Rural Health Essay Winners Announced

NMU Center for Rural Health logo

The Northern Michigan University Center for Rural Health has announced the winners of its essay contest for Upper Peninsula high school seniors who will begin college in fall 2021 and plan to pursue a healthcare career. It partnered with the Michigan Center for Rural Health (MCRH) on the contest in celebration of National Rural Health Day, which was recognized on Nov. 19.

The top three winners in each region will receive $500 for first place, $250 for second and $100 for third. Winners in the eastern U.P. region were Kaylin Burton of Sault Ste. Marie, first; Joseph Erbetta of Manistique, second; and Catherine Roelant of Paradise, third. In the central region, Abbey Leinonen of Menominee placed first, followed by Madison Balko of Marquette and Kiana Schuettpelz-Cornelius of Gwinn. There were no qualified entries from the western region in this inaugural year of the contest.

Approximately 43 essays were received. They were graded on organization, style, content and mechanics, according to NMU Center for Rural Health Director Elise Bur.

“Many of the essays were well written and it was encouraging to receive applications from various communities throughout the U.P.,” said Bur. “The hope next year is to encourage more applications from high school seniors, especially in areas that were underrepresented this year. I'm also hoping this year's winners will stay in touch as their higher education continues so we can learn from them and improve efforts to support youth going into healthcare careers in the future.”

Each participant wrote an essay identifying two challenges people encounter when it comes to preventative health care in their rural region of the U.P. and then explained two solutions for overcoming these challenges.

“The contest was designed to target youth who intend to pursue a healthcare career,” said Bur. “I wanted to encourage and engage them to think about social determinants of health and challenges that impact the accessibility and delivery of healthcare services in rural communities. I also wanted to see what perceptions, ideas and perhaps innovative solutions youth would propose, rather than relying on those of us who have been in healthcare for years and are very close to the topics at hand. Lastly, this was an opportunity to further educate the public about the importance of preventative healthcare.”

Students wrote about topics like privacy, medical bill costs, finance and insurance, transportation, patient knowledge on health topics, a shortage of qualified professionals in rural areas and more. For more information and to read the winning essays, visit

Essay contest sponsors are the MCRH, Superior Health Foundation, UP Area Health Education Center and Portage Health Foundation.

The NMU Center for Rural Health was one of the investment initiatives approved by the NMU Board of Trustees in December 2019. It is a collaborating center of the MCRH and based on campus, with some programs delivered using distance technology. Its goals are to create an integrated health care network that better serves U.P. residents and improves their health outcomes. It also will identify related academic programs to meet regional demand.

Prepared By

Jill Vermeulen
Student Writer

Categories: Around NMU