Essay contest winner heading to Ivy League

Yale Bound
Posted on 06/06/2024

An Assumption College Catholic High School student will be off to Yale University this summer to study engineering and technology after scoring big in a prestigious essay contest.

Deborah Koko will study at the Ivy League school for a two-week summer term in July after placing as first runner up in the Oxford Royale Academy’s Essay Competition.

The Grade 11 student’s award-winning essay was all about how artificial intelligence programs that draw from historical data may lead to present day discriminatory practices.

“I was just trying to show some of the flaws,” said Koko, who is also a member of Assumption’s award winning debate team. “Artificial intelligence takes previous historical data and finds patterns in that data to make new predictions, and if it’s using historical data that might have discriminated against certain groups, it may discriminate against certain groups today as well. It’s used to screen academic essays, it’s used to determine who gets a loan or not, so that could pose so many threats, especially in a place like Canada where there are so many different groups represented.”

Koko spent her Christmas break writing the essay, which couldn’t be any longer than 1,000 words, and found out in February that she earned first runner-up.

Winners in the essay competition get to choose summer courses from five different universities: Oxford, Yale, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and University of California, Berkeley.

Tuition for the course she selected is valued at about $8,700 Cdn. She said the subject of engineering and technology will help her make decisions about her post-secondary pathway.

“I think it's good because this year we’re choosing our university courses so seeing how engineering and technology will be taught in a university context will help me make the decision about whether it’s something I want to do in the future.”

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