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WINNER OF INAUGURAL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP AWARD ANNOUNCED

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September 14, 2022

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

The Michael J. Kotzan Creative Writing Scholarship Award, which debuted this year, honors 2005 Notre Dame Prep alum Kotzan and helps pave the way for future creative writers at NDP.

NDP sophomore Amelia Kayi won the school's first-ever Michael J. Kotzan Creative Writing Scholarship Award.


Amelia Kayi, a sophomore at Notre Dame Prep, found out today that she had earned the first Michael J. Kotzan Creative Writing Scholarship Award based on a creative writing piece she submitted last spring. Titled "M.A.R.S.," Kayi's paper about living in a dystopian world circa 2132 was judged as the top entry out of 18 submitted last June by NDP ninth graders. The selection committee was comprised of NDPMA faculty and members of the Kotzan family.

Donna Kotzan, Michael's mother and now-retired Notre Dame Prep teacher and administrator, and her family worked with school administrators to initiate the writing award in an effort to "help awaken the creative talents of NDP’s youngest students."

Michael J. Kotzan was a Notre Dame Prep graduate who touched many lives during his time at the school, including those of classmates and teachers. According to his mother, Michael epitomized the ideal Marist-educated young man.

“One of my favorite quotes of Fr. Colin, the Marist founder, which is appropriately displayed in the school main hallway, says, ‘While doing great things for the Lord, be unknown and even hidden in the world,’” she said. “That would be a great tagline for Mike. He didn’t need credit or center stage and always was concerned about and considerate of others.”

Michael Kotzan NDP'05 was the inspiration for the scholarship award that encourages creative writing at his high school alma mater.


Michael, who tragically died suddenly in June of 2021, was working as a creative writer, a true passion for him, after a few years as a practicing attorney.

His family felt the scholarship award was both an important part of what Micheal stood for as well as a positive way to honor and remember his life.

"In his lifetime, helping others was very important to him," said Donna.

For her part, Kayi, who will be applying the $5,000 scholarship during her sophomore year, said she was elated to find out she had won the scholarship for something she, too, is passionate about.

"From Harry Potter to Hunger Games and books you have never even heard of, from a young age I have always loved to read," she said in explaining her love of the written word. "I have always been a big reader and constantly thought about how cool it was to have the ability to come up with such an amazing idea and transform it into such a great story."

She added that when she first learned the book The Outsiders was actually written by a high schooler, it gave her the motivation and the goal of publishing a book by the time she graduates high school. 

"I also have a passion for creative script writing since I am an actor, too. I took a script writing workshop once and it was so much fun."

Current sophomores who applied last school year for the Michael J. Kotzan Creative Writing Scholarship Award include (in alphabetical order) Kiersten Alexander, Celia Belej, Isaak Brook, Brynn Caffrey, Erin Connelly, Erin Galbraith, Matthew Kafarski, Selena Kalasho, Amelia Kayi, Mary Elise Kozemchak, Emily Mantych, Addie Mikel, Mirrabel Nash, Geralyn Nguyen, Maria Nunning, Erin Surmann, Audrey Thummel and Anna Wisely. 


Check out Amelia Kayi's scholarship winning paper in its entirety below.


M.A.R.S.
by Amelia Kayi

Buzz, Buzz, Buzz. The small chip embedded in my wrist won't stop going off. Everyone knows what this means, yet at this moment I hate that it controls me. Pulling my bike over, I spotted the closest radiation-free building. I was already out of breath, and of course, now I'm late too. The league of nations had been facing quite a bit of backlash for banning motorized and electric vehicles. Most of us know it's better for us in the grand scheme of things. Yet somehow I, an award winning lawyer, like so many others haven't figured out how to ride a bike properly. We are 10 years post the 2122 escape from the communist Chinese empire, and a lot of us "war babies" didn't have normal childhoods, which included moments such as learning how to ride a bike. Unfortunately though, that flaw has become quite obvious now that the ozone layer is depleting daily. 

It is making Boston hotter than ever, and harder to bike when you have little experience. I felt the quiver in my wrist finally come to a halt. Snapping out of my daydream, I peddle to the court house as fast as my uncoordinated bike riding skills can take me. As a civil rights attorney, my clients depend on me being there. I love my job and I'm good at it too. I may only be 27.11 years old, but this is the only thing I can see myself doing. I know exactly where my life is going and I'm in the front seat on a straight road. At least I thought I knew where it was going...

Cristoni's makes the best Pistachio Creme cake. This may sound weird, but it is my favorite thing to reward myself with after winning a case like today's. Walking over to my table is Halden, my preferred waiter. Every time I come in, he brings me a news tablet for me to browse, along with my cake. Today seems different though; he seems to be in more of a hurry, even though I am one of few customers in the restaurant. Without my cake, he speedily sits across from me and pushes an article over to me.

