Arrowhead students in Creative Writing classes were given an assignment to write an essay for the “Fleet Reserve Association[‘s] 2018-2019 Americanism Essay Contest.” The 2018 theme was “What Freedom of Speech Means to Me.”
Two juniors won second and third place for this competition: Bella Miller and Adam Polczynski. Marcia Cunningham, in association with the FRA, sent a letter to Arrowhead stating their prizes, via mail on March 14th.
The prize for the grand national winner is $5,000, $1,500 for second place, and $1,000 for third place. After placing at the local level, Miller’s and Polczynski’s essays will move on to the national level.
English teacher Elizabeth Jorgensen teaches Creative Writing. “I really enjoying having students write for authentic purposes,” she says. “I was thrilled to see Adam and Bella chosen as winners. I am so proud of them and they work they did in Creative Writing.”
The rules for this essay are as follows: “All entrants shall be students in grades seven through twelve (or equivalent). The essay shall not exceed 350 words. The essay shall be legibly written or typed on one side of the paper. The title of the essay shall be written or typed at the top of the paper. A student may submit only one entry each year….” The rest of the rules can be found here.
“What I’m trying to do in Creative Writing is instill a love of language. I hope when students leave my classroom, they are inspired to not only continue writing, but also reading and speaking,” she said. “When students have their voices recognized, like Bella and Adam did in this competition, I hope they learn that what they have to say matters.”
Jorgensen says this assignment correlates nicely with another Creative Writing assignment where students write letters to veterans going on an upcoming Honor Flight. “What I’ve found is when I can connect curriculum to our world and something students care about, their writing improves,” she says. “In Bella’s essay, she wrote about veterans and the impact they had on her life. This was a perfect connection to the Mail Call letters students wrote for the Honor Flight veterans.”
The following is an excerpt from Miller’s essay: “I remember it like it was yesterday; my fifth grade class gathering on stage, getting ready for the Veteran’s Day Presentation we practiced for weeks. I remember looking out into the crowd and seeing the crisp navy blue and camouflage uniforms; many gleaming, adorned with badges of rank and honor, all reflecting in the lights of our auditorium. I saw veterans wearing their uniforms with pride, and I admired their service to our country and felt a strange surge of patriotism. I had sometimes thought about what freedom of speech meant to me, but that day I finally knew.”
The following is an excerpt from Polczynski’s essay: “When you think of an American sport, you think of baseball. Before each game, Americans stand to sing the National Anthem and salute the flag. As a high school club baseball player, my team travels around the country playing in national tournaments. As I stand before each pitch is thrown, I take my hat off for the National Anthem. As I stand, I feel proud, patriotic and passionate. I think about the American soldiers who fought and continue to fight for our country. I think of all of our rights including freedom of speech.”
Jorgensen says because these essays were due prior to December 1, 2018, her first semester students were the ones who participated.
Last year, Arrowhead student Katie Thurow received third place in the competition. In 2017, four winners came from Arrowhead: Adam Nannetti, Ashlynn Vassar, Anna Hayes and Natalie Jones.