Suyeon Kim Awarded Commendation in John Locke Institute’s Global Essay Competition

March 13, 2024

St. Johnsbury Academy junior Suyeon Kim, of Jeju, South Korea, was recently awarded a Commendation in the Theology category of the John Locke Institute’s Global Essay Competition. Suyeon attended the commendation ceremony in London, England in late 2023.


The John Locke Institute’s website offers some background on the organization: “The John Locke Institute is an independent educational organization that works to embolden the best and brightest students to become more academically ambitious and more intellectually adventurous. Through our various programs – residential courses, revision seminars, essay competitions, and special events – we inspire students to aim high and we equip them with the skills they need in order to achieve their goals. The Institute is named in honor of the eminent seventeenth century Oxford philosopher, John Locke.” The John Locke Institute also offers competitive summer programs at Princeton University, Oxford University and in Washington, D.C. and Singapore.


In her essay, Suyeon responded to the question, “What distinguishes a small religion from a large cult?” She begins, “’Cult plus time, or people, is religion’. This is one of the worst and the most pervaded misconceptions about cults. Such an idea is often introduced by impactful media as if it were true. Is it?” Her essay goes on to consider many different aspects of cults, and ends, “As a whole, cults exist for one person, and religions exist for everyone. Cults may seem similar to religion on the outermost surface, but on the inside, everything is different. Even if it is as small as one advisory class, or even smaller, religions seek positive impacts from their gods on their believers whereas people being forcefully gathered to devote themselves to the human cult leader is the number one priority in cults.”


Jamie Whyte, Chairman of Examiners for the John Locke Institute, congratulated Suyeon on the Institute’s behalf: “It is my very great pleasure to congratulate you on being awarded a Commendation in the Theology category of the John Locke Institute’s 2023 Global Essay Competition. You can be proud of this achievement. I hope the experience of researching and writing this essay will confer on you lasting benefits.”


Formerly a student at St. Johnsbury Academy Jeju, St. Johnsbury Academy’s sister school in South Korea, Suyeon Kim began studying at St. Johnsbury Academy as part of the school’s exchange program. After spending a semester in St. Johnsbury, Suyeon decided to transfer permanently, and she now attends St. Johnsbury Academy as a boarding student.


Suyeon was honored to be recognized by this international organization. She said, “When I first got the email that I got into the finalist stage, I was just so happy. As soon as I started writing the essay, I knew that this would become my favorite essay of all time. To win an award for this big competition was, of course, important for me, but the genuine meaning of submitting this essay was to prove that my experiences made me braver and more mature. Now that I have been recognized by the John Locke Institute and from this publication, I feel so grateful to have this meaningful time in my high school. I want to especially thank Mr. Glenn Ehrean, who helped to review my works before the submission and who is also my first history teacher at St. Johnsbury Academy.”


Glenn Ehrean, Suyeon’s teacher and Director of the Academy’s Colwell Center for Global Understanding, said, “Suyeon was a student in my World Civilizations course. She is quiet, gracious, and wise beyond her years. She understands the iterative process of developing ideas and articulating them. It’s hard work, but she embraces it. It was an honor to review her essay. I was not surprised that it was recognized by the board of examiners.”


Headmaster Dr. Sharon Howell is also very proud of Suyeon’s accomplishment. She said, “This is a wonderful example of how good teaching and mentorship can help students achieve in powerful, life-changing ways. I’m grateful to all of Suyeon’s teachers and very proud of her.”


More information about the John Locke Institute and its programs is available at


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