The following essays are the winning entries of students who have entered into d’Oliveira & Associates’ yearly College Student Scholarship essay contest. These essays were written by talented students who are pursuing a career in the legal field. If you would like to know more about the essay contest or when the next contest starts, you can find out on our Scholarship page.

Winning Essay for the 2017 Scholarship

“Not Another Day…”

By: Shaytonna Bullock

As the sun rose above her rustic cottage, she allowed a thin slither to part between her puffy eyes. It was morning again and she had another day to get things right. She is a 25-year-old woman with a lifetime of worry and sorrow. A split decision changed her life forever. She limps to the restroom, looks into the mirror and barely recognizes her reflection. Years of heavy pain medications has changed her mood, thinned her hair and eroded her youth. She turned away with a grimace and headed to her closet where she lazily dressed herself to start the day. She didn’t know that a split second could change her life forever. Had she known, she would have thought twice before reaching for her phone after hearing a bing!” notifying her of a new text message.

Her name is Melissa Hartly and she lost her best friend in a fatal car accident three years ago. The tragedy of losing her best friend was compounded by the fact that Melissa was driving when the accident occurred. She had spent the entire night before arguing with her boyfriend and hadn’t heard from him all morning. The thought of losing him broke her heart and when she received a text her heart skipped a beat. Melissa took her eyes off the road to check her text messages. “It’s John!” she exclaimed. However, her joy quickly turned into despair. In a flash, she drifted from her lane and lost control of her vehicle. “Schurrrr…BOOM!” She didn’t have enough time to correct the wheel before colliding with another vehicle. She was always a “safe driver”, in the words of her beloved grandmother. But on this particular day, the emotions from the heated argument the night before had clouded her judgement on the road.

By most standards, she was responsible; far from a distracted driver. And she most certainly didn’t text and drive. Even on the fatal day, Melissa didn’t have a chance to respond to the text message. She only took her eyes off the road long enough to discover who had sent the text. Unfortunately, that was enough to take a life and change her own. From then on, not another day was the same, Melissa suffered injuries in the accident and was lucky to be alive. She had difficulty walking without a cane, has little mobility in her arms and suffers from severe headaches; but the physical pain is bearable. The guilt, heartbreak and sleepless nights are what torment her the most. She would give anything to turn back the hands of time. If only she waited to check her phone. If only she taken the time to calm down her thoughts and emotions before driving. If only she had understood that years of safe driving meant nothing if she made the tragic mistake of looking away from the road for a second.

The text that changed her life forever read, John: “ILY & can’t go another day without you.”

Winning Essay for the 2016 Scholarship

“The Vow that Will Save your Life”

By: Austin B.

While preparing for a field exercise in the arid deserts of Las Vegas, NV our Second Detachment sergeant received the call that his daughter died. This Soldier dedicated over 10 years of his life serving the nation overseas in combat zones and instilled within all of his subordinates a determination to succeed no matter the circumstances. While I did not know his daughter, this Soldier’s reaction to the news speaks volumes to his character; a character that would have inevitably influenced his children. Without spreading the news that his daughter passed away in a completely separate state and without creating any disturbance in training this Soldier completed his duties and slipped out the backdoor. His tragedy was not something that should interrupt the mission.

Upon returning from burying his daughter, nearly a month later, the detachment sergeant requested a company formation to deliver a message. Imagine that this man is among the most respected in the company, has never shed a tear, remains calm under duress, leads young men and women in battle, and provides sage wisdom that guides our nation’s Soldiers. Standing in front of approximately 100 of his subordinates, peers, and leadership this man apologized for his absence and bravely provided the information that his eldest daughter died in a car accident. Step by step he explained the time leading up to her tragic end, each sentence proving more difficult to finish than the last. With his final statements he said that he was struggling with guilt stemming from being a culprit of the same actions that took his daughter’s life. With teary eyes and a company of Soldiers holding their breaths the detachment sergeant asked everybody to take an oath vowing never to text and drive. His daughter’s life was taken with her best friend in the passenger seat. Complying with her best friend’s request to hang up the phone, his daughter hung up and proceeded to finish the conversation via text. Distracted by the text she saw the vehicle in front of her with just enough time to swerve towards the median, hop the divider, and head directly into an oncoming semi-truck. The distraction of texting and driving took the life of this brave Soldier’s daughter and her best friend. As a result, more than one family was impacted by this tragedy.

Nobody believes that driving drunk is prudent, and while experiences with drunk driving vary, the reason it is a bad decision remains the same. Drunk drivers do not see clearly, have slower reaction times, and are dangerous to surrounding drivers. Texting and driving poses the same dangers. While texting and driving you are distracted, you will not react quickly to traffic, and pose a serious threat to other drivers on the road. The message is not that important. The recipient can wait, because responding to your text may take the life of a friend, a stranger, somebody you love, or all three at the same time.

