries. 2) Networking - through awareness, women will listen, engage in the awareness process and work together as a network to share the information with others. A Facebook page spurred an Egyptian revolution – think about what informed Western women can do! 3) Mobilization into action: a core group of passionate listeners, women who want to give a voice to the voiceless will mobilize into action; going beyond sharing what they’ve learned with others to write letters to policy makers, volunteer, and join forces with others who are working to end modern slavery and sex trafficking.  

The amount of information available to us is overwhelming. The solution is in our ability as women to listen. Will we be a voice for the voiceless? 

To cast a vote for Jessica, click here »



Nathalie

One of the challenges we face today is child abuse and neglect. The number of cases of child and abuse is growing year to year. Many cases end up in death. Usually, the court system does not provide services until there is an allegation of child abuse and neglect.

I strongly believe that nurturing parenting skills needs to be taught. Not everyone has innate parenting skills. Parenting skills should be provided during pregnancy and afterwards. Nurturing parenting skills will include mental health daily coping skills and resources available for parents in distress. For example, the parent will be able to speak to a 24-hour
switchboard operator during a crisis or go to a community resource center. The preventive services will be available without a cost. Community resource centers will be available in every city near an urgent care. The community which encompasses schools, churches, hospitals, libraries, the courts, yoga community, universities and mental health organizations will form an alliance to built a network which provides education and support. Due to the economy and lack of funding, this community will rely mostly on volunteers who will be available to mentor, and provide psycho-education. The mission is to back to the concept of working as a village.

This plan will be put into action by first writing a proposal with simple goals and measurable objectives. These goals must be long term and realistic for the general population. After the proposal is written different community resources will be contacted. The juvenile court system, Guaridan Ad Litem programs  and non- profit agencies that deal directly with child abuse and neglect cases will brainstorm ideas and collaborate with an university in order for the research aspect to be used as a model. A pilot program will be implemented and thereafter duplicated. It will take hard work to bring people together due to time and finances. I believe that it can be accomplished as long as the 4 questions are asked:

Why are we doing it? Who will it benefit? How much will it cost? Will it be sustainable for years to come? 
I believe the majority of child abuse and neglect cases are due to lack of learned parenting and daily living coping skills. From that point, there is a cycle that is passed from one generation to another which does not discriminate. 

To cast a vote for Nathalie, click here »



Carol

FEAR
Fear is the number one challenge in today's society. We are all afraid...afraid to travel alone, to fly, of our neighbors, letting our children play outdoors (abduction, Lyme disease, molestation), of terrorists, of people who look or believe in things that are different than us and of living fully.

Many of us are frozen with the fear...
of standing on our own two feet
of standing up for ourselves
of falling/failing
of getting hurt
of hurting others
of the unknown – untried – unimagined
of riding the wave
of abandoning the wave
of commitment
of changing or redefining our commitments
of making a fool of our self
of laughing at ourselves and having others laugh at us too – looking silly.

The solution is simple yet difficult. We need to step out of our comfort zones, to embrace compassion and empathy, to put ourselves in someone else's shoes, to take risks, to stand up for ourselves and for those you can not stand up for themselves, to ride the wave, to change our course, to do something different.

It is time for us to find out who we are, to let go of fear and face ourselves fully. It is time to choose our own wave and ride it with wild abandonment!

To cast a vote for Carol, click here »



Lisa

ONE WORLD- That is ALL we have! Taking care of our world is the most critical challenge we face. The vision of plastic floating around the great Pacific garbage patch haunts me. I eliminated ALL plastic from my house when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I truly believe that plastics and other toxins are the cause of many medical problems. Keep schools and communities pesticide free. Insist that our government minimize or eliminate the use of cancer-causing toxins. Show your choices with your wallet by purchasing hybrid or electric cars. Insist on a safer, healthier nation!Where to start? Allow only reusable shopping bags. My beach community has banned plastic one-use bags but the plastic bag manufacturers are fighting us. It’s in court. How crazy is that!?! Don’t buy bottled water. Filter your water and use reusable containers! Encourage children and families that make good choices. Invite children to walk or wheel to school. Adults can do the same. Pack lunches that utilize reusable packing- no more baggies! We must make it second nature to take care of our Earth! As a Girl Scout leader I teach “leave no trace.” I believe we can build momentum if we launch educational programs at the kindergarten level.  Challenge every incoming class to adopt these methods.In summary, my solution is to start young and teach children to take care of the environment. Many adults will join in. There are many, like me, already advocating for change. 

