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Two high schoolers win Percy Julian essay contest

Both students at Morgan Park High School

Chicago (Feb. 2, 2007) � Two Morgan Park High School seniors have won Saint Xavier University�s first Percy L. Julian essay contest.

Kristena E. Cooksey, of Chicago�s Pill Hill neighborhood, won first place, and Worlee Hobbs, of Chicago�s Beverly neighborhood, won second place. The essay contest was held as part of the recent screening at Saint Xavier of a NOVA documentary on the African-American scientist and civil rights pioneer.

Cooksey is an International Baccalaureate senior, varsity cheerleader, coach of the junior high cheerleading team and president of the Service Learning Club. She plans to pursue a degree in veterinary medicine and has received scholarships from five of the six universities to which she has applied.

�I was most affected by the fact that he stood for something instead of falling victim to his fears,� Cooksey said.

Hobbs does extensive volunteer work at his church and is a member of its basketball league. He plans to pursue a business degree and has been accepted to two universities.

�My father grew up during the same time (as Julian), and this documentary gave me a better understanding of what he went through,� Hobbs said.

Eugenia McAvoy, an assistant professor of communication at Saint Xavier who helped judge the essays, said she was most impressed by the students� research.

�Kristena wrote a soulful essay describing Percy Julian�s struggle to overcome discrimination while pursuing science and research which has no color. She praised his spirit yet related to his struggles,� McAvoy said. �Worlee�s essay praised Percy�s many contributions and made the reader understand what a remarkably brilliant mind Percy Julian had. Worlee knew about many of Percy Julian�s scientific contributions and how we still use these products.�

The documentary �Forgotten Genius� chronicles the remarkable life of Julian, one of the great African-American scientists of the 20th century. The two-hour documentary airs at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6 on WTTW-TV (Channel 11), and NOVA chose Saint Xavier as one of the locations to show a preview excerpt of the documentary.

Julian overcame countless obstacles to become a world-class scientist, a self-made millionaire and a civil-rights pioneer. Yet despite his many achievements, his story is largely unknown. In �Forgotten Genius,� NOVA brings Julian to life through his scientific breakthroughs and gripping biography, with vivid period reenactments based on newly accessible family archives and interviews with dozens of colleagues and relatives. 


Founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1846, Saint Xavier University was the first Mercy college in the United States and is Chicago�s oldest Catholic university. Serving approximately 5,700 students at its campuses in Chicago, Orland Park and its downtown Loop location, the University offers 35 undergraduate majors; more than 40 graduate program options in arts and sciences, business, education and nursing; and a variety of program options in continuing and professional studies. Recognizing Saint Xavier�s excellence in education, U.S. News and World Report has ranked SXU consistently among the Best Colleges in the Midwest.

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