Students Counter Conflict in Essay Contest

PARAMUS, N.J. – Four students have earned $2,500 in scholarships from the Bergen Community College Center for Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation (CPJR) and Bergen Community College Foundation for their submissions in an essay contest on conflict resolution.

The 2021-22 Peace Scholarship Essay Challenge annual writing contest featured works, including poetry, on global crises, historical violence and even internal conflicts. The student winners are:

· Cassie Lacsina Guinto, of Hackensack, “Don’t Cross the Street Alone” - First Place ($1,000)

· Tarik Emir Acikgoz, of Clifton, “When Life Isn't Complicated” - Second Place ($750)

· Catherine Flores, of Guttenberg, “Religion Does Not Mean Losing Your Freedom” - Third Place ($500)

· Melissa Giltner, of Bogota, “The Real American Dream” - Honorable Mention ($250)

“It is a tremendous honor to provide scholarship awards to such exceptional students each year and a true inspiration to see them take a stand on the conflicts of our world and express their hope for peaceful resolution,” Bergen history professor and CPJR team member Sarah Shurts, Ph.D., said.

Supported through foundation donors, the CJPR fosters awareness of mechanisms of social conflict, political and ethnic violence and genocide through educational initiatives, exhibitions and dialogues. Working with local and global communities, the center develops skills in conflict resolution and ethical decision making to promote social justice and global citizenship. The center earned the 2016 John and Suanne Roueche Excellence Award for outstanding contributions to student success, an award created by the League for Innovation in the Community College.

The foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization led by a Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from business, government and nonprofit organizations, remains dedicated to advancing the priorities of the institution’s strategic plan, including supporting student success through scholarships. To donate, visit

Based in Paramus, Bergen Community College (, a public two-year coeducational college, enrolls more than 13,000 students at locations in Paramus, the Philip Ciarco Jr. Learning Center in Hackensack and Bergen Community College at the Meadowlands in Lyndhurst. The College offers associate degree, certificate and continuing education programs in a variety of fields. More students graduate from Bergen than any other community college in the state.

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