What makes America great?
Each year more than 111,000 middle school-aged students across the nation enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest for a chance to win their share of more than $900,000 in state and national awards.
According to the VFW’s website, “The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief.”
This year’s theme was “What Makes America Great?” At Daniel Island School (DIS), sixth-grade students were encouraged to submit essays for the contest. There were 315 essays entered to the local VFW post; of the 15 selected to advance to the next round, seven were students from DIS.
The finalists from English/Language Arts teacher Ms. Ginger Colvin’s classes were Elle McDonald, Makena Turner, Kaelin Johnson, Kaitlyn Boerst, and Henley Matthews. From Ms. Motley’s classes, Andrew Hamilton and Madilyn Campbell advanced to the final round in the district. The wide-spread district included Berkeley, Dorchester, Charleston, Colleton, Beaufort, and Jasper counties.
Elle McDonald captured the top prize among the DIS students, placing second and earning a $75 scholarship. She will be invited to receive her award at a banquet at the VFW Post 10624 in Mt. Pleasant on April 15.
Colvin said the contest gives students an opportunity to think about their own experiences and how American freedoms impact their lives. It also provides a unique forum that recognizes a student’s accomplishments. “It means a lot to me that the students receive new forms of encouragement to write; to have others tell them they’re doing a good job outside of family and school,” she said. Colvin has been a sixth grade teacher at DIS for the past six years.
When Elle received her award, she said, “I was really excited to share with others about how great our country is. I wanted people to know about our freedoms and rights, and help people realize that not every country is like ours.”
She said that Americans have the freedom to go to school for an education and are given the chance to let knowledge grow.
Colvin added, “Elle was competing against seventh and eighth graders for this award; it’s a big deal for a sixth grader to place.”
ELLE'S WINNING ESSAY
“America Is Free”
by Elle McDonald
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.” This means that in America, what makes liberty in a nation is the citizen’s rights and capabilities.
America is one of the most educated countries in the world because of our opportunities to get good schooling. Everyone has the option to get an education in America, no matter your gender, race, beliefs, age, or religion. In places like South Sudan and Burkina Faso, literacy rates are almost the lowest in the world at 27% and 34.6% because of their lack of proper education and poor school system. American citizens have better educations, so we have one of the highest literacy rates of 99% because of our great school system and education.
American citizens have rights and freedoms. We all have freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and education and job opportunities. We can state our opinions and protest for what we believe and practice our own religions. On September 3, 1783, the thirteen colonies, which is now America, won the Revolutionary War against Great Britain. When we won that war, we became independent. We started a new country and developed the amendments and laws that made it so every person no matter their gender, race, social class, beliefs/ religions, and ethnicity had their rights. America is a strong, independent country where citizens are guaranteed their fair rights.
America is a strong and independent country because of its opportunities. When people come to America, they come because they are allowed to become American citizens with the promise of freedom, education, rights, and more opportunities. America has a strong school system, fair and civil rights, and freedom for all American citizens. America is a great country to live in.