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First Year Reading Experience (FYRE) Scholarship for First-Year Students

Building off of this year’s FYRE book, Look me in the eye: My life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robinson, the First Year Experience (FYE) office is sponsoring an essay contest for first-year students to receive scholarships for the Fall 2020 semester.

Scholarship Criteria

  • You must be a first-year, incoming freshman for fall 2020
  • Submit an 800-1000 word essay addressing one of the two prompts by Monday, August 24 at 5 pm via email to
  • Submissions should be in a Word document and written in 12-point font

Recipients can win one of several awards between $100 and $1,000 in scholarship. Those students selected to receive a scholarship for Spring 2021 will receive a special package with a certificate and some other items.

Essay Prompt 1

A common theme in the memoir is how the author’s attempts to connect and form bonds with people are hindered by the effects of his neurological condition to communicate effectively. The frustration of not being able to communicate what one feels, or thinks is something we can all relate to.

Communication is largely regulated by cultural conventions and unwritten rules. In American culture “small talk” is used to put strangers at ease but it may have the opposite effect on people unfamiliar with the practice in a variety of ways. For example, language fluency is often an obstacle for immigrants in their new homes or when traveling. Even within the same country, accents, slang and expressions vary widely.  As you prepare for your academic career at Salem State, you will find there is a whole set of terms, phrases, and expressions you need to learn. Borrowing from personal experience, share with us if you have ever experienced frustration trying to communicate with others and form relationships. What did you do to overcome or help someone overcome the isolation that comes from feeling misunderstood? Describe what role a more inclusive understanding of communication may play on how you adapt to your new life as a college student.

Essay Prompt 2

In his vivid, enthralling and deeply honest first voice the author invites the reader to see the world through his eyes. The author spoke of a neurological condition then known as Asperger’s but would be known today as Autism. The author reminds us that differences are not flaws to be corrected, but rather they are what makes us unique and should be celebrated. His memoir is a call to practice empathy and compassion in order to become more accepting of each other.

As you start your journey as a college student, you will meet people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life. What lessons can you infer from John’s memoir that will help you approach peers who may think differently, act differently, or look different from you? At a time when our country appears deeply divided, how do you think the practice of empathy can help us find create change?

Franklin Chilaka
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