2016 High School Scholarship Winner

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ABODO is your apartment-finder: built for students, by students. We started out as recent college grads who loved our alma maters but hated how grueling it was to find a great place to live. We built the tool we wished existed during our search and expanded it from one campus to hundreds across the country. We think it makes sense to pay it forward to the next generation of students and that’s why we started the Off to College Scholarship.

Today, we’re happy to announce our 2016 winner – Emma Baalman from Calhoun High School. Emma will be attending Southern Illinois this fall and is bringing a very special item with her to remind her of her hometown.

Scroll down to see a few of Emma’s pics from the beautiful Southern Illinois campus and to read about what she is bringing with her.

If you have something special you are bringing with you to college, you can learn more and apply for our next scholarship here.



The most important item that I am taking to college is my ukulele. While this may seem strange as my most important item, my ukulele represents my home, Calhoun County. Some people might say that there is no way a ukulele can represent a hometown; however, with a little bit of critical thinking, my ukulele has the same wonderful qualities as Calhoun.

To start things off, my ukulele is unique. It has chips in the paint, frayed strings, and a light blue paint job. Calhoun is just as unique. In fact, it is so unique that a lot of people have never heard of this hidden jewel in Illinois. Calhoun has so many amazing qualities. It is the only peninsula in Illinois, everyone knows everyone and if you are not a local, you will definitely get noticed. Calhoun also grows the most amazing peaches. There are so many more great qualities about my hometown.

Calhoun is beautiful year-round. The leaves change in the fall, the snow covers the rolling hills in the winter, wild flowers bloom in the spring, and in the summer, even though it gets hot, the sunsets are breathtaking. This is why our county is known as “God’s Country.” Calhoun is a place where you stop alongside the road just to look at the trees. Now, you may be wondering how in the world this compares to a ukulele. Whenever I play my ukulele, no matter what song, it is as beautiful to me as my hometown and all my friends and family. Calhoun is small just like my ukulele, but it still has a lot of character. They can both cheer up anyone on any given day. Every time I drive across the Joe Page Bridge, into Calhoun, a calming presence takes over me and I know this will always be my home.

I am and will always be happy to live in Calhoun. When I am missing home, I pick up my ukulele and learn a new song. I remember my high school days of learning new songs at my friend’s request. We would all sit around laughing as we tried to sing along. I bring uniqueness with me to college — a little bit of home to some new friends and surroundings.



-Emma Baalman, Calhoun High School