Eighth-graders reap prizes for VFW Patriot’s Pen contest | CraigDailyPress.com

Eighth-graders reap prizes for VFW Patriot’s Pen contest

Lauren Blair

Patriot's Pen writing contest participants show off their prizes Wednesday with VFW members Mark Wick and Johnny Garcia at Craig Middle School. Back row: Brenna Knez, Alexis Main, Wick, Garcia, Rylee Laman and eighth-grade teacher Trish King. Front row: third-place winner Sambu Shrestha, second-place winner Brianna Burkett, first-place winner Hannah Gariner, Lilli Pierce, Makyah Counts and Jesse Kelley.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriot's Pen contest offers sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders the chance to put their pens to paper each year about a patriotic theme issued by the national VFW Commander-in-Chief.

This year's theme, "Why I Appreciate America's Veterans," inspired essays from 10 eighth-graders at Craig Middle School. The students were recognized Wednesday by local VFW members Mark Wick and Johnny Garcia for their participation, and the top three were awarded special prizes.

Hannah Gariner, Brianna Burkett and Sambu Shrestha won first, second and third place in the contest, respectively, which earned them $75, $50 and $25 in Spree Bucks to spend at local businesses in Craig. All other participants were given honorable mentions and $5 in Spree Bucks, which were donated by the VFW.

"I'm probably going to get stuff for my mom," Sambu said, all three of them agreeing that their Spree Bucks would give them a head start on Christmas shopping.

The students were guided through the writing process by eighth-grade language arts teacher, Trish King, who oversees the contest at CMS.

"We just brainstormed a lot of ideas they could talk about why they would be appreciative of America's veterans," said King, who offered students feedback as they developed their 300- to 400- word essays.

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King sees the contest as a way to show students that writing is about more than just a grade.

"We want to influence these kids to write more because good writing will get them far," King said.

The students were encouraged to write about family members or close connections who were veterans.

"I wrote about my granddad and my grandpa and how they both fought in the Korean War and how the veterans have done so much for our country," Hannah said.

For Brianna, the contest spurred her to think more closely about a subject she hadn't heavily considered before.

"I started out writing about why I appreciate them and what veterans do for us and where we'd be without them… and why it's important to recognize them," Brianna said.

Wick, a Vietnam veteran, has been a VFW member for 11 years and emphasized the importance of encouraging young people to learn about veterans and U.S history.

"We're investing in our future in them. Who else to do we have to give this country to but the youth?" Wick said. "We have to give them a sound foundation so they can make good decisions for our future."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.