SOUTH RANGE - Several Copper Country middle school and high school students were recognized for spoken and written essays on patriotism at a ceremony Sunday at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in South Range.
The ceremony included both winners of the middle school Patriot's Pen contest, and the high school Voice of Democracy contest.
The sixth- through eighth-grade students wrote a 300- to 400-word essay, while the ninth- through 12th-grade students prepared a three- to five-minute oral speech.
Hancock Central High School junior Madeline Stimac reads her winning speech at the Veterans of Foreign Wars award ceremony for district Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy winners. Stimac finished first in the district and fifth in the state. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Garrett Neese)
Both contests centered on pride. For the Voice of Democracy, it was, "Is there pride in serving in our military?" Patriot's Pen students answered, "Are you proud of your country?"
The top four in the 15th District for the Voice of Democracy were Hancock junior Devyn Smith and Madeline Stimac, Hancock senior Jari Sague and Jeffers senior Brittany Nicholas.
Stimac finished first in the district and went on to finish fifth in state.
"If there was no pride, would the millions of soldiers serving be out there right now fighting for us?" she said in her essay. "Would they be risking their lives for us? No. We don't force our soldiers to fight; they make that choice for themselves. They feel pride in being there to serve, keep us safe, and make peace for the United States of America."
Stimac said she loved the experience.
"I'm going to do it again next year for sure," she said. "It's great for everyone to learn about the military, because not everybody gets thanks when they're in the military."
Also reading her essay was Smith, who finished second in district. She developed her take on the question shortly after watching "Where Soldiers Come From," the documentary about local National Guard members who served in Afghanistan.
Smith considered the toll war takes on those who serve. Pride is easier, she said, when fighting for peace instead of personal gain.
"It's your country, the sacrifices you make and why those determine the value of the cause," she said. "That alone deserves limitless amounts of pride. Times get tough and leaders get corrupt but you need to have faith in your fellow man and you yourself work hard to keep this nation strong and true."
Smith is considering going into the military in the future. The writing process included hours at the computer, writing notes in the margins of her homework and reading the essay to her parents.
"Writing that essay really made me think about what the military means, on a personal scale," she said.
In the Patriot's Pen contest, eighth-grader Delaney Carter of Houghton finished first, followed by sixth-grader Eva Nemiroff and eighth-grader Phoebe Hu of Houghton and sixth-grader Leah Pennala of E.B. Holman.
Carter said she had pride in America's military, government and citizens.
"I will always be proud of my country," she said. "We have worked too hard to not be proud of the life we have made for ourselves. We made this country out of nothing, just a few pilgrims hoping to make it through the winter and settle this untamed land. The product of their efforts is this country, the United States of America. I have every reason to be proud to live here."
It was a good experience, Carter said.
"I think it's nice to know that there's all these people interested in writing," she said.