Archive for Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fifth-grader wins state citizenship essay contest

February 21, 2008

If you could change one thing about your government, what would it be?

For Hailey Budke, Lansing Intermediate School fifth-grader, it would be to improve the use of alternative fossil fuel resources.

Budke is the statewide winner of the "Citizenship" essay contest, sponsored by the Kansas Parent Teacher Association, that asked students to examine different solutions their government could use to improve their community. Budke, along with the other 155 fifth-graders at LIS, wrote essays on topics of their choice and then one was chosen by a panel of judges to move on to the regional competition and then to the state competition.

The idea for Budke's essay came from her family's busy schedule of running back and forth between sporting events for her and her brother Brock, a third-grader at LES. The Budke family uses a lot of fuel, which Hailey said she recognized as a problem.

"I learned we can use alternative fuels like corn, water or even air," she said.

Throughout the process of preparing her essay, Budke said she did a lot of research. With the help of her teacher, Salena Ralston, Budke said she used the Internet to look at the different types of alternative fuels that already exist as well as compared the price of gasoline throughout the country.

"I feel very proud," Budke said of the work she was able to accomplish.

When writing her essay, she looked at it as just another classroom assignment and said she had no idea that her essay would end up winning state. While she likes writing, she said she enjoys writing about more fun topics like her friends better. But she did admit that she thought the essay assignment was a good way to teach students.

"When we get older and we have to write we won't get stressed out," she said.

Budke said she couldn't have done it without the help of her current teacher in Lansing as well as her previous teachers at Fort Leavenworth. She said each teacher laid a foundation that has given her important writing skills.

Christa Martin, Parent Teacher Association president, said Budke's essay went above and beyond fifth-grade level work. Martin said that an essay like the one for the citizenship contest would teach students to become active community members as they transcend into adulthood.

"As adults it's not hard for us to do," Martin said of thinking of ways to improve the community, "but sometimes it just takes a child's mind to draw attention to it."

This was the first year the citizenship essay competition has been done in Lansing schools, and Martin said it was a big success. She said she was impressed with many of the essays and was so proud that Budke's won state.

That pride didn't just stop with the school's teachers and officials, however.

Hailey's father, Shawn Budke said he and his wife, Pam Budke, couldn't be more proud of their daughter's accomplishment.

"We're extremely proud of her," Shawn said. "She does a lot of sports, and we always preach that sports and academics go hand in hand."

The discipline Hailey applies to her sports she also applies to her schoolwork, Shawn said. Being able to juggle competitive teams like soccer, basketball and softball and still manage to write an essay with that amount of thought and maturity is what he said he was most impressed with.

"She just epitomizes the student athlete," Shawn said.

In addition to his daughter's accomplishment, he said there was a weird coincidence that came out of the contest. While growing up in Montana, Shawn's sister also won a similar essay contest when she was Hailey's age. Shawn thought it was neat that his daughter gets to have that connection with her aunt and that the helpful lessons of the essay were carried on.

Shawn said he appreciated the school taking on a topic about what young citizens can do for their community. He said in the information and technology age, people find it's too easy to just get through their individual day to day lives and forget about the community as a whole.

"The sooner we start getting kids to start thinking about that it helps teach them that our society and community is only as good as the individuals in it," he said. "That really sets our country apart so starting at a young age helps generate ideas so when they're older they can think about ways they can improve things."

Hailey will be presented with an award for winning the stateside competition in a ceremony at 2 p.m. March 8 in Lenexa.

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