We're excited to announce the winners of the Unigo Sweet and Simple Scholarship!

"Not every gift has to be expensive or extravagant. In fact, sometimes it's the sweet and simple things that make a real difference in our lives. Think back and tell us about something you received as a gift and why it meant so much to you."

Sometimes, the simplest things can truly mean the most. And in this case, they can also help you win the most. Our Sweet and Simple Scholarship provides a pretty sweet prize for students who take a little time to appreciate the small things. See our past winners and their scholarship responses below.

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2018 Winner

Chloe E. / The University of Oklahoma
Norman, OK

In the dim, yellow light of my closet, my father sits on the floor, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia open in his lap. He begins to read, his voice conjuring up images of witches and lions that seem to dance around the room. His deep voice is as steady as a drum as he recounts stories of far off places and fantastic creatures until my eyes begin to grow heavy, the dancing apparitions fading as the night grows late.

Every night my father read me to sleep. Every night, regardless of how exhausted he was from working multiple jobs to provide for his family or his frequent migraines. Regardless of his own wants or the million other things he needed to do, my father took time at the end of the day to be with me. To some, this may seem like something every father does. To me, it is so much more.

The stories my father read to me each night gave me a passion for reading. The sagas he told fostered in me a love for fantasy and adventure. He taught me how to live my life as if I am the heroine of an epic tale, to take chances and be brave like the characters that came to life in my room each night. His bedtime stories taught me how to dream with my eyes open, and that has been the greatest gift.

2017 Winner

Bing L.
New York, NY

“Click.” The lighter ignited the candle. “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you ...” I stared at the flame sullenly as it flickered. My sister faced me, clapping her hands in tune with the song. “Happy birthday dear Bing ... ” Her head bobbed back and forth, swaying her hair from side to side. “Come on, cheer up Bing.” She smiled. “Don’t worry about mom and dad, everything will be fine. You’re not going anywhere.” A small honey cake the size of my palm sat on a paper plate between us and a single pink candle adorned the top, bright and dainty. The two of us sat in the sun-spotted living room. My parents were not home and instead, at work. After consecutive fights and days of physical arguments, my mom declared, “Go. Take Bing with you. Leave.”

My sister had lugged herself to a neighborhood deli, purchased a seventy-five-cent pound cake, and scoured through endless drawers for a candle to construct a cake equivalent to that of any other bakery delicacy. I sat there, beaming at my companion. “Thank you,” I thought. “There would be no greater present than this.” After all, gifts are not always defined by a price tag. Whether they are material or intangible, they are valued based on sincerity, care, and thought.

Min faces me. “Bing, it’s okay. I’m here.”

And that was the most valuable gift of all.

I grinned lopsidedly.

2016 Winner

Alexandra A.
Peabody, MA

"I love you."

Not every gift is physical. Sometimes, it's an emotion, a kind action, a simple word or phrase that means the most. My grandfather doesn't speak English, really. He can carry on a simple conversation, but he never learned anything more. The language barrier has been there my whole life, and for the most part, I've become accustomed to it. When we've been together we've enjoyed the quiet, each doing our own thing and not caring to understand the other. Most of the time we’ve simply sat on the couch and watch Greek TV with English subtitles. It's one experience we could always share together, language barrier or not.

I don't know the Greek word for cancer, and I don't care to. I don't need to, I can see what it does. I haven't been able to visit him in recent weeks — the bleached white hospital room against his shrinking, grey self is something I can't bring myself to look at. His most recent stroke has rendered the right side of his face paralyzed. He can’t even speak Greek properly.

I went to visit yesterday, I swallowed my fear for his sake. He looked a little better, a little brighter than he had been.

And then he said it. His mouth jerked, the words garbled, but he said it anyways.

“I love you, too.”

2015 Winner

Stacia W.
Phoenix, AZ

The auctioneer kept up his momentum as the bidding continued. To the little girl sitting towards the back his voice sounded like a swarm of bees, and she could not understand why people kept putting their hands into the air. Finally the auctioneer stopped buzzing, “Sold, to the gentleman in the corner,” he yelled. The older man went forward to pay and claim his winnings. He turned around, but instead of returning to his seat, he proceeded toward the back where the little girl was seated. As he approached her he bent down and revealed a white, rectangular case that held a beautiful gold chain with a single white pearl on the end. “For you, beautiful girl,” he said, and handed her the necklace. This simple necklace was a significant gift, for the auction that the gentleman had participated in was to raise money for that little girl. The girl was born with cancer in her left leg which had to be amputated when she was seven weeks old. The auction was to raise money in order that she might get a prosthetic.

I was that little girl. I had never owned such a beautiful piece of jewelry, but the significance of that man’s gift to me, I did not understand then. He was helping to pay for my prosthetic leg so that I could walk. Every time I wear my necklace I remember this strangers gift to me, the gift to walk.

2014 Winner

Neha R. Phoenix, AZ

Major: Biomedical Engineering

“Wake up! Wake up!” yelled my uncle, shaking me out of my slumber. Was it time? Was it finally here? I jumped out of bed, my eager eyes wide with excitement.

I had been waiting a year for this moment and, at five-years-old, that was a good 20% of my life. Thinking back, I remembered when I first asked my parents for it; some kids at school had one, and it seemed so exciting! Please, mom? Please, dad? I begged. I’ll love it and play with it and take it everywhere for the rest of my life, I promise. They smiled a little smile at each other, amused with my sudden but heartfelt desire, and eventually said that one magic word: yes. It would be coming soon, they let me know, and all I could do was wait …

Now my parents would be home with it any minute and the anticipation was killing me! I heard the whir of the garage door opening and squealed with delight, running toward the sound. My mom opened up, holding a small bundle in her hands. Finally, finally, I looked at her with awe for the first time as she peered open her tiny eyes, her body wrapped snuggly in a blanket, strands of hair wisping in little curls around her forehead — my baby sister.


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