Last week, Aftermath proudly announced the winners of the 2016 Aftermath Collegiate Scholarship. Out of almost 1000 entries, Dominican University student Anna Li was one of the two chosen to receive the $1000 award. Anna said she learned about the scholarship from Fastweb, an online resource that helps connect students with funding and other resources to benefit their college careers. Anna, a Chicago resident, is currently pursuing her Masters in Education at the suburban university. Li’s essay drew on her diverse interests as well as her life experience: “I am passionate about the arts—whether literature or visual arts—and social justice, and I am constantly trying to find the intersection of the two of those interests. That is why teaching literature/writing is the perfect career for me—I get to empower young, creative minds through art every single day.”
On the Topic of Grief and Social Media
The essay topic for this year’s competition concerned the evolution of grief and the grieving process as experienced through the lens of social media. Many students wrote from personal experience, describing their own use of digital networks during times of struggle. Others looked at the bigger picture and examined the larger support networks formed online during mass tragedies such as the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando. Li’s essay described an incident that she experienced as a school teacher, yet it also touched on the far-reaching issue of gun violence. In her winning work, Li described the outpouring of online support received following the unexpected and tragic death of one of her students. She says the topic gave her an opportunity to reflect on new and positive uses for social media: “What surprised me the most from this essay topic was thinking about how the ever-evolving landscape of modern technology offers new avenues for our grief, but also for our awareness, safety, and healing.”
After graduating, Li plans to continue teaching. As she explains: “Being a teacher also means being an advocate, so I will also continue advocating for my students in the face of educational inequity. I love this profession, and I love our students, and I will continue to work until they get the education they deserve.”
Read an Excerpt From Li’s Essay
In her essay, Li writes: “The power that social media presents in grief rests in its ability to create conversation where it is needed most. Before social media platforms, the sphere with whom we communicated was far narrower; we talked to the few colleagues, peers, or neighbors who knew our deceased. Grief feeds off isolation. With social media, a new web of relationships is strung together….Individually, it may seem insignificant–140 characters, an Instagram post, a status update. Collectively, however, social media is a tool that creates a forum of commemoration of human life, unanswered questions with tangled conclusions, and necessary conversation about topics that are not meant to be faced in isolation. Where once grief was carried alone and these questions abruptly end like a dead end road, now our pain can be knit together and united like a tapestry, piece by piece, thread by thread. And that is the beginning of healing.”
Aftermath regularly sponsors contests and giveaways, designed to promote the core pillars of the company: community, education, and safety. From the Annual K9 Conference, to community grants, sponsorships, and funding, Aftermath is happy to give back to the people who live and work with us each and every day. Moreover, the Aftermath staff is committed to providing compassionate, dedicated care in the most difficult situations. If you’ve experienced tragic circumstances such as a homicide or suicide in your home, or have need of biohazard cleanup services, please call at 877-872-4339. Aftermath’s team of professional cleaning technicians are available nationwide 24/7 to best serve you.