Naperville VFW essay writers headed for state

<p>Judd Kendall VFW post 3873 in Naperville.  |  Rich Hein/Sun-Times  </p>

Judd Kendall VFW post 3873 in Naperville.  |  Rich Hein/Sun-Times  

Patriotism flowed from students who entered the local VFW’s yearly Patriot’s Pen contest — writ large in ink with vivid hints of red, white and blue.

Adhering to the theme “What patriotism means to me,” more than 600 local junior high school-aged contestants entered the Judd Kendall VFW Post 3873 competition during the fall. Two of the top finishers have been selected by district judges to proceed to the state championship.

“In reading the essays the judges had to make tough decisions because there were so many excellent essays. It made us realