Three Branson students have won prizes in VFW’s Patriot’s Pen Youth Essay Contest.
Junior high students were honored with a special presentation at the school from VFW Commander Richard Baehr and Warrant Officer Kenneth Allison on February 8.
First place winner Gabriella Bandy, a grade 7 student, received a certificate and a check for $100. Second place, 8th grader Priya Raghani, received a check for $75; and third place, 7th grader Georgia Griffith, received a check for $50.
The students wrote an essay between 300 and 400 words expressing their views on a patriotic theme chosen by the Commander-in-Chief of the VFW. The goal of the contest is to have students examine American history and discover how history affects their lives in America today.
The competition is held annually with more than 165,000 students nationwide participating in the competition, with a total of $1.4 million split between national and national award winners.
Here is Gabriella’s first place tryout:
Patriotism is fundamental to being a good citizen of any nation. What makes every American special is that we have a unique nation that allows us to participate in our government and be represented by it. There are many things one can do to be a good American citizen.
It is just as essential to respect the laws as to ensure that these laws are fair and equitable for all. A society without rules breeds chaos. Know your rights and understand them, and stand up for your beliefs. A good government takes care of its citizens but realizes that they are employed by the citizens.
When you are of age, vote and get involved with your elected officials. When you’re young, it’s good to learn the processes needed to run a country and how that country works. Read our founding documents and understand how the policy works. You can go to the library or search the Internet to learn more about our branches of government. Attend rallies and demonstrations for causes you care about. Learn to debate with people, but listen to ideas that are different from your own.
Contribute to your society. Work for a living if you can. Volunteer and help your community and help those less fortunate than you. When you are involved in religious organizations, charities, public works, jobs or jobs, or help someone in need, you are a good citizen and help your local society.
Finally, know your nation’s history, both good and bad, so you can learn from its successes and failures. America is the most amazing nation on earth and every American has the opportunity to make this nation better. America has made many mistakes, but its successes are almost too numerous to count. To be a good citizen is to be a good student of history. When you don’t know where they come from, they don’t know where they’re going, and a nation divided against itself full of people who don’t value citizenship can’t stand.
Here is Priya’s second place essay:
A question that most people tend not to think about: “How can I be a good American?” Let’s be honest, just because society claims people should be good Americans doesn’t mean people always will, because they won’t always see why they should be good Americans. So how can we be good Americans?
America is made up of communities that come together to create “America”. Not the things we own, but the people themselves. We decide what happens and what will happen. As Americans, we make decisions by voting. Your vote changes the way we live. If something happens in America and you don’t like the outcome, you can always change that based on the laws you vote for and the people you choose to vote for. People will complain about our situation, but things can never change without taking a stand. It is our right to demonstrate and vote to be heard. Voting is not your job, it’s your responsibility.
The Scout Oath states, “Upon my honor I will do my duty to God and my country and obey the Scout Law. To stay physically strong, mentally awake and morally upright. As a Scout myself, this oath describes for me how to improve for our good and that of our country. You can do your part by doing community service, or picking up that piece of plastic you dropped, or something simple like being kind by holding a door open for someone. As a community, we must do our duty because what makes America “America” is the people. If we don’t do our duty as people, we can’t improve.
Being a good American also means not wasting our natural resources. These help us in our daily life. Although we may not see it now, we have so much to spare. What do you want to bequeath to future generations?? Think back to when we were still caught in the heat of the pandemic, for example. We didn’t find any food or toilet paper. If we take everything now, we can’t expect to have stuff later.
Remember, this is *our* country. We can fix things all the time. So to answer the original question, value our resources, invest in your communities and vote to make a difference.
Here is Georgia’s third-place try:
To me, being a good American is trying to bring unity. During the last election and its aftermath, the division wrought on our country made me embarrassed for all of us. Aren’t we the United States of America? Not the Biden States of America and the Trump States of America?
As I was driving to church one Sunday with my family, we passed a sign tied to a tree with an inappropriate slur about President Biden. My little sister sitting next to me was in kindergarten but had been reading for a long time. She saw the sign and asked me what it meant. I told her he was just being rude and she forgot about him, but she won’t be so ignorant forever. Is this really how we want to impact small children? If you don’t agree with something, publicly rebuke it until… what? The election will not change. Why stir up turmoil and hurt our country? You won’t get any results. To set our country apart because you disagree with someone else is ignorant, and there are better ways to go about it than to proclaim that everyone who voted for Trump is crazy or that everyone who supports Biden is crazy.
If we argue as children, our guardians or mentors will tell us to “agree to disagree”. If we made signs and posted them on our lockers, weakening our comrades for having something as widespread as an opinion, then we would find ourselves in our principal’s office, apologizing, before many people even can see it.
I was moved to see the public reaction during the Covid-19 pandemic. People brought supplies to people they didn’t know, people who might have political and religious beliefs different from their own. This is what we should be, helping each other, lifting each other up until we are all supported. For me, being a good citizen means coming together.
“United we stand divided we fall.” It has been propaganda, helping to bring our country together through hardships, like a war. But maybe this time we are not uniting against an enemy, we are uniting against a conflict among ourselves. I sincerely believe that we can come together and build a better America. After all, who will win, the group that fights against each other or those that stick together?