2016 3rd Annual Scholarship Winners

2016 3rd Annual Scholarship Winners

In 2016, applicants highlighted one issue facing today’s society and outlined a possible solution. Students could include examples from their own lives or new, innovative ideas.

This year’s promotion garnered submissions from several new high schools from throughout Chicagoland, and each winner received a $250 scholarship to use toward secondary education-related expenses. Winners are listed in alphabetical order.


Jessica D’Souza, Schaumburg High School, Schaumburg

ISSUE: Corruption in the American patent system in abundant and increasing; currently shell companies who do not actually research and invent, buy up patents and use them to sue the inventors and researchers that are actually hard at work inventing and developing new products and technologies. This corruption effectively prevents invention thereby deterring progress as a society.

The crux of development rests upon the ability for humans to create and innovate. This was a belief stressed by our nation’s founders in Article I, section 8, of the Constitution, where they state that "Congress shall have power . . . to promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." These words gave birth to the rich legal framework that is the American parent process, which is defined by the United States Patent and Trademark Office as the system built to issue “grants of a property right to the inventor” specifically the “right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, selling or importing the invention.” In this way, the patent process was built to legally protect and incentive development.

However, the American patent system is also hopelessly broken, plagues by aptly named “patent trolls.” Patent trolls, defined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “are those who use patents as legal weapons, instead of actually creating any new products or coming up with new ideas. Instead, trolls are in the business of litigation (or even just threatening litigation).” Patent trolls use the legal system as a weapon, and sue those who actually make scientific, technological and medical breakthroughs. Its a problem that is proliferating through our society with increasing severity amidst claims by the White House that the number of lawsuits brought by patent trolls has nearly tripled, costing investors and researchers nearly half a trillion dollars since 1990. This issue undermines the creative process and deters invention, preventing new technologies that could change and save lives from ever reaching the masses.

Patent trolls have power in our system for two key reasons, and if the American government, through legislation and enforcement addresses these reasons, we could greatly ameliorate the some of the corruption present in the patent process. The first is legal fees; patent trolls heavily rely on high legal fees scaring inventors and researchers into settling, which emboldens trolls who know they cannot win their cases in court. Our legislature needs to sign more bills into law that enforce fee shifting, whereby some of the legal fees of the inventors and researchers being sued are paid by the troll. In enacting stronger reforms in fee shifting, congress could scare away patent trolls and protect the legitimacy of the legal system. The second reason that patent trolls have power is because the system lacks adequate transparency- allowing their corruption to plague the system unfettered. In adding more transparency to the system, by forcing the public availability of demand letters and required more specificity in allegations, we can lift the legal curtain that patent trolls hide behind.

Invention and development are the quintessential foundations of the United States and remain critical for our progress as a society. Through hard-hitting reform and enforcement, we can rid the system of its current corrupt brokenness, and together, innovate our way to a brighter tomorrow.

Evan Johnson, Central High School, Elgin

ISSUE: In recent years, racial profiling by police officers has been highlighted in the media. Though very few individuals in the entire police force practice profiling, it has cast a shadow on policemen as a whole. Actions must be taken to eliminate racial profiling in order to rebuild trust in our police forces.

Beginning with slavery in the colonies before the Declaration of Independence, to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and with the current illegal alien issue, racial prejudice always has been present in American society. Racism has taken many forms such as slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, and more recently, racial profiling. With the advent of modern technology including cell phones and body cameras, it has been documented that racial profiling is a major societal issue in America today, and most visibly by police forces.

If recent events in Baltimore and elsewhere have shown anything, it is that racism is still a large problem in the United States. Police pull over people in cars, forcibly enter homes, and in some cases kill people based on skin color. These incidences can occur due to the racial stereotype that most black men are criminals. To some extent this position is supported by a 2012 study by the FBI in which African Americans were found to be the highest group who committed murder, armed robbery, and several other offenses. In the same study, however, it was found that white people committed more crimes than all other races combined. So why do these atrocious acts continue to happen, even though statistics have proven these stereotypes to be unfair? To a great extent, it is due to racism. More crime happens in areas with high poverty rates and the majority of people living in those areas are black. Because of this, some officers assume that when a black person is a suspect in a crime, then that person is guilty. While sometimes this may be true, more often than not it isn’t, and the result is that the police force looks bad and distrust in the police by the public increases. As for the police killing blacks, in many cases deadly force is unprovoked.

