Character Counts Essay

Several Prince William-area students won the “Character Counts!” essay contest, hosted by the Prince William County Bar Association.

According to a release, the contest was “open to all students enrolled in public middle schools in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park”, and more than 250 essays were submitted.

The essays focused on the six pillars of “good character” that are recognized by the Character Counts! Program; trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship, according to a release.

“All first place winners received a $100 cash prize and all second place winners received a $50 cash prize.  These awards were made possible by a grant from the PWC Bar Foundation,” stated a release.

The first place winners were:  Shrey Gupta, 8th grade, Ronald Wilson Reagan Middle School for Trustworthiness; Seerat Subzwari, 6th grade, Potomac Middle School for Respect; Janna Elzaiat, 6th grade, Potomac Middle School for Responsibility; Katherine Chambers, 7th grade, Manassas Park Middle School for Fairness; John McDonald, 7th grade, Ronald Wilson Reagan Middle School for Caring; and Allison An, 7th grade, Ronald Wilson Reagan Middle School for Citizenship.

The second place winners were: Bayleigh Rogers, 7th grade, Ronald Wilson Reagan Middle School for Trustworthiness;  Kimberly Alvarez, 6th grade, Woodbridge Middle School for Respect; Maggie Son, 7th grade, Ronald Wilson Reagan Middle School for Responsibility; Maggie Manning, 6th grade, Herbert J. Saunders Middle School for Fairness; John Tran, 7th grade, Manassas Park Middle School for Caring; Gabriela Padillas Cruz, 7th grade, Manassas Park Middle School for Citizenship.

Here are some excerpts from Essay Contest Winners:

Trustworthiness, “The power of trustworthiness of one friend trumps the lack of it in tens or even hundreds of friends.”  By Shrey Gupta

Respect:  “Although it becomes difficult to respect someone that doesn’t do the same for you, that is when it becomes the most important.”  By Seerat Subzwari

Responsibility, “Responsible means that you do the things that you are expected to do and accept the results of your actions.”  By Janna Elzaiat

Fairness, “…fairness means taking action, without favoritism or discrimination.”  By Katherine Chambers

Caring, “Caring people stand up to bullies and are not just bystanders.”  John Tran

Citizenship, “Good citizens help neighbors and make sure elderly neighbors are doing well during a storm.”  Gabriela Padilla Cruz

For more about this and other community service programs sponsored by the PWC Bar visit them online at

We are excited to announce the 2016 CHARACTER COUNTS! Essay Contest winners!

Collegiate Winners

1st Place: Maggie Squyer, Alpha Phi Sorority, University of South Dakota

Maggie Squyer

Maggie Squyer is a junior double-majoring in Biology Conservation and Sustainability with a minor in Political Science. She is currently the Director of New Member Education for Alpha Phi, a Morale Captain for Dakotathon (our school’s Dance Marathon), a teacher’s aid at a local elementary school, and a research assistant for the university’s Biology Department. After graduation she hopes to get her Master’s Degree in Public Policy and work for an environmental non-profit or in local government. Click here to read Maggie’s essay.



2nd Place: Brenna Smith, Beta Epsilon Chapter, Western Illinois University

Brenna Smith

Brenna is a senior at Western Illinois University, double majoring in Communication and Economics. She is the President of Beta Epsilon chapter, a mentor to students in the First Year Experience Program, and the Vice President of Rho Lambda Honor Society. She has recently served as the Chief of Staff for the Student Government Association and as a Recruitment Counselor for Formal Recruitment. Click here to read Brenna’s essay.




3rd Place: Erin Stein, Beta Tau Chapter, University of Detroit Mercy

Erin Stein

Erin is a senior in the Secondary English Education program with a minor in political science. She joined Tri Sigma as a sophomore and fell in love with it from the beginning. She went to Officer Academy last winter and currently serves as the Education Director for Beta Tau. She is a Presidential Ambassador for the University of Detroit Mercy, Editor of {sic} our Student Arts Journal, and a board member of Alpha Sigma Nu the Jesuit Honor Society. She also works at the campus library as a student assistant and assists with RX for Reading, an outreach program to help distribute books to children in Detroit. Click here to read Erin’s essay.


Alumnae Winners

Arlene Ball, Alpha Phi Chapter, Metro Detroit, Central Michigan and Florida Gulf Coast

Arlene Ball

Arlene joined Tri-Sigma in 1975 at Central Michigan University (Alpha Phi) as a 2nd semester junior. Her sister, Gail Reid Vettraino, joined Tri Sigma the following year!  Arlene is a member of 3 alumnae chapters: Metro Detroit, Central Michigan and Florida Gulf Coast. She is the Alumnae Advisor for Beta Tau and Theta Theta collegiate chapters in Michigan. She and her husband Jim are proud of their two daughters, Jenni (Beta Tau) and Teresa.   A retired elementary teacher, Arlene now enjoys playing with and “teaching” her grandson, Jacob, age 2. She also loves time spent with her mom (90) and takes care of Jim’s mom (88) who lives with them and has dementia. She has been to every Convention since her first one in Washington DC, 1998, and hopes to make it to many more!  As a 2014 Labyrinth participant, Arlene is grateful to the Foundation and urges sisters to join her in supporting it and to also apply for Labyrinth 2017. Click here to read Arlene’s essay.

Emily Whiteman, Gamma Zeta Chapter

Emily Whiteman

Emily joined the Gamma Zeta chapter of Sigma Sigma Sigma at Slippery Rock University in the fall of 2012 with her best friend Charlene Klinger. It’s an experience she will never forget. She studied K-12 physical/health education and served as the Vice President of Operations when the position was established during 2014.  She graduated in 2015 and has since moved to Kansas where she currently attends Kansas State University pursuing another degree in Criminology as well as an active cadet in Army ROTC. Click here to read Emily’s essay.

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