VFW honors Lansing Middle School seventh-grader for patriotic essay
A secret plan for a ceremony was in the works last month at Lansing Middle School.
Parents of three students waited excitedly while Alicia Moody, a teacher at the school, tracked down the three students, who were to be honored for winning this year's VFW Patriot's Pen competition.
The VFW annually conducts the Patriot's Pen contest, which encourages students to reflect on their citizenship and country through writing, Moody said.
Seventh-grader Luke Forbach, won first place at the local level and received a $150 check; the second-place winner, Heather Wiehe, received a $100 check; and third-place winner Jared Ontiveros received a $50 check. All three recipients received a certificate from the VFW.
The contest requires the students to write a 300 to 400 word essay. The student's essays are judged at the local level, then the local winner's essay is sent to district, said Mike Howell, the Lansing VFW post's commander. An essay potentially can go to nationals, where a student can win almost $25,000.
"Unfortunately, we have never had one get that far," Howell said.
This is Howell's fifth year working with the competition. There were distinctions between the contest winner's essay and other entries, Howell said.
The closeness is "a tribute to the students, a tribute to the parents, a tribute to Mrs. Moody, and a tribute to Lansing Middle School and the Lansing schools in general," Howell said.
Howell and a group of about three others judge the essays on a point system.
"This was definitely the toughest year," Howell said.
In past years, the VFW awarded students with savings bonds.
"It is really tough to buy savings bonds for kids anymore because of the privacy act," Howell said. "I have to get about 25 different pieces of permission just to get their Social Security number. And then when I get to the bank, they want to know how I got that information."
Howell reminded the students to continue entering the contest when they go to high school.
"When you get into high school, there is another level that goes along with the Patriots Pen," Howell said, seeking future entries for the VFW's Voice of Democracy oratory contest.
- Abbie Stutzer is a University of Kansas journalism student. Her work will appear this semester in The Current.