Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

December 12, 2012

Jr. High essay contest brings history into focus

Rob Cox
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Although modern technology is accelerating at a breathtaking pace, Greensburg Junior High School (GJHS) eighth-grader Rylie Smith will likely never travel back in time to meet America’s Founding Fathers.

Tuesday night, however, at Greensburg’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 5584, Smith movingly — and creatively — speculated how such a meeting might unfold and what she might say.

The eighth-grader was awarded top area prize Tuesday in the VFW’s Annual “Patriot’s Pen” Essay Contest. Along with second- and-third-place winners Haleigh Reed and Nathan Emsweller, respectively, Smith read her winning essay aloud for a captive audience of VFW and VFW Ladies Auxiliary members, parents, and teachers.

All three students attend the history classes of GCHS eighth-grade teachers Sarah Wheeler and Matt Slaven, who organized the contest and included all 210 of their students.

According to VFW Ladies Auxiliary Chairman Zella Wyatt, the 2012 Patriot’s Penn Essay theme was “What I Would Tell America’s Founding Fathers.”

In fewer than 400 words, Smith started with the view of a clear, nighttime sky and then transported the room to America’s Revolutionary period, where imagination swept her from one critical scene in American history to the next.

During the course of her whirlwind narrative through history, Smith meets and speaks with a number of towering figures in American lore, including George Washington at the crossing of the Delaware River, John Adams at the writing of the Declaration of Independence and Benjamin Franklin at the signing of the Constitution.

“I smile,” Smith wrote in concluding her essay, reading the words aloud and revealing the episode to have all been a dream, “glad to have been able to express my admiration and support to some of the men who made my life today possible, our American Founding Fathers.”

As with Smith’s essay, a deep sense of gratitude and patriotism permeated Reed’s and Emsweller’s essays.

In addition to America’s Founding Fathers, the second and third-place winners, respectively, also noted the deep appreciation they feel for and would express to the average Revolutionary-era soldier.

“If it weren’t for you,” Reed said, reading from her essay, “our country would not be free. You battled so posterity could live in a country of liberty and justice, and you succeeded. You’ve made a difference in my life that I can never repay.”

In reading his essay, Emsweller concluded, “If I were able to speak to our founding fathers personally, I would thank them for giving us the unalienable Rights to ‘Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.’”

After the readings, VFW Post 5584 Commander Mike Clark thanked parents and teachers for both encouraging and supporting students to participate in the yearly contest.

“Programs like this,” Clark said in thanking teachers, “help keep our country strong.”

To the parents, the commander added, “I want to thank all you parents for coming tonight. Your influence and guidance shows in your children’s behavior and intelligence.”

Slaven and Wheeler were equally appreciative toward the VFW for sponsoring the contest.

“Thank you for sponsoring this,” Slaven said, “and for allowing us to teach our children American history through programs like this.”

He added, “Students this age sometimes forget how important love of country is, and this program serves as an effective reminder of that.”



Contact: Rob Cox at 812-663-3111 x7011.