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Congratulations to the winners of the 2011 UMBC Heroes Essay Contest.
Read their essays to find out who their heroes are:


First Place: Leslie W. '15

Growing up, I never really fit in with anyone or had any heroes. I always felt somewhat different from others because I loved to read and really enjoyed volunteering with Girl Scouts, which my peers deemed as “nerdy.” I always knew that I wanted to make a positive difference in many people’s lives, but I never knew how. My confidence was low, and it wasn’t until I stepped on the UMBC campus that I realized what I wanted to do with my life. The feeling of belonging overwhelmed me. The students and faculty seemed so friendly, mature, and dedicated. I was enamored immediately but upon each of the visits I took to the campus, I became more inspired. Everyone seemed like they genuinely wanted to help themselves and others succeed, which is my biggest passion in life. My dream suddenly became clear to me. I want to create a program for middle school girls to learn the importance of self-esteem, the effects of bullying, and hopefully give each other a chance to vent and feel like they belong somewhere. This idea inspired me to not only get high grades at my current community college, but to really absorb and apply the lessons to my life so that I could someday achieve this dream. UMBC will help me accomplish my dreams because it’s been my biggest motivation factor. I want nothing more than to be top of my class, among the best and brightest. I want to make my future professors and peers proud of me when I reach my goal. I refuse to give up on my dreams and I can already see that if I do my best, UMBC will refuse to let me give them up. I plan to use my majors in Psychology and Communications to become a better person and make the world a better place. It’s up to me to use the tools given to me from UMBC to be my own hero.


Second Place: Ashley M. '12

Is it possible to have a hero without ever coming face to face with this person? Is it possible that this hero doesn’t even know that she has impacted your life? It may not seem possible but this individual has taught me that anything is possible. Her name is Bailey O'Brien and she is my hero. It was earlier this year that I was searching results on Boston University's website so I could prepare for the biggest swimming meet of the season. I was searching to better myself as a swimmer however on this particular night she helped me better myself as a person. There was an article that told me Boston University's diver Bailey O'Brien would not be attending the end of the year conference championships. Instead, she would be spending her senior season in a hospital bed fighting for her life. Bailey had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Melanoma Cancer and her chances of survival were slim. As I read, I couldn’t help but realize that someone who I had once viewed as competition was now someone who needed my help. I immediately brought the news to my coach and with his permission I started a fundraiser called "All for one". At the championship meet, each conference came together and donated money. Our conference was no longer divided, instead we were one. We came together and helped raise over $1500 for Bailey and her family. On the last night of the meet her coach held up a computer with live chat of Bailey in her hospital bed. As she looked on, she could see that the pool deck was silent and one by one everyone linked hands. Parents of opposing teams, swimmers and coaches who were once considered enemies were now all linked as we raised our hands in unison and showed her that we were no longer individuals rather, because of her, we had come together to give her the strength that she needed to fight. It was later this month that I received a message from one of her teammates telling me what I thought could never happen. “Bailey O'Brien has beaten the odds, she is cancer free". These words seemed unreal, almost like a dream. However, it was true; O'Brien is a fighter and fought day in and day out. She never gave up. Every day I wake up and I make the conscious effort to not take life for granted. She has given me the strength to believe that anything is possible.