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Pomona College Senior Wins First Place in Elie Wiesel Essay Contest

Pomona College senior Leslie Barnard of Woodinville, Wash., has been awarded first place and $5,000 in the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest for her thought-provoking essay, “Forty-three Cents.”

Inspired to enter the contest in part by the ethics classes she has taken at Pomona College, Barnard, a senior majoring in religious studies, based her award-winning essay on the summer she spent living in a Buddhist nun’s hostel and teaching English to local schoolchildren in India. Barnard traveled to India on a Freeman Foundation Fellowship while enrolled at Pomona College.

In Ladakh, Barnard writes in her essay, if a child whose allowance for an entire month is 20 rupees (approximately 43 U.S. cents) spends 5 rupees on a small chocolate bar, she will instinctively share it with all the other children hovering around the candy stand, whether she knows them or not. It doesn’t matter if adults are watching. This practice has nothing to do with rules or punishments. It comes from a deeper place. Like most Americans, I had been raised to believe that the more I earned and achieved over and against my competitors, the more I would have, the more I would be. In Lakadh, however, this is not the case ...

“When I learned I had won, I felt really good,” Barnard says. “I was glad the idea I was trying to represent had gotten across. I was happy that I had been able to articulate the power of these experiences I had in India, at least to some extent.“

After graduation this month, Barnard plans to spend two years teaching elementary school on the Rosebud Indian reservation in South Dakota through Teach for America.

The Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest is an annual competition that is designed to challenge college students to analyze the urgent ethical issues confronting them in today's complex world. The contest is run by the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, established by Elie Wiesel and his wife, Marion, soon after he was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Peace. The Foundation's mission, rooted in the memory of the Holocaust, is to advance the cause of human rights by creating forums for the discussion and resolution of urgent ethical issues.

Pomona College is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offering a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research.