To cast a vote for Lisa, click here »



Rachel

While walking down any street, one would come across at least one individual who has been guilty of either super-sizing an order, or buying the same shirt in multiple colors, or even upgrading an automobile to include luxurious leather seats. This is the most important challenge facing us today– the “more” mentality. Children are raised in an atmosphere that fosters the desire for bigger houses, brand-named attire, and superior electronic devices. I am not criticizing the dream to improve one’s conditions, but there is a point where it becomes blatantly excessive.

To change this attitude, we must start at the beginning when the mind is just developing. We must transform materialism to values focused on friendship, charity, and staying active. I am proposing a national pen pal and gift exchange program between American students and students from other countries. Then, they will be exposed to new situations and realize there are more critical challenges than deciding their next purchase. Moreover, students can voluntarily give something they no longer need to someone who might appreciate it more. For example, a Chinese girl would be grateful for a pair of shoes as much as an African boy would be to lick a lollipop. The vision is to have the children initiate a plan of action, but realistically, the aim is just to get children involved in humanitarian efforts so they will continue being helpful throughout their lives. In a world of riches, we must ask ourselves why there is poverty?

To cast a vote for Rachel, click here »



Molly

In the age of digital connections, we are more disconnected than ever. Our children fear “friending” their parents, and our children’s grandparents long for the days of receiving handwritten notes. My Grandma doesn’t even have an answering machine, and by gosh, that’s the way she likes it. Some may say she’s out of touch, but in my mind, her life doesn’t lack anything with the absence of another electronic device.

This is all ironic of course, because my career is based on social media and internet marketing.  Disconnecting is not only hard to do, but doing so would would leave me to find another way to provide for my family. Still, I long for the days when friends told me face-to-face that they like my new haircut, instead of simply pressing the “Like” button under my profile picture.

It is our responsibility to rebuild the neighborhood and personal connections that we used to know. They keep us more honest, more empathetic and are the cornerstones of genuine relationships. No more anonymous venting on online news comment sections. No more wishing people a “Happy Birthday” via email. The process of connecting to the people around you, even the ones you already think you know, fosters a sense of community that cannot be digitally replicated. Let the world around you be your inspiration and push you to build these community relationships. A pen to paper or walk around the neighborhood may just be more revolutionary than you think.

To cast a vote for Molly, click here »



Andrea

Men and women of all ages struggle to find happiness in their lives. Money and successful careers often top the list of things people hope to achieve. Studies show, however, that it is in service to others that happiness is most often found. Women, and mothers in particular, have a unique role shaping the lives of children so they too might lead happy and fulfilling lives. So, how do we instill in our children compassion and a desire to help others?

Start small. I often make meals for families with new babies. My six year old helps cook and also makes a card for the new arrival. My daughter has decided that a big birthday party with her class at the bowling alley would be great, but even she realized gifts from family and 20 friends would be excessive. Instead, her friends will bring new pajamas and books to donate. My kids love picking up trash at the beach. For years, I cringed when they would pick up a cigarette butt. This year, I have invested child size gardening gloves. My son is not yet two and he can say “in garbage trash” as he adds it to our bucket. Our small acts of service may not complement your schedule or interests, but there are many opportunities available starting with your friends and neighbors. Find something that you are already doing like going to the beach and turn it into an opportunity to serve others. Happiness will follow.

To cast a vote for Andrea, click here »



Erika

Childhood, play, nature, outdoors. These four words should connect seamlessly in a young persons life, and years ago they did. This connection seems to be falling apart at an alarming rate for today's generation of children, with computers, televisions, & video games held as the culprit cause for the disconnect. We need to get our children back into nature, back into the unstructured playground of the great outdoors. The most obvious solution begins at home. Parents need take an active role in introducing their children to the natural world around us. Slowing down to enjoy nature together, be it a camping trip, gardening, or simple walk, will provide both parent and child with a boost in both mental and physical health.

But the unfortunate truth is that we cannot rely on all parents alone. Thus the community must also get involved. I would like to see a program in place that partners willing adults with children in need. Adults could register with a non-profit group to volunteer to mentor a child (or children) on the natural environment. The events could involve anything from a afternoon in a park studying plants and wildlife, to a weekend camping trip. I would reach out to State Parks and outdoor outfitting companies to get involved as well, providing free admission, camping, or gear to assist such programs. Simple exposure to the outdoors results in a child learning to observe and appreciate the natural world around us and the infinite benefits it has to offer.

To cast a vote for Erika, click here »



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