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Salisbury student wins viral video contest

Few people have ever come out rich after a shopping spree, but one Salisbury University student has beaten the odds.

SU sophomore Leah Disbennett managed to add $7,500 to her bank account after making a video that went viral for this year’s Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week photo/video contest, hosted by the Comptroller of Maryland and Maryland Retailers Association.

The surprise announcement was made at Sea Gull Stadium, where Disbennett was able to share the special moment alongside her family as well as respected members of the local legislature and Salisbury faculty.

“I had no idea,” Disbennett said. It was like a complete surprise to me. I thought it was something for my dad, because my dad is an employee here and he recently won Employee of the Month.”

Her father managed to keep the charade up all the way to the stadium.

Disbennett said. “I had no idea. And then they played my video and I was like, ‘Wait, what’?

Her winning video, which beat out hundreds of others, was broadcast to all those in attendance.

The contest is open to all college and trade school students across the state and calls for entrants to submit a fun photo or video of themselves shopping with Maryland pride under the hashtag #ShopMDTaxFree on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Presented by Maryland Retailers Association President Cailey Locklair and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, the prize for first place was $2,500. SU and the University System of Maryland then each matched the award, netting Disbennett a grand total of $7,500.

According to Investopedia, the average college student earns no more than $5,000 in scholarships during their college career.

As student debt continues to rise, students continue to try to relieve the burden of education any way they can.

The former Mardela Middle and High School valedictorian Disbennett finds relief in every dollar.

“It's always nice to have that backup money and to know that, ‘Okay, I can do this, or I can go here, and I can work towards graduate school.’ It allows a safety for me, so it's very rewarding.”

Economics isn’t her major, but the economics of attending SU versus anywhere else made it an easy choice.

Disbennett, a psychology major with a minor in dance, recommends that students seek out as many scholarship opportunities as they can because they can lead to endless possibilities.

She believes that just by growing the number of scholarships she applied for played a part in earning more scholarship dollars.

“Always [apply] because you just never know what the results could entail…so it’s always worth it,” said Disbennett.

Other Salisbury University students can also do some “bargain shopping” by using the Academic Works site located at, which houses all SU Foundation scholarships in one place.

By simply logging in with their university credentials and filling out a short general application, the database automatically matches applicants to every scholarship opportunity for which they meet the minimum requirements.

Michael Elliott, SU’s Financial Aid Coordinator, praised the site for “tak[ing] the ‘guess work’ out of trying to find what’s available,” making the process must smoother for both parties.

The 2020-21 scholarship cycle for Academic Works opens December 1, 2019.

For more information on how to apply for scholarships, students can contact the Financial Aid office.



Staff Writer

Featured image: SU Public Relations department.

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