Cortland Teen has flair for writing


Misha T. Kwasniewski/staff photographer
Jesse Milligan poses outside her home in Cortland earlier this month. Jesse was the winner of a national essay contest sponsored by Olive Garden

Living and Leisure Editor

Jesse Milligan said she’s especially excited to win a national essay contest — since writing is a skill she may use in her career.
“Writing is what I think I want to pursue. I think I want to go into journalism,” said the Cortland High 11th-grader.
The 17-year-old Cortland youth, along with 60 other teens from the high school, entered Olive Garden’s nationwide “Pasta Tales” essay contest. The kids were asked to write how a person or experience has made an important impact on their lives.
Milligan’s winning essay was selected from nearly 11,000 entries written by students in first through 12th grade. A winner was announced in each of the 12 grade categories and each will receive a $500 U. S. Savings Bond and dinner with their family at their local Olive Garden, according to officials at the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.- based company.
Jesse chose her brother, Jeremy, as someone who was influential to her. The former ninth- and 11th-grade history teacher at Cortland High is now teaching middle school in the Boston area, and he has been there for two years, said Mike Milligan, their father.
“He taught me to be proud of the person I am, never to be afraid of what others may think of me,” Jesse said.
Jesse said she has always been the kind of person who wants to fit in. “He always encouraged me to be my own person. To be who you are.”
“My psychology teacher, Mr. (Bob) Edwards, promoted the essay contest throughout the school. He told me I should enter. I was taking Holocaust, an elective class. One of the options for the final was to enter the contest.”
Jesse chose that option, and received a 95 on her essay.
Olive Garden officials said the submission was “rich with examples” and had a “strong and clear” writing style.
“Ever since I was little, my brother has been a tremendously positive role model to me,” Jesse wrote. “His generosity, love for life and dedication to every task at hand are just a few examples of the qualities he exemplifies that inspire me the most … I only wish that I will follow in my brother’s footsteps and make him half as proud of me, as I am of him.”
“Mike and I, we’re both very proud of her and we view her essay to be an open love letter to her big brother,” said Barbara Milligan, Jesse’s mom. “That was more meaningful to us then the prize and money.”
Jesse said her family has always been supportive.
“I think if you don’t have a good family, then you don’t have much else. … They are there for the good times and the bad times.”




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