“Home is where the heart is.”
“There’s no place like home.”
“This feels like coming home.” 

These well-known quotes all describe what a home is. Yet, not one of them talks about siding, paint, or landscaping. None of them describe granite countertops and a soaking tub. Why? Because making a “home” is not the same as building a house. Home is a feeling, a smell, a person, a song.

coldwell banker essay
The 2015 winners (from left), Julia Holder (third), Bella Hood (first), and Aundrea Temple (second) shared their unique take on their sense of “home.”

For the last six years, Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty has been asking Thurston County teens, “What Makes a House a Home?” And for all of those years, the outstanding students around our county have been answering through poetic, humorous, heart-wrenching and often very personal essays submitted to the annual scholarship essay contest.

The contest grew out of the core value held by the Coldwell Banker team that your lifestyle, including the community and people in your life, are really at the center of what makes a perfect home for you.

Jamie Gibeau, Marketing Director at Coldwell Banker, explains, “We purchase homes not just because the box is great. There is some sense of our soul that connects with it. Our lifestyle dictates the home we purchase – how you live is how you will live inside your home. Every day in our office we strive to find the perfect home for people. To help them come home to that connection at the end of the day.”

coldwell banker essay contest
The “What Makes a House a Home” scholarship essay contest is open now through May 8 and offers local teens the chance to share what makes their home unique.

During the contest, Coldwell Banker asked local high school students to articulate that sense of home, of place, and of belonging in an essay submitted for a chance to win one of three scholarships. The “What Makes a House a Home?” essay contest requirements are:

  • High School students – freshman through senior.
  • Students must reside in, or attend school in, Thurston County.
  • Essays will be 500 words or less.
  • Submissions must be received by May 8, 2016.

Three winners will be chosen from among the entries by a panel of local, independent judges including educators, journalists, and community leaders. Prizes are awarded in the form of scholarships for the winning students in the amounts of $1,000 for first, $750 for second and $500 for third place.

Last year, Coldwell Banker added another element to the contest, the “Inspirational Educator Award.” This $500 grant will be awarded to a teacher of the first place winner’s choice, selected based on the impact they have made on the student. The teacher will be surprised in their classroom with the award in late May after the contest winners have been announced.

coldwell banker essay contest
Olympia High School English teacher, Sarah Violette, was chosen by her student Bella Hood for the $500 Inspirational Educator Award gran The award is given by Norma Schuiteman of the South Puget Sound Community Foundation.

“Our educators are so integral in the development and success of our local young people and they just don’t always get the recognition,” shares Gibeau when asked about the addition last year of the educator award. “They pour their sweat, tears and love into the next generation. It’s huge for us at Coldwell Banker to just give a little bit back. These educators are a big part of what makes this community what it is and sustains it as a desirable place to live.”

Gibeau also notes that this contest is one that is accessible to so many kids, not one that is simply based on high academic achievement. “We really like the freedom and creativity this contest offers kids. It gives them the ability to explore writing creatively and share something that really means something to them,” she explains.

Each year the team marvels at the insights shown by each student. “Every year the contest seems to grow and we see kids going outside the box, taking the idea of the essay topic a little bit further,” she says. “Some of these students articulate their ideas in ways that we wouldn’t have predicted. The visuals and richness are really great.”

The contest is underway and students can enter through May 8 by visiting the Coldwell Banker blog page and following the online directions.

coldwell banker essay contest
Coldwell Banker Evergreen Olympic Realty has been serving Thurston County since 1968.

Gibeau gives recognition to company owners Ken and Nancy Anderson for their creative thinking in designing the contest. Not only does the contest connect to the foundational philosophy of the 48-year-old, locally owned real estate company, but it is also structured with an endowment to the Community Foundation of South Puget Sound and will, therefore, live in perpetuity.

In five years of reading essays, Gibeau notes that it’s not always the most technically impressive stories that catch the attention of the judges. Last year’s third place winner, Julia Holder, reflected on the concept of sound as a feeling of home in her musical family. “It literally made you want to step into her home to see and hear how it felt to be there. You didn’t see the outside of the Holder house, you didn’t know how the interior appeared, but you knew who they are as a family and how they live in their home,” she explains.

For full details on the contest, click here. To connect with Coldwell Banker with questions about the essay contest or buying and selling a home call 360-352-7651.


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