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2018 College Scholarship Winner

The 2018 College Scholarship Winner Lilia Sweet

Lilia Sweet Tyline King

University of Mississippi
Award: $2,500
July 15, 2018

We are pleased to announce Lilia Sweet Tyline King as the winner of The 2018 ABC Fundraising® Volunteer Recognition Scholarship for $2,500.

Lily Sweet, who attends the University of Mississippi, was selected from a pool of almost 80 candidates. Candidates had to submit an essay detailing volunteer work and a volunteer verification form.

Lily Sweet composed an inspiring essay about a project she organized to bring high school students from different areas – The Longest Table. She worked to unite 110 high school students from her own and neighboring schools for a meal. Gathered around a 132 foot table, the students were able to make new friends and engage with one another in a unique setting.

Lily Sweet aspires to be a lawyer and work to help others in need. She will begin her studies at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 2018.

Congratulations, Lily Sweet!

 

Lily Sweet’s Winning Essay:

This spring, I marched at the Florida capitol in support of the Parkland/Marjorie Stoneman Douglas students and a ban on assault rifles. I am 18. Like thousands of other students in attendance—and the 17 who were not—I should be worried about making As and college acceptances. Instead, it has become apparent that one cannot be a spectator in life; fighting for what I believe in requires empathy PLUS action. No more thoughts and prayers; it’s time for
process and change.

In today’s society, civil discourse has become a rarity—and yet understanding each other is crucial to solving many—if not all—of the world’s problems. Last year, learning about racism and anti-Semitism in area schools, and that Tallahassee is America’s most economically segregated city, awakened a desire in me to DO something, so I created, fundraised for, and hosted The Longest Table – Class of 2018 to bring 110 students from ALL area high schools together for the first time in Tallahassee’s history to combat intolerance and divisiveness by sharing dinner and conversation about community issues.

Many of my peers are not part of diverse communities. My goal for The Longest Table was to create an environment of mutual respect where students could be known without labels and assumptions. I hoped the dinner would create a path for peace, spark change, and foster understanding. By changing perceptions, I hoped to change reality. The night of my event, after months of planning, students ate hamburgers at a 132-foot table, The Longest Table. Breaking down geographic, economic, social, and racial barriers, The Longest Table became a safe space for students to see each other as full human beings, more alike than different. We discovered a newfound respect for people with different experiences. Community issues come to life when we realize they affect the new friends sitting beside us—and when problems become personal, so do solutions.

 

Hosting The Longest Table has become my raison d’etre. In addition to seeing a project that I believe in from start to finish, it helped me conquer rather than cower to several challenges. Hurricane Irma, with her “cone of uncertainty,” hit Tallahassee the night the event was originally planned, forcing me to reschedule and do much of the work twice, but I discovered that with hard work and focus, I can prevail in life’s “cones of uncertainty.” I confronted my extreme shyness and anxiety by soliciting for food donations and presenting a grant proposal to a funding organization. I worried about my lack of substantive experience with social issues, but learned that inexperience can be transcended by creating an inclusive atmosphere, where all guests feel welcome.

The Longest Table reinforced my belief in communication as an essential element in improving society. At the rally, I was struck by how well students confronted opposing lawmakers—not with hatred—but by adamantly but respectfully sharing their stories. At The Longest Table, students came with preconceived notions about their peers, but sensing an atmosphere of mutual respect, shared their struggles and concerns intimately with each other. Students arrived as strangers and left as friends, exchanging cell numbers and Snapchats.

The success of The Longest Table is its simplicity: When people feel welcome, they are disarmed and more comfortable. It creates common ground for discussing any issue, from bullying and racism to mental illness and gun control. People who talk about issues in an intimate way forge a path for compromise and cooperation. No problems in our society can be solved otherwise.

 

The Longest Table helped me discover my passion: using my unique talents to build bridges between various community groups and linking people to important ideas and causes. Our lives are richer when surrounded by people of all backgrounds and beliefs. Personal connections cultivate change.

The event also helped me find my purpose. My future goals include getting a law degree. True justice occurs only when everyone has a voice, an idea that depends on me—and you—speaking up for the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, the discriminated—the 17—for those who can’t speak for themselves.

President Reagan said, “All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” I know exactly what he means. Few leaders command armies or countries; most exercise the greatest influence in the small moments of everyday life—often by something as simple as inviting people to “break bread.”

I would be proud to be a recipient of the ABC Fundraising Scholarship. Like the Longest Table, your business is all about communication—building bridges between cultures. As a high school senior, I have sustained my work by sharing a step-by-step guide and speaking at regional and nationwide workshops to teach other students how to replicate The Longest Table as a way to take action in their communities. As a full-time college freshman this fall, I will continue hosting Longest Tables, both literal and figurative, where students come together to the table—the dinner table—as one.

 

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