Marlboro College

News Marlboro College Announces Beautiful Minds Challenge Winners

MARLBORO, VT – (January 14, 2013) – Marlboro College announced the winners of its Beautiful Minds Challenge, a contest for high school students that drew 75 submissions from 23 U.S. states and two countries. The top three entries will receive cash prizes, and the 20 finalists will enjoy an all-expense-paid trip to a student symposium at Marlboro College, February 21 to 23. 

“To me, beauty is the place where nature and human elegance connect,” said Nya Cooks, a high school student from Upatoi, Georgia, who was first-place winner of the Beautiful Minds Challenge. Nya’s original creation, an elegant gown fabricated from autumn leaves and sheer, flowing fabric, was chosen by a panel of judges made up of Marlboro students and faculty. “I am over the moon,” said Nya. “I can’t thank Marlboro College enough for this opportunity.”

Other impressive submissions ranged from stop-motion animation to paintings to short stories, all in response to the prompt, “Make something beautiful. Say why it is.” The contest was designed to attract students who think broadly and creatively across disciplines, one of the hallmarks of Marlboro College, an intentionally small, intellectually demanding liberal arts college located in southern Vermont.

Second place went to Erica Siclari, of Brooklyn, New York, and third place was awarded to Emily Ross, a homeschool student from Gray, Maine. Submissions came from students across the U.S, Hawaii to New Hampshire, as well as Ethiopia and the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda. The teens represented public high schools, private schools, early college high schools and home schooling options, and brought to the contest a wealth of talents and enthusiasm. 

“We were very pleased by the range of responses and the depth of thought students put into their submissions,” said Ariel Brooks, director of non-degree programs at Marlboro, who administered the Beautiful Minds Challenge. “Some of them take your breath away, and all of the finalists demonstrate the independent thinking characteristic of Marlboro students.”

“This is the best opportunity that has ever come my way,” said Eric Rivera, a student from Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernadino, California, and one of the runner-ups who will attend the symposium. His team used video to document the evolution of a drawing by one team-member, Octavio Duarte, and demonstrate the self-reflection inherent in art. “I was literally shocked when I heard the great news that we were honored with this trip. I am really looking forward to the symposium in February.”

The symposium will gather 20 finalists from the Beautiful Minds Challenge together with Marlboro students and faculty, in the inspiring natural setting of Marlboro’s undergraduate campus. Participants will have the opportunity to further explore their conceptions of beauty, as well as other subjects that cross disciplines and challenge their minds, alongside other intellectually motivated peers.  

View all of the winning submissions at: Images available upon request. For more information, contact the Marlboro College marketing and communication office at 802-251-7644 or

Marlboro College provides independent thinkers with exceptional opportunities to broaden their intellectual horizons in a small and close-knit learning community, create a strong framework for personal and career fulfillment and make a positive difference in the world. With two locations in southern Vermont’s Green Mountains, our undergraduate campus in the town of Marlboro and our graduate school in Brattleboro, students discover new avenues for using their skills to benefit themselves and others. Marlboro students engage in deep exploration of their interests in an atmosphere that emphasizes critical and creative thinking, independence, social justice, sustainability and community.


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