Meet Daniel Gill: Expressive Art Specialist, Going Merry Scholarship Winner

Meet Expressive Art specialist Daniel Gill. With educational puppetry, Daniel teaches children ages three to five-years-old about important subjects, such as sharing, mindfulness, working with their feelings, and other positive topics.

Through his work in educational puppetry, Daniel noticed that he could help children with Autism spectrum disorder learn and develop communication skills.

After submitting his winning essay application for the 2019 Going Merry Most Unique Scholarship, Daniel won $1,000 to help fund his education. He’s studying the Early Childhood Special Education Masters and Credential program to strengthen his educational puppetry skills so he can continue to help young children with Autism.

We asked Daniel to share his scholarship essay tips for future scholarship applicants, and he shared his scholarship success story with us!

Daniel Gill, Going Merry Scholarship Winner
Daniel Gill, Going Merry scholarship winner

Why did you decide to apply for this scholarship (rather than the other ones)?

I decided to apply to this scholarship because I am studying how puppets can be used to help children with Autism communicate. This is a field of study that does not exist yet. So when I saw there a Most Unique Scholarship, I felt like it was a good fit.

What was the essay writing process like for you?

I wrote an essay, showed it to two friends, and then made changes based on their suggestions. I then started worked with a writing tutor at my college. The tutor helped me with essay structure and helped me remove sections that were not essential.  We met three times and I modified my essay between tutoring sessions, based on his recommendations. He helped me a lot! The scholarship essay I ended up submitting was the fifth version.

How much did you win, and what are you going to do with the money?

I won $1,000. I am going to use the money to help pay my tuition for next semester.

If you shared your essay with anyone, what did they think?

The tutor really liked my essay. He also pointed out that the narrative was not clear enough. He helped me identify my main point, then structure the entire essay to support that one point. We then removed sections that were not necessary.

Any tips for future students applying for scholarships?

Share your essay with someone you trust. Write several versions based on the feedback you receive. Use multiple online grammar and spelling checks. Work with a writing tutor.

How did you hear about Going Merry?

I learned about Going Merry from a Reddit list about scholarships. Users recommended it.

Why would you recommend Going Merry?

It’s an easy way to apply to multiple scholarships.

Check out Daniel’s winning scholarship essay:

As an Expressive Arts specialist, I use puppet play and the arts (with three to five-year-olds) to teach sharing, identifying and working with feelings, making friends, mindfulness, and asking for what you need in peaceful ways.

Additionally, I perform developmentally appropriate puppet shows in classrooms about fairness, valuing difference (including differences in gender expression and skin tone), and peaceful conflict resolution. By teaching diversity, equity, and inclusion through puppetry, I feel that I am making a difference. In this work, I have noticed an unexplained phenomenon.

Educational puppetry is particularly effective in helping children with ASD develop social and communication skills. One girl with ASD in my school refused to follow the daily routine until a parrot puppet helped guide her through the transitions. Through puppet play, a boy with impulse control challenges learned to manage his feelings and stop hitting other children. One boy with Autism showed remarkable progress with puppet play. Now in Kindergarten, his ability to communicate and make friends makes his academic success possible. Teachers value this work; it reinforces the social and emotional teaching they practice daily.

One teacher told me, “What you do with puppets and our kids is amazing. You need to share this work beyond our preschool.” Application Questions and Answers My goal is to support young children with Autism in public school settings develop the social-emotional skills they need for academic and personal success. I aim to accomplish this by creating and implementing evidence-based strategies that use puppets as intervention tools.

A Masters and Credential in ECSE, and the Autism Spectrum Graduate Certificate program I will complete, are essential to broadening my impact. The program will provide me with the theoretical foundation, the student teaching experiences, the credentials, and the academic community required to work with children and families in public school settings. For example, as part of the ECSE Program Masters and Credential Roadmap, I am taking the Seminar in Educational Research course. I am learning how to conduct scholarly research, a fundamental skill in creating innovative approaches that work. I am eager to apply the knowledge and skills I learn at SFSU toward helping more children open doors to connection.

Additionally, I am learning leadership skills by volunteering for SFSU’s Early Childhood Special Education Conference. Most conference attendees are undergraduate students, interested in working with young children at-risk and with disabilities.

As Co-Chair of the Presenter Committee, I am recruiting dynamic and engaging speakers who will lead workshops. I am eager to apply all of the knowledge and skills I learn at SFSU toward helping more children open doors to connection. I am at a critical juncture in my path.

Helping children who experience social disconnection integrate into their classrooms, is my passion. This scholarship will help me work toward a world where every child has access to education and all children know they belong.

Still wondering about writing a winning essay?

We have a few resources to walk you through writing your winning essay for your scholarship application, just like Daniel. Check out these blog posts:

Start applying and winning today.


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Kelly Lamano

Though always a creative, Kelly's momentum into the world of writing and publishing arrived when she attended college. She quickly learned the financial value - and cost - of honing her craft, and sought scholarships that would be crucial to not only funding, but fueling her education. She wants to help new students thrive with Going Merry's easy scholarship finder. Kelly holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast, Print and Online Media, and a minor in Spanish from Florida Southern College.

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