The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) held their Patriot Pen Contest recently, posing the question, “What I would tell America’s Founding Fathers?” Eighth grader Nikole Marin from Horace Mann, which has participated in the Patriot Pen Contest for two years, was selected as the first prize winner for Hudson County and the township of North Bergen.
The Patriotic Pen Contest has various levels. Regional and state competitions eventually lead to the national level. To be eligible to enter, contestants must be a student enrolled in either the 6th, 7th or 8th grade of a public, private, or parochial school, a home study program in the United States, its territories, possessions, or enrolled in an overseas school as a dependent of U.S. military or U.S. civilian personnel.
The VFW uses the contest as a way of allowing students to “express their view on democracy with the prospect of winning U.S. savings bonds.” Last year alone over 129,000 students participated.
Marin’s win qualifies her for the state competition. If she makes it past the state competition she will then move up to the national level. The top 16 national prize winners receive various amounts of U.S. savings bonds which will be from $1,000 for sixteenth place up to $10,000 for first prize. The grand prize winner also receives an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. with a parent or guardian.
“It is important to recognize our founding fathers for their courage and it is a reminder that we must continue to lead as they did.” – Nikole Marin
The other winners this year from North Bergen for the Patriot Pen Contest are Alyssa Colon in second place and Bryan Acosta in third place.
Prize winning essay
The following are excerpts from Marin’s prize winning essay:
“As I read through the United States Declaration of Independence in history class, I wondered what would impact our founding fathers the most. Today, our founding fathers would be proud to learn about America’s cutting edge inventions that have helped our global economy. Our founding fathers would also be proud to learn how far we have come in equal rights among all, freedom of religion and how America has the ability to dream and persevere even through disastrous events such as from the World Trade Center 911 attack.”
“When our nation was envisioned, our founding fathers had one clear idea based on freedom, justice and honesty. I feel that it is important that our founding fathers know how America continues to fight for their vision to stay alive. Although America has encountered acts of terrorism such as from Sept. 11, 2001, America still stands strong and continues to fight to recover and remain the strong nation it was made to be.”
To Marin our nation’s founding fathers symbolize leadership by creating “a strong foundation for our country.” In her essay, Marin acknowledges and appreciates their struggle to help make her life better. The history buff wants to make a difference and yearns to be a registered voter in the future.
“As a girl who came from Hispanic parents, I am thankful to our founding fathers leading towards equality regardless of religion, language, beliefs or culture,” said Marin. “I enjoy learning how our nation was built and about the struggles that we went through to get where we are today. I want our generation to know who to thank for our freedom of speech, religion and equal rights. I can’t wait to be able to vote when I turn 18. When that day comes, I will be thinking of them.”
“I feel really honored and excited,” said Marin. “I am just glad to have been part of such an important contest. It is important to recognize our founding fathers for their courage and it is a reminder that we must continue to lead as they did.”
Vanessa Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org