2019 Scholarship Recipients

Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., would like to congratulate all of the applicants to our first annual scholarship contest. We received many compelling essays and although we wish we could award every student who applied we had to narrow our selection down to ten finalists and from there two winners. Please join us in congratulating our winners Anna Hoppert and Jillian Janssen and our other eight finalists listed below.

1st Place – Anna Carolina Hoppert

Children’s laughter, friendly adults, and an array of aromatic food greeted me as I entered the gym. My mother was talking with parents about details of the bilingual playschool opening. I waved to her as I joined the line of people waiting near tables piled with food, my mouth watering. After eating, I obsessed over phyllo pastry that reminded me of baklava while speaking with a Jordanian mother, shared my love of Hispanic food with the Mexican couple who had made the irresistible taquitos and tamales, and laughed at my failure to secure recipes from the families who had brought the casseroles and chicken salad. At potlucks, people bring something that is meaningful to them and share it with others, and that night, there was an implicit understanding that sharing and making friends with people of a different culture or language is normal. Outside those walls, however, this understanding disappears. There are different “sides” of town separated by railroad tracks and neighborhoods where only one “type” of person is expected to live, and sometimes the color of a person’s skin or the use of a language other than English in a public space is enough to conjure raised eyebrows and condescending glares from those passing by. Assumptions based off of stereotypes cause misunderstandings and flare racial tensions in communities like mine. This should not be the case.

Joseph R. Baznik of Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks presents scholarship winner Anna Carolina Hoppert with her check.

If I could alter one thing about my community, I would address the ignorance that is tolerated and avoided among and between different groups of people. Educating people about their surroundings would dilute the misunderstandings that are prevalent in uncomfortable encounters between people of diverging races and views. While spreading knowledge would be a start in helping others understand a perspective different than their own, the sharing of this information would serve as a conversation starter between people groups that traditionally don’t have much to do with each other, and would allow there to be true community among those already living in proximity to each other. Though I am ecstatic that this message of inclusivity is being shared at the bilingual playschool in my town, and that the children attending freely interact with one other, regardless of their backgrounds, I want to spread the understanding that existed between those at the potluck to the rest of my community. The truth behind this message is simple—although people may have different backgrounds and cultures, we are all ultimately united by our humanity. If people were to view their neighbors as family, any idea of discrimination towards another group of people would be lost. This kind of acceptance within a community would allow for the sharing of ideas, and would transform the community into a vibrant and flourishing one. If this idea is acted upon in the end, those in my community might end up sharing more than a side dish. They might end up sharing a friendship.

2nd Place – Jillian Janssen

I would like to ensure every child could go to school without the worry of gun violence. Columbine happened two years before I was born, so I’ve never known a time without the tragedy of school shootings. Along with learning multiplication tables and state capitals, my classmates and I learned the procedures for a lock down.

My school built a new math and science wing filled with state-of-the-art science equipment and lots of windows and natural light. The doors have glass panes from the ceiling to the floor, and while many people think they give the classroom an open and spacious feeling, my first thought was “nobody in the classroom will be able to hide from a shooter with glass doors like these.”  I’m not normally paranoid, but I think my gut reaction to seeing the new doors was just a reflection of the disturbing times.

I applaud the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL for not being content with our nation’s “thoughts and prayers.”  They banded together in a time of profound shock and grief and used their anger to try to affect change. I was inspired by their speeches and believe that their lobbying efforts to Congress and the Florida state legislature is the only way to stop school shootings. Anyone and everyone can make a change with their presence and voice. No progress is going to come on the issue of gun violence or any other important issue if listening to the other side doesn’t occur.

David E. Vtipil and Joseph R. Baznik of Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks present check to scholarship winner Jillian Janssent.

There are many steps I’d like to take to eliminate the threat of school violence that hangs over every school in America. I understand that the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms, however, I don’t interpret that as a right to own automatic weapons unless you are enlisted in the military. It’s crucial to pass a driving test before you can legally drive a car because a car can be dangerous if driven incorrectly. Similarly, there should be regulations on who can legally own and fire a gun. I believe gun safety qualifications as well as mental health background checks before buying a gun would help prevent more deaths. Although thankfully, there have not been any school shootings in my immediate community, I believe it’s crucial for people to understand the profoundly heartbreaking effects of ignoring this issue. The only way for people to understand and listen is to constantly share and educate.

In addition, I would also like to see campaign finance laws changed so that powerful interest groups like the National Rifle Association wouldn’t have as much influence over the elected officials.  I believe our senators and representatives would be more responsive to their constituents, especially teenagers, if they weren’t beholden to well-funded special interest groups.

I know as a country we can do better, and it will be up to my generation, a generation that has never known a time without school shootings, to make a difference and be heard.


  • Connor Barberio
  • Rachel Beaver
  • Temoor Dard
  • Rebecca Fox
  • Jonathan Dillon Goforth
  • Macon Thomas Lawrence
  • Kaiya Stroud
  • Angel Wagner