Winning Essay for the 2015 Scholarship

“Maybe I’ll Close My Eyes A Little Longer”

By: Michelle Ramus

It was just two drinks, and it was an hour ago. My girlfriend, Julie, had four, so I know shouldn’t let her drive. Our friend Matt is trying to take my car keys from me, but I know I’m fine. He drank more than Julie, anyways. And our apartment building is only a mile away.

Julie and I get in the car. It’s nothing fancy, a basic Chevrolet model that’s a few years old. Both of us buckle our seatbelts. I turn the key in the ignition and the headlights come on automatically. I hit the turn signal and pull slowly out on to the street in the direction of our apartment building.

Complete stop at the stop sign. Signal to turn right. Check for cars and hit the gas. The speed limit is 55, I’m driving 52. Julie is dancing to the radio and I smile at her. My eyes quickly return to the road.

Bright lights. Headlights. I have to get out of the way. Headlights are still coming. Think fast. Have to turn away. Left or right?

I can’t see anything but blinding light. Did I avoid the headlights? Everything is loud. I open my mouth to speak and no sound comes out. I want to reach for Julie, but I can’t move my arm. There’s warm, dark liquid dripping into my eyes. Is that blood? Maybe I’ll just close my eyes for now.

The light is still bright but the noise is quieter. I. can open my eyes and I see people in hospital scrubs. Where’s Julie? What happened? I ask the questions but the people can’t hear me. My eyes are closing again.

The next time I open my eyes, my mom and sister are sitting on the couch behind me. I open my mouth but no word comes out. My mom is crying, and my sister takes a deep breath. I try harder and I manage to ask what happened.

Julie is dead. My sister said Julie is dead. Dead? Dead. She died. I don’t think I believe them, but they seem very sure. We had an accident. A car accident. I was driving over the center line, and we hit another car. Julie had head injuries and she died.

My sister said there’s more. There was a woman driving the other car, on her way home from her 3rd shift job. She was a single mother working two jobs to support her son. Was? Was. Was, because our car hit the driver’s side of her car head on and she died on impact. Her son is ten years old. He’s a ten-year-old orphan.

My eyes are wet. I’m crying? I’m crying. I didn’t drink very much. Julie had more. I know I was careful, and we didn’t drive far. Did this really happen? How did this happen?

The police want to talk to me. They say my blood alcohol content was high, much higher than I think it should have been. They want to know what happened. People died, and I’m alive, and they want to know what happened. I’m scared.

Maybe I’ll close my eyes for a little longer.

Winning Essay for the 2014 Scholarship

“The Difference Between Life and Death”

By: Michael Prete

Ah, it is finally summer! It has been a long year preparing for life after graduation but it is finally here. The ceremony was long but it was worth it because it finally happened. As you throw your graduation things in the back seat of your car, you think to yourself no more classes, no more exams, and no more homework! You’re in your car driving to a graduation party with your friends; windows down and jamming out to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” blasting on the radio. You reach for your phone to tell your friends you’ll be there in a few minutes. You press send. You are feeling great and looking forward to the rest of your summer. You look up and, AH you just ran a red light! You try slamming on the brakes, but….SCREEEEEEECH!

For the average teen, looking at a text takes about five (5) seconds. However, did you know that if you are driving at 55 miles per hour, in those five (5) seconds you are looking at your phone, you have just driven from one end of a football field to the other end?

Studies have determined that texting while driving is now the leading cause of death for teen drivers. Even still, many teens believe they are being “responsible” while texting and driving because, among others, they “…hold the phone near the windshield ‘for better visibility.” Or they only read a text instead of writing one because it is “safer.”

You may think you are being responsible but this still does not eliminate the 1.3 million crashes that occurred in 2011 because of texting and driving. Because of texting and driving, you could seriously injure or even kill both yourself and other innocent people.

If this does not make you think twice about texting and driving, 39 states (including Washington D.C.) prohibit all drivers from texting. This combined with the fact that many states have begun to allow police officers to search your cellphone for text messages when you are pulled over means serious consequences. So, even if you do not get into an accident, is it worth the $20 ticket (for the first offense, $50 for the second, etc.) just for texting and driving? Depending on the seriousness, you could even lose your license and lose the freedom you once had of driving yourself around and being your own person. But what’s worse is you could seriously injure yourself and someone, or kill yourself and other innocent people. The death of someone affects many other lives both emotionally and financially. Is the text really worth all of this? I would think not.

Now, if a text is really important, this is a different scenario, but it still involves being responsible and making smart choices. If the text is really that important, then by all means pull the car over, put the car in park and deal with the text. After you are done with your text, get back onto the road and continue with your life. You will have been able to deal with your text, but this extra one (1) —two (2) minutes total could mean the difference between life and death.