July 2019
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Pride & Patriotism: HMS Student Wins VFW Essay Contest

A class assignment has earned regional recognition for Huston Middle School student Courtney Cambal.

The eighth-grader’s essay won first place at the local level and second place at the regional level of a national VFW contest that asks middle school students to write about a patriotic theme. This year’s topic of the Patriot’s Pen contest was “Are You Proud of Your Country?”
HMS English teacher Autumn Godot incorporated the VFW contest into her writing curriculum by challenging students to write essays that align with the contest. She grades the essays, but students are not required to submit their essays in the VFW contest.

“One of the unique features about this essay is that it is completely student-generated and interpreted,” says Ms. Godot. “They must determine their essay style and arrangement with only the contest essay guidelines and essay judging criteria on the entry form to use as a guide.”

Courtney’s essay was one of 83 entered in the local level of the contest. VFW Post 92 Chairman Fred Grau and his wife Cindy narrowed the entries to six, and then submitted them to other VFW members to rank. “Courtney’s first few sentences really grab you,” says Cindy Grau. “She repeats the question (Are You Proud of Your Country?) and really follows through with the reasons why she is.”

Courtney writes:
“Am I proud of my country? WOW! What a question! My quick response would be, ‘Definitely!’ and I would probably be shouting ‘USA’ at the top of my lungs. But actually, it brought me to honestly look at why I would naturally and routinely respond in this manner. Why, at age 13, am I so happy to be living in the United States?”

She goes on to discuss the freedom of expression and choice in America, and the defense of these freedoms. Courtney was awarded $300 for placing first at the local level, and an additional $200 for placing second at the regional level. She was motivated to enter the contest for the grand prize, which includes a trip to Washington, DC and a $10,000 savings bond to be awarded this spring. Courtney is saving her winnings to help pay for veterinary school one day.

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