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Plattsburgh Student Receives $5000 Scholarship for Essay

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (Nov. 9, 2009) - A SUNY Plattsburgh senior received grand prize winnings for his entry in the 2009 Hands Along the Nile Essay Contest. Benjamin Pomerance, a Plattsburgh native who is a double major in journalism and political science with a minor in music, was one of five people to win in a competition against 850 students nationwide, both graduate and undergraduate. Not only did he win, but he won the top prize of a $5,000 scholarship.

Benjamin Pomerance "I was shocked when I learned I had won," admits Pomerance, who received the news from the head attorney at Prisoner's Legal Aid, where Pomerance worked. "I thought he was kidding, so my first response was to laugh."

The award was not such a shock to some of the people who know Pomerance well. Since his senior year of high school, Pomerance has been applying to scholarships.

"I probably apply for 10 or so scholarships every year," said Pomerance. These scholarships have helped to pay for his undergraduate education.

For this particular scholarship, Pomerance confessed, "I did not even know the Hands Along the Nile organization existed before I found this scholarship online, but the more I researched, the more I was intrigued about Hands ... and their work."

Hands Along the Nile is a non-profit organization that works to build a positive relationship between the people of Egypt and the United States. Funds for the essay contest came from anonymous donor to the organization. The donor requested that Hands Along the Nile use the money to sponsor an essay competition to raise awareness of the importance of cross-cultural engagement in international community development work.

Shawn Murphy, Pomerance's professor and academic advisor, praised Pomerance for his achievements.

"I am very proud of Benjamin Pomerance for his accomplishment in being singled out as having written the best essay of 850 entries nationwide in this essay competition," said Murphy, who also worked with Pomerance when he was on the staff of the award-winning Cardinal Points newspaper. "Knowing Benjamin, he certainly would have spent a great deal of time researching it, thinking about it, writing it and editing it. His work ethic is second to none."

Coming to SUNY Plattsburgh with an interest in writing, Pomerance acknowledges that he would not be the successful writer he is today if it wasn't for the help from his professors at Plattsburgh. He has even had professors sit one-on-one with him, going through a piece "sentence by sentence, tightening it and adjusting it until it is more or less 'right.'"

"This individual attention has been very valuable," said Pomerance.

Along with the support from his professors, Pomerance admits that "While my parents have always supported my dreams and encouraged me to achieve my goals -- the whole Plattsburgh community has also supported and encouraged me."

In fact, the community has helped Pomerance raise more than $60,000 for the local and nation community.

Beyond his studies at Plattsburgh, Pomerance has had the chance to interview and write about many well-known figures in a variety of subjects ranging from sports, theater, music, literature, business, politics, as well as locally known people. His "journalistic highlight" Pomerance confessed, was the two-page spread he wrote about former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres for the New York Daily News.

For this, he thanks Luke Cyphers, an ESPN sportswriter and SUNY Plattsburgh journalism lecturer. "I will always be grateful for all he did beyond the classroom to help me get this article published," said Pomerance.

"Writing has enriched my life. It has enriched my life in ways I might never have enjoyed without going to SUNY Plattsburgh," he added.

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