A panel of independent judges have selected Alexia Vo, a rising senior at Thomas R. Proctor High School, as the winner of the annual Give Back to Utica essay contest, earning her a paid summer internship at the Utica Public Library.
The internship is made possible by the Give Back to Utica Fund, a donor-advised fund of The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties. The fund was created by Steven H. Oram, a former Utica resident and attorney with Oram & Moss, Chartered, a law firm based in Washington, DC.
“I am pleased that this fund is able to reward and inspire those young adults whose lives have been positively impacted by growing up in Utica,” said Oram. “This essay contest highlights tomorrow’s leaders and gives the community another reason to be proud of its young people.”
Vo was chosen among 95 essay applicants. Candidates were asked to describe how growing up in the Utica area has shaped their worldview, what their vision for Utica is and how they can give back to the community to make this vision a reality.
“The diversity that Utica nurtures has enabled me to become a part of something bigger than myself, a community that loves helping each other,” Vo wrote in her winning essay. “Growing up in such a strong community has shaped my character and made me the best version of myself.”
When asked what she would like to see Utica become, Vo responded that instead of focusing on the resources it needs, Utica can utilize the opportunities it already has to grow in a positive way. Passionate about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, she believes that if the community invests in education for “STEM” careers that it will provide a great return to the area. She is certain that the foundational elements of Utica’s culture will make this belief a reality.
“There is a lot of talent in the students living in our city,” said Vo. “If Utica helps bright students fulfill their career and educational goals, they will be encouraged to stay in the area and provide their expertise.”
Vo developed her love for giving back to the community at a young age, volunteering with various groups such as Young Scholars and experiencing events like the Boilermaker Road Race and the Heart Run & Walk.
“Anyone can—and should—engage in community service opportunities,” said Vo. “There are so many ways to make a difference that one cannot help but feel urged to participate in these activities. I wanted to make a difference in the world, so I started by helping out in my own community. However small the gesture may seem, it’s the little things that make a difference.”
Vo believes her summer internship will help her build a connection with institutions around the community while helping the library further its mission to serve as a comprehensive source of information for Utica.
After graduation, Vo plans to study biochemistry at Hamilton College in Clinton.
The Community Foundation, through the Give Back to Utica Fund, is also providing four additional paid summer internships to students at The Neighborhood Center, The Root Farm, Utica Zoo, and the Young Scholars Liberty Partnership Program at Utica College.