USF student wins human rights essay contest, visit to U.N.

JOLIET, IL – A University of St. Francis student has been named the winner of an international essay competition about human rights.

Gretta Hollister, of Joliet, was selected as the winner of Franciscans International’s “Human Rights Competition” in the university category. Her essay, “Why Do Human Rights Matter to Me,” was described as “poignant” and “a wonderful extension of our Franciscan Ministry,” according to the organization. The competition was open to students ages 14-22 from the United States, United Kingdom and Ireland.

Hollister said she was surprised to be selected as the winner of the competition as there were a large number of submissions, including other students from USF. But, her essay stood out. Hollister said her essay was shaped by the book “Let to Tell,” which is about a young woman who was persecuted during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. The book was required reading for the university’s freshman this fall.

“My essay was about the importance of human rights to every individual, no matter what his or her race, culture, religion, or language is, and the importance that we honor those God given gifts,” she said. “The way we can do this is by appreciating the rights we have in this country and loving our neighbors. It is too often that we do neither.”

Hollister will travel to New York City in March to spend a day at the United Nations and participate in the Franciscans International “Speak Up” campaign to end the trafficking of women and girls. She will be honored as the contest winner during that event. “I can’t wait to spend a day at the United Nations, walk around New York City, swim (at the hotel) for the first time in months, and see my brother, Hudson, who attended St. Francis and who will be in New York at the same time,” she said.

The University of St. Francis in Joliet serves 3,400 students nationwide, offering 40 undergraduate programs, four degree-completion programs and 14 graduate programs, including a doctorate in nursing practice. Programs are offered in arts and science, business, education, nursing and health care and social work. For information, call (800) 735-7500 or visit