The Firefighter Christopher Santora Educational Scholarship Fund Website

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Will Mlecz:
2005 Winner
FDNY Ladder 45

Will Mlecz

Winning Essay

Democracy, in its simplest form, is a governmental system set up in a free society by the people, of the people and for the people. A democracy prides itself on individuality, free enterprise, laws, ideas, morals and customs handed down from generation to generation that are checked and balanced to ensure an “indivisible nation with justice for all.” Our country’s leaders are voted into office by a systematic process to assure that the laws and amendments set forth in the Constitution are enforced without bias and that every American is given an equal chance at living out the “American Dream.”

Our democratic way of government is based on many principles. The main principle is “freedom.” In the United States, democracy guarantees certain liberties like the freedom of religion, and gives everyone an equal opportunity to pursue their own dreams. Communism radically differs from this form of government because it denies the fundamental rights of “freedom.” For instance, in a communist state, everyone cannot freely practice any religion they want, and unlike Democracy, Communism stifles individuality, creativity and growth thus creating a class-less society.

A Dictatorship, similar in theory to a Communist state, is a form of government run by one person, or dictator, who makes all the decisions. A dictatorship is not restricted by a formal constitution or laws. In the United States, although there is a President, i.e.; chief Executive, there is also a Congress which consists of a House of Representatives and Senate as well as State Legislatures which all provide a check and balance system to the unilateral power of the executive branch. This balance of power is non-existent in a Dictatorship.

In America, I believe that the important responsibilities of free citizens include, but are not limited to, voting, jury duty, obeying the laws set forth by our governmental bodies (federal, state and local) and paying taxes. The freedom to vote, although not always a freedom shared by all genders and races throughout our country’s history, is one of the most important obligations we have to our nation as a whole. Without the power to elect our primary governmental officials, state and local lawmakers, DA’s and judges we lose our ability to be “heard.” And without the voice of the people, we would not be living in a democracy. Although it may be an inconvenience to some, our ability to sit one jury of our peers, and help decide the outcome of a criminal or civil trial, is one of the highest duties of citizenship. When you serve on a jury you are chosen to uphold the laws of the country thus protecting the basic constitutional rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. With that said, obeying the laws we upheld as jurors, is vital to keeping our country safe and secure. Those who choose to break the law will find themselves at the other end of the judicial system, in jail or worse. Taxes, as painful as they are to pay, are a necessary evil. It costs a lot of money to run a government and keep us safe (military, and national guard, homeland security etc.), as well as provide vital services to all (police, fire, hospital, sanitation etc.)

Although I am seventeen years old and have not yet exercised my right to vote or sit on a jury, I am proud and grateful to be an American citizen. I’m proud because I live in a country that puts its citizens first, and grateful that my ancestors chose to emigrate from Poland to seek and live out their American Dream. I am also proud that I am able to carry on their strong morals and work ethics by attending college and working toward becoming a productive citizen. I believe happiness comes to those who live up to their full potential and choose a path in life that provides them with stability, fulfillment, and contentment. In that respect, I am as happy as any seventeen year old with a full life ahead of them and hopefully as I grow up I will be blessed with the ability to fulfill my own “American Dream” in a country that is safe, prosperous and free.


My name is William Mlecz and I am 17 years old. I was born in New York City on August 14th, 1987 and live in both the Bronx and Basking Ridge, NJ where I attend Ridge High School. Instead of writing a simple biography, I wanted to share with you one of my college application essays that just about sums up the last 17 years of my life growing up as the son of a NYC Firefighter. It seems only fitting, given the Firefighter Christopher A. Santora Educational Scholarship I was graciously awarded, and hopefully it will give you an idea of who I am, and all that I wish to become.

As the son of a New York City Firefighter, I am blessed with an inherent sense of duty, pride and honor. The one person in my life who would die saving perfect strangers is the same person who taught me how to throw a curveball, make a perfect pizza and shoot a compound bow. He is my dad first and foremost, but he is also much more. To the city of New York, he is part of an elite team of dedicated firefighters who continue to stand on the front line of defense each and every day in order to keep us all safe from the uncertainties of our time. To me he is a pillar of strength, a tireless father and a selfless, honorable and loving husband to my step-mom.

When I was three, my mother and father divorced. Thankfully, I was young enough that I did not need to understand the how’s and why’s. My Dad made it his solemn duty not to let the ugliness of the divorce affect my childhood. Yet it is important to know that I would not have been able to see my father as much as I do now if he did not fight for the right to help raise me. He took this fight to court, and although he was not granted custodial custody, he made it illegal for my mother to move more than fifty miles from New York City (where he has to maintain a residence because of the FDNY). This may sound selfish, but to me it was selflessness. A Dad to a growing boy is like water to a plant. One can not live, grow and blossom without the other.

When my mother did move fifty miles away to Basking Ridge, New Jersey, Dad knew he had to act quickly so he set up a third Mlecz homestead where we could live together while I was going to school. The pride in me has grown every year since our first night together in our small yet comfortable apartment because of this ultimate sacrifice. He risked a relationship with his long-time girlfriend (and current wife) Jessie, and it cost him a great deal of time away from home and money out of his own pocket to maintain this lifestyle. However, as I look back I cannot picture it any other way. My Dad made the best of a difficult situation and fourteen years later, we are both deeply saddened that it has to end. Yet the end of one era is the beginning of a new one.

I am heading off to college with the inherent gifts I have been given - duty, pride and honor, and can only hope that one day I can bestow them upon my son(s) and daughter(s) in much the same way that my Dad bestowed them upon me. Life is all about choices, and I believe my Dad chose a path for me and my family that has made us all stronger, happier and safer. A new generation in the Mlecz household is already benefiting from Dad’s love and security. Chase is only three, yet I believe he is fully aware that his Dad is a hero. Not just because he is a decorated Fire Lieutenant with his eye on becoming a Captain, but because his sense of honor knows no bounds. God bless my Dad and all that he stands for.

And, God Bless Christopher and the entire Santora family. Thank you for the tremendous honor you have given me and my family. May your son’s memory live on in all of us.

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