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Patriot’s Pen essay award recipients write about their love of our country

Early Friday morning, sixth grade classes at Ellis Middle School filled the Ellis auditorium to honor their classmates who were finalists for the annual VFW sponsored "Patriot’s Pen Essay Contest."

Ellis Middle School sixth grade Social Studies teachers Cheryl Dunlap and Michael Veldman have been participating in the essay program for many years. They feel that it is important for students to have this experience, not only for enrichment in the content areas of Social Studies and English, but also to develop an understanding of citizenship and answer the question, "Why do men and women join the Armed Forces?"

Veldman said, "This year’s essay question was, "Does Patriotism Still Matter?" Of the 320 students who wrote essays answering the question, about 160 students submitted their essay for the contest sponsored by the local VFW Post 1216."

Veldman noted, "Learning about patriotism and the pillar of Citizenship is just one part of the curriculum here at Ellis. Academically, students are using skills like primary sources, data collection, researching and essay writing as well as interviewing others. Personally, there is an intergenerational connection.

"This essay requires students to sit down or call family members — grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles and aunts — and ask them about their service to America. Students return to the classroom with enthusiasm and wanting to share the information they discovered about, but did not know about their family members."


Jacob Leverington, who was the third place district winner in the VFW competition, said his grandpa served in World War II, and he has had the opportunity to listen to his grandpa’s stories and learn about what our soldiers experienced in that war.

Other students who were the winners in at Ellis School were: Cally Heiny, Kaitlyn Schammel, Noah Lund, Trenton Brown, Diana Magana, Nathan Kestner, Destiny Turvold, Ezekiel Peters, Annaliese Kreuer, Qiah Baxter, Nate Rees, Marissa Lund, Emma Kleis and Issac Wollersheim. Each of these students received $10 from the local VFW.

More than 150 other students who participated in the contest received a $2 bill from the local VFW.

Marissa Lund, one of the contest winners, wrote in her essay: "Patriotism is what holds a country together, and we are lucky that we have men and women who are willing to fight for our country."

Qiah Baxter, another essay winner, wrote: "Many people, who gave their lives so I could have a better life, deserve to be remembered and celebrated."

Jacob Leverington will read his essay at a VFW sponsored dinner held in Owatonna this February to honor first- through fifth-place district winners. Prizes will also be awarded to the participants.

In Leverington’s essay, he wrote: "We live in a country where we are free and where it is believed that all men are created equal and have an equal chance at everything."

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