Inaugural “We Solve Problems Essay Contest” Winners Announced

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Jeff Hoffman, co-founder Priceline.com, with winner Morgan Walker, Chagrin Falls High School Junior

More than 100 Chagrin Valley and national business professionals, students, administrators and families joined together March 30 at Chagrin Falls Township Hall to celebrate the winning students of the “We Solve Problems Essay Contest.” Students from Chagrin Falls and Kenston high schools – 734 to be exact – participated in the essay contest, which focused on solving the issue of cyberbullying.

Created by the Gertsburg Law Firm and The Chagrin Valley Chamber of Commerce, students’ 600- word essays were judged by nearly 200 business and government leaders, with Jeff Hoffman, cofounder of Priceline.com, and Len Komoroski, CEO of the Cleveland Cavaliers, serving as final judges.

Alex Gertsburg, Gertsburg Law Firm
Alex Gertsburg, Gertsburg Law Firm

Talking with the 16 finalists at the reception, Hoffman conveyed an important message to the students. “The essays were the start of your decision to make a difference. Do something. Help someone. Stand up once. You will realize that one person can make a difference.”

Morgan Walker, a Chagrin Falls High School Junior, was honored as the overall winner. In her essay, Walker wrote, “schools can promote the movement against cyberbullying by intervening in student disputes, inflicting consequence on offenders, and providing accessible reporting systems for perceived cyberbullying incidents.”

A total of $10,000 in prize money was distributed among the finalists and the schools. Walker received $1,000 for her winning essay. Chagrin Falls and Kenston school districts received $2,000 – funded by the contest’s sponsors – to be earmarked for implementing the ideas brought forth in the essays.

“The written word, when done properly, is powerful,” said Alex Gertsburg, head of the Gertsburg Law Firm. “It can be constructive and destructive. Cyberbullying is an extremely destructive way to use the written word.

This contest was a vehicle for reversing the destruction that cyberbullying can cause. These students addressed it head one. They created the dialogue and opportunity to think and talk about it. And they brought forth realistic solutions to help solve it.”

16 Finalists
16 Finalists

Grade winners from each school include:

  • Chagrin Falls 9th Grade Winner: Anna Orywal
  • Chagrin Falls 9th Grade Runner-Up: Adriana Holst
  • Chagrin Falls 10th Grade Winner: Abbey Cloonan
  • Chagrin Falls 10th Grade Runner-Up: Mikala Izzo
  • Chagrin Falls 11th Grade Winner: Morgan Walker
  • Chagrin Falls 11th Grade Runner-Up: Alyson Bergomi
  • Chagrin Falls 12th Grade Winner: Molly Burke
  • Chagrin Falls 12th Grade Runner-Up: Natalie Welch
  • Kenston 9th Grade Winner: William Toth
  • Kenston 9th Grade Runner-Up: Jessica Sunderhaft
  • Kenston 10th Grade Winner: Grace Cannon
  • Kenston 10th Grade Runner-Up: Elizabeth Ortner
  • Kenston 11th Grade Winner: Erica Belfi
  • Kenston 11th Grade Runner-Up: Mira Grcevich
  • Kenston 12th Grade Winner: Lauren Lance
  • Kenston 12th Grade Runner-Up: Maggie Krause

Molly Gebler, executive director of the Chagrin Valley Chamber of Commerce expressed her gratitude to the Chamber members who participated in the essay contest and echoed Hoffman’s call to action. “The ideas brought forth from this contest were powerful.

I challenge those students who participated to not stop with this essay contest. I encourage them to continue on the path of finding a solution to cyberbullying and holding their peers, parents and faculty accountable for initiating the ideas they shared.”

The top 16 winning essays can be found here.

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