USD Leadership School Announces Youth Essay Contest Winners

The Character Development Center within the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) at the University of San Diego has selected the first, second, and third place winners of its Character Matters Essay Contest.  Public, private, and charter school students grades 4-12 in San Diego and Imperial Counties were invited to submit their essays.

The Character Matters Essay Contest provides a platform for insightful discussions and reflections on experiences that call for honesty, respect, responsibility, courage, self-discipline, and other virtues. All students have encountered experiences in their lives where their character has been tested, inspired, and strengthened. This essay contest provides students an opportunity for conscious reflection on these experiences.

Approximately 3,000 students participated in the contest, and the winners in each age category — elementary, middle, and high school — received a plaque and cash prize:  $125 for first place, $100 for second place, and $75 for third place.

Among elementary students, Ryan Hobbib was awarded the first place prize, Ryan Komasa the second, and Madina Ansari the third.  All three were fifth graders from San Diego.

In the middle school bracket, eighth grader Rex Hammock of Encinitas won first place, seventh grader Tri Le of San Diego took second, and eighth grader Lisa Vo of Coronado won third prize.

For high school students, sisters Rebecca Hammock of Encinitas, a tenth grader, and senior Margaret Hammock won first and second place, respectively. Senior Dana Harju of San Diego took third place.

Common themes in the essays included determination, integrity, and faith.  Ryan Hobbib surmised that his father exceeded doctors’ expectations in his recovery from a malignant tumor “because of his determination to get better and his positive mental attitude.” 

Rebecca Hammock underscored the importance of doing the right thing, noting that “it is so easy to choose to ‘let things go’ and let integrity take the backseat so you can get what you want, but it is so important not to.” 

Rex Hammock, citing his grandfather’s steadfast resolve to care for his ailing wife, explained that “faith is important because when we are not absolutely certain of something, we can place our trust in ourselves or someone else, and be able to believe in something.”

The Character Development Center aims to serve educators and students in teacher education programs, K-12 teachers, administrators, counselors, parents and caregivers who desire to participate in the character development of children and youth, and to promote among the young development of life skills necessary for a productive personal and social life.

To read winner essays and learn more about the programs and projects offered by the character development center, click on

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.