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Students share thoughts of gratitude, hope for future

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Photo by Don Benjamin Cedaredge's Veterans Day Assembly included a cluster of talented individuals. Pictured are, from the left: front -- CHS essayists Ellison Black and Alayna Edwards; back --CHS essayist Katrina Becker; Lt. Col. (Ret.) USAF and CMS so

Several students from Cedaredge High School and Middle School submitted their writing to two Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) essay competitions: 'The Voice of Democracy' for grades 9-12 and 'Patriot's Pen' for grades 6-8. Older students wrote using the theme "American History: Our Hope for the Future" and the theme for younger students was "America's Gift to My Generation."

CMS student Megan Jenkins received first place for her Patriot's Pen entry. Megan began her essay by contrasting the gifts bestowed on all Americans by our nation's founders with the limited opportunities in other less-free countries. In summarizing her idea of 'America's Gift to My Generation,' Megan emphasized that America and the veterans who serve to protect the nation have given her generation the opportunity to fulfill their dreams and to pass on rights and freedoms to future generations.

Voice of Democracy audio-essay honors were shared by three CHS students. Alayna Edwards' third-place entry emphasized that America has consistently been able to rise above tragedies from the Wall Street crash of 1929 to the attacks on September 11, 2001. Her great-grandmother lived in Oklahoma in the 1930's and survived the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl. She reminded her audience that "No matter what our country goes through, we will make it to the other side."

Katrina Becker's second-place essay contained memories of her grandparents. Katrina was seven when her 'Granny' told her about March 1945. Her grandmother had just given birth and her husband -- who later became Katrina's 'Bampa' -- had to return to fight in World War II. Her grandfather, she wrote, was fighting to protect his family and for a better tomorrow. Bampa survived the war and lived to meet his grandchildren. When he died, the American flag that draped his coffin was carefully folded and presented to the family. Katrina concluded her essay with these thoughts: "When I finished folding my Bampa's uniform, I placed it in his trunk and latched it shut. I will never stop being grateful for the hope my Bampa had. The hope for the better future, a better tomorrow."

Ellison Black's first-place essay presented a simple but powerful message: our hope for the future depends upon three things: "We need to take action, finish what we start, and be open to new ideas." She gave historical examples of inspired Americans taking action -- Martin Luther King and Susan B. Anthony. As for finishing what we start, she compared the founding fathers' success in finishing the Declaration of Independence with the nation's current inability to follow through with improving the health care system. And she cited being open to new ideas and working together to solve problems as hallmarks of American history. She concluded with a challenge. "Right now," she wrote, "our country is much better than some, but if we don't continue working hard, other countries will pass us. If we give up or decide we are just good enough and quit working on these three values (to take action, finish what we start, and be open to new ideas), we will lose in the race of life."

First-place essays are submitted by local VFW posts to regional contests and regional winners compete statewide. State and national winners are eligible for a variety of awards including trips to Washington, D.C., cash prizes, and scholarships.

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