When Jessica Wickham entered a statewide essay contest her motivation was the $1,500 first place prize. What she won turned out to be priceless. “When I started out my goal was to win money. I wound up getting really passionate about the topic and writing the best essay I’ve ever written.”
The contest was for the David A. Garfinkel Essay Scholarship which is administered annually by the Historical Society of the New York Courts. Student entrants were required to write an essay between 1,500 and 5,500 words on the topic, “What role does jury service play in our democracy?”
Wickham came to the contest with a strong academic background. The 2014 Cortland High School graduate is a Liberal Arts & Sciences major pursuing a career in journalism who is a member of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. Even so this contest would be extremely difficult. “Once I started looking into it I realized it was pretty complicated. It was quite challenging.”
Wickham took her challenge to OCC’s Learning Center where tutors help students seven days a week. That’s where she met Jim Resti, an OCC English professor who both attended at taught at Syracuse University’s College of Law. His strong background in both writing and the legal system was exactly what she needed. “I felt like I was hitting a brick wall. He helped me take a step back, brainstorm and figure everything out.”
Wickham and Resti met once a week over the course of a month. Each week she came with a new draft of her essay. He reviewed it and made recommendations on how she could improve it.
The deadline for entry was April 1st. Wickham finished her essay in time. Before submitting it she reviewed it one last time and thought about what she had accomplished. “It was the most difficult essay I had ever written. I was so proud of it. I used so many sources and spent so many hours writing and reviewing it. When I was done I said, ‘Wow this is amazing. I’m so proud of it!’”
In late April Wickham got a call from the Historical Society of the New York Courts. She learned she was the runner-up and would receive a $1,000 prize. She was both thrilled and thankful for her journey. “I learned a lot about something I never would have delved into myself. I learned so much watching YouTube videos, reading research articles and so many different things. I grew as a writer and as a citizen of the Unites States of America.”