Clarion Teen's Choose-Your-Own-Path Presentation Wins $10,000

2016 Words to Be Heard Scholarship

Edgar Snyder & Associates Names Gabrielle Stewart Winner in Scholarship Contest

View Gabrielle's Choose-Your-Own-Path Project


Pittsburgh, PA – Clarion teen Gabrielle Stewart understands that when it comes to making important life decisions, there are no re-dos. And that understanding gave her an idea: Life is a little bit like a choose-your-own-adventure story.

That idea won her $10,000 in scholarship funds.

Gabrielle, a senior at Clarion Area High School and a resident of Shippenville (Clarion County), was selected as the $10,000 grand prize winner of the 2016 Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest for "The Choice is Yours," her choose-your-own-path presentation that allows "players" to make a series of decisions during a hypothetical night out.

The contest, in its 10th year, challenged high school seniors from Western and Central Pennsylvania to create projects that discourage other teens from drunk driving and texting while driving. Since 2007, Edgar Snyder & Associates has granted 80 scholarships amounting to over $100,000 in scholarship money.

Inspired by the choose-your-own-adventure books she read as a child, Gabrielle's presentation begins with participants choosing whether or not they want to attend a house party on a Friday night. From there, participants continue to make a series of decisions that will lead to events that determine the final outcome of their night, such as if they choose to drink, who they choose to drive home with, and if they call for help. Each route comes with its own consequences, ranging from a quiet night at home to friends with severe injuries.

Keeping her original idea in mind, Gabrielle wanted to show others that even seemingly small decisions can have large impacts on your life. "You need to be aware of your own choices," Gabrielle said about her entry. "You have to think, 'What effect could this have later on?'"

"One of the hallmarks of this scholarship contest is that it allows high school students to use their own voices," said Attorney Edgar Snyder. "Young people learn a lot from their peers, and when a peer warns you about the dangers of distracted driving, it can be that much more effective."

And Gabrielle agrees. "By participating in a project like this, teens can take ownership. It forces them to acknowledge it's not just an adult issue," she said.

Gabrielle will use her scholarship to attend the Schreyer Honors College at Pennsylvania State University this fall. She plans to explore her interests in the arts, sciences, and humanities before deciding on her course of study.

Gabrielle's winning entry was selected out of over 150 entries. Finalists in the scholarship contest were reviewed by and voted on by a panel of community judges at the Pittsburgh-area office of Edgar Snyder & Associates. The panel included: Debra Iwaniec, President of the Trooper Iwaniec Memorial Foundation and Health & Physical Education Teacher at Yough High School; Kathy Strotmeyer, Southwestern Pennsylvania Injury Prevention Coordinator, American Academy of Pediatrics; Deputy Jason Tarap, Crime Prevention Specialist for the Allegheny Sheriff's Office; and Chris Vitale MSN, RN, Injury Prevention Manager at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Two runner ups were also awarded scholarships: Kurlya Yan of Franklin Regional High School (Westmoreland County) won $2,500 and Benjamin Crawford of Purchase Line Jr./Sr. High School (Indiana County) won $5,000. To view all of the winning entries and to learn more about the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest, visit