Moraine Valley Community College student Valentina Villadiego Contreras earned a scholarship for earning first place in the literary category of the LewerMark Student Insurance Make Your Mark Scholarship Contest.

Contreras is from Cartagena, Colombia, but spent most of her life in Bogotá. She started at Moraine Valley in summer 2023 and lives with her mother in Orland Park. Contreras learned of the scholarship opportunity through Moraine Valley’s International Student Services Office. The contest is for international students to submit pieces in video, visual art, literary or music categories. Because Contreras wrote poetry in high school and enjoyed it, she figured she should write a poem about why someone should visit her home country.

“The poem is an invitation. Colombia is so diverse with beaches, mountains; it’s warm and cold. It’s so welcoming to foreign people,” she said.

Contreras learned she won first place in the literary category last month and was excited to receive $2,000 toward her education.

“I was surprised to win, to be honest, because I don’t remember the last time I won something,” she said. “It reinforces that I’m in the right place doing the right thing and putting in the effort. I’m happy I’m on the right track.”

Contreras is in her last semester at Moraine Valley, earning an Associate in Science, with plans to transfer to a four-year university. She wants to major in neuroscience.

“In general, opportunities to get a scholarship are not common for international students at a community college level, so winning this is not just an acknowledgment and reward for Valentina’s academic achievements but also motivation for all international students at Moraine Valley. We are delighted she was chosen,” said Cecilia Galvan, Moraine Valley International Student Services and SEVIS coordinator.

To read Contreras’ piece, visit


For news media inquiries, contact Maura Vizza, Moraine Valley communications specialist and sports information coordinator, at (708) 974-5742 or