"They think they have a way to solve our Ozone Layer issue! This could change our lives forever. Destiny, do you know what this means for us?" he rambled excitedly. From the look of the heading I doubted.

"SpaceX sending people to Mars... that seems kind of 21st century, don't you think?" I ask, my tone skeptical.

"Come on, you should be excited about this."

"I honestly don't know; can I just have my cake?".

Getting up to grab my dessert, he left the article for me. This used to be my dream as a child, to get away from this world, but I am happy now with my life... right? Scrolling further down the article, there is a number to call if you want to be interviewed as a candidate for the experiment. It is in fine print most people would probably skim over it, but as an attorney I am trained to read the fine print. Is this a sign? Should I apply? Would I like it? How would my friends feel? These were all thoughts spinning rapidly around in my head. Elanor Clift once said "People want change but not too much change". How do I know when it is too much change?

Doubt and confusion filled my head for the rest of the evening.

Walking back into my house for the evening, it felt lonelier than when I left. I lived in my childhood home still, it was an easy commute and I couldn't put it up for sale. I was raised by a single mother, who was a strong yet caring person. She had Chinese ancestors, but was born and raised in America just like me. She had everyone call her Mama Lee, it embarrassed me then but I couldn't care less anymore. Always smiling she would say, life's too short to care what others think, yet all I want right now is to know what she thinks about the MARS experiment.

Unfortunately, she died fighting in the war for our independence. She dedicated her life to making a better world for me, and said that getting our independence back would help that.    ow we have it and she isn't around to see it. Wait, that's it! She wanted to make the world a better place through independence. If I join this experiment, I can help make our world better and let us no longer be forced to ride bikes everywhere. I can pioneer a new world, a better world, a free world! Dialing in the number from the article, I wrote down onto a napkin, the phone felt like it was ringing forever, when in reality I was no more than five seconds; and just like that I was scheduled for an interview to change my life and the world as we know it.

I held my head high walking out ofSpaceX. I think I did great at that interview, all I could do now was wait, and that's what I did. After a week and another civil rights case won, I was called back. Walking into the building is somewhat intimidating, however, standing there I felt my mother's presence, and walked on in. They direct me to a large empty room. I've been to plenty of job interviews before, I simply have to keep quiet and wait for the results. An old man walks into the room.

"Hello Destiny Lee, as you may know I am William Krueger, head of the MARS Experiment. I observed your interview and you have all of the necessary qualifications and seemed to be a great candidate. However, we are not interested in hiring you here at SpaceX or bringing you into the experiment." I know I should just keep my mouth shut, but I couldn't and blurted out.

"Why?!"

"We don't trust people like you. After the Chinese Empire, we don't take any risks and think that you, being Chinese, could threaten the outcome of our future world. I'm sure you understand. You can leave now."

Dumbstruck with shock, I walked out the door and rode home in a daze. I felt as though I was dreaming. It was only when I got home when the true anger set in. I am not even Chinese, I was born as an American, I have never even been to China before! I refuse to just sit around and accept having to live like this. I need to do something about it to help people like me. I went to social media and shared my story with the world, making sure to not name companies or people; after all that would be me practically asking for a lawsuit. Immediately, the "#mulanmovement" started circulating across social media of people just like me coming out and sharing their stories of being judged based on their physical features instead of the qualities they possess. Next thing I know, there is a protest planned in Boston and I'm being asked to speak at it.

Standing on a stage in front of hundreds of people was surreal. This moment and event blurred together in my memory. My words and their reactions seemed to trail together into a fog. The crowd trusted me as if I was one of their close friends. They saw me as a voice of hope and reason, which I can't always justify. However, I can walk away knowing that I had an effect on someone, and even if it was only one person that is enough.

Sitting in Cristoni's for a celebratory cake, The News Broadcast turned on announcing,

BREAKING NEWS: SpaceX director William Kruegler has disappeared; in his place a new female director, Mannie Field, is taking over his position."

Immediately my iPhone97 started to ring. It was an unknown number, yet when I answered it, a woman said:

"Hello, this is Mannie Fields with SpaceX. We are calling to let you know that we loved your interview, and you need to come to headquarters immediately."

Before I have a chance to respond she hangs up. I am still slightly confused about how I am all of the sudden accepted, however I still think this is a great opportunity. I left a 20 on the table and rushed to go to headquarters. When I got there I was greeted gleefully, then escorted briskly to change into a new uniform and directed to a room full of people.

As I walked in the metal doors air locked behind me with a hiss. The air had a chill to it and a metallic smell. Something felt off about it but my anticipation masked these feelings. All 40 of us were in the room, puzzled, when an announcement came on. In an ominous voice they announced, "You're not going to Mars."

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org

Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.

About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.