Students pen patriotic papers

By Shenandoah Briere | Feb 09, 2018
Photo by: Shenandoah Briere Winners Quincy Antunes, Phoenix Campbell and Izabella Moniz pose with VFW and Lady Auxiliary members as well as two teachers.

A pen, a paper and a few thoughtful words about veterans landed middle schoolers with top finishes in the school’s Patriots Pen writing competition.

Patriots Pen is a Veterans of Foreign Wars-sponsored contest open to students in grades 6-8. Each year, students are invited to submit an essay based on a new prompt. This year’s topic was “America’s Gift to My Generation.” and asked students to write about how veterans impacted their lives.

Quincy Antunes, 13, took first place, followed by Phoenix Campbell, 13, and Izabella Moniz, 12. They wrote about topics including security, rights, and freedom.

Antunes was shocked he had won.

“I feel so proud that I got to speak with these veterans and they said they actually read it and they said it was good and they respect me for that,” said Antunes. “My uncle is a veteran, so he knows what it was like and then I’m able to open up to him because I also feel the same pain that he has once felt.”

Both Campbell and Moniz were both surprised they had won, and were happy to have met the veterans and thank them for their service. Both students have or have had family members who served in the military.

Antunes and Campbell were from seventh grade English teacher Paul Laconte’s class. In order to inspire students, Laconte asked them to think about military members they know.

“I’m just so proud of not only their writing skills and effort, but also their empathy and compassion for the veterans,” Leconte said. “I’m always touched by how much they care about these people.”

Air Force veteran Jim Collins met with the winners on February 9. It was hard to judge the essays because they were all so well-written and thought out, Collins noted, but felt working with and talking to students has been rewarding for both parties.

“It means a lot to all of us because we get to work with the younger people and the students, it’s really a good feeling for us,” Collins said. “We are happy and enjoy it and the students really like it, they ask us a million questions so it works out on both sides.”

There are four levels to the contest. The entry level is sponsored by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars office, the second is at the district level, then state and finally ending on the national level.

The national level first place winner will receive $5,000 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. The other students at the national level are also given monetary prizes based on their placement in the competition.

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