So what is the solution to arguably one of the biggest problems our society has faced this decade? Riots such as those in Ferguson and Baltimore are clearly not the answer. A more realistic solution is to impose stricter punishments for officer misconduct. If an officer arrests and/or harms somebody without cause due to their race they should be put on leave until an investigation is finished, and in cases where there is clear evidence that shows misconduct, the officer should not be paid and should be punished accordingly. Also, background checks should be implemented to ensure that police force candidates with racist tendencies don’t get hired. Also, continuing education for policemen about how to avoid racist behavior should be instituted. Hiring officers from the community they serve and outreach programs to locals help to build trust and establish better relationships between “beat cops” and the public, and therefore reduces crime. Unfortunately, racism will likely plague the United States for years to come. With viable solutions, however, we can stop racial profiling and regain trust in our police force.

Josh Seidman, Fremd High School, Palatine

ISSUE: ISSUE: One of the societal issues in today’s time is the issue of minimum wage. Many people are arguing for the increase in minimum wage, so that workers are not underpaid based on different circumstances. Others believe that minimum wage is detrimental to the economy. However, I have a way to resolve this issue.

A way to resolve this issue is to get rid of minimum wage. People who argue for minimum wage say that minimum wage must increase because the workers need to get paid more. Unfortunately, the cost of living will also increase, if wages must increase as well. This does not really solve the problem. However, if the minimum wage is eliminated, then the cost of living will also decrease. The wages will decrease, but also workers will not need as much money to live either, as prices will drop as a result. If minimum wage were to increase, there would be widespread inflation due to the increase in prices. I’m not looking for a fifteen dollar burger unless I’m at Disneyland.

It’s a common fact that inflation has caused the prices of goods and services to increase dramatically in the past decade or so. If minimum wage was eliminated, this could cause a drop in prices, making it more affordable to live. If the minimum wage were to be raised, this would further increase prices, having the opposite of the desired effect. Opponents of this argue that the workers need to have more money in their pockets to spend, but this could actually harm them in the long run. With an increase in wages, the employers would have to downsize or hire less people.

Although many do not agree with this line of reasoning and we have no way of knowing if all of these events would happen the way I described them, this would theoretically provide a solution to the minimum wage problem. However, for this to work, the minimum wage must be eliminated in all of the states, not just some. If it were to be eliminated in just some, there might be a large migration of workers, and the economy might suffer. But aside from that, a way to solve the minimum wage problem is just simple: get rid of it.

Karolina Skarzynska, Schaumburg High School, Schaumburg

ISSUE: A high incarceration rate and insufficient funding have compounded the issue of overcrowding in public prisons. Some states have turned to private prisons to house inmates, but the profit-driven institutions ignore people’s rights to a fair trial, encouraging the incarceration of innocent people to pad their own bottom line.

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to a fair trial in all criminal prosecutions. The clauses contained within the amendment set forth the right to a speedy trial, a public trial, and an impartial jury, all of which supposedly guarantee that an accused person will be judged expediently, accurately, and fairly, but the amendment ignores one vital part of the process of trying a case. Jurors rule the accused guilty or not guilty, and they must be unbiased by law, but the judge decides the sentence, and he or she is too often extremely biased in a way that can have deleterious effects on the remainder of a guilty person’s life.

State governments have far too much reason to hide the close link between the justice system and private prisons, but various organizations have recently exposed the ramifications that the relationship has on the judicial process. The Brennan Center for Justice found in 2013 that many contracts between states and private prisons force states to provide enough prisoners to fill over eighty percent of beds available in the prisons. States which do not fulfill the contract must pay a fine. The contracts create a perverse financial incentive for judges to extend sentences, stripping people of their freedom for far longer than appropriate.

The natural solution to the issue would be to break the contracts, to free the legal system from the demands of for-profit prisons. However, the issues are much more complex than documents filled with fine print. Though the contracts are of questionable moral value, they remain above the law and hold the signatures of many government officials who want to shift the burden of housing inmates onto private corporations. Private prisons exist largely because they promised to alleviate overcrowding in public institutions, but in many cases they contribute to the problem. The 2008 scandal “Kids for Cash” with Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan revealed that private prisons offer bribes to judges in order to increase the number of child inmates they house.

The natural solution to the issue would be to break the contracts, to free the legal system from the demands of for-profit prisons. However, the issues are much more complex than documents filled with fine print. Though the contracts are of questionable moral value, they remain above the law and hold the signatures of many government officials who want to shift the burden of housing inmates onto private corporations. Private prisons exist largely because they promised to alleviate overcrowding in public institutions, but in many cases they contribute to the problem. The 2008 scandal “Kids for Cash” with Judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan revealed that private prisons offer bribes to judges in order to increase the number of child inmates they house.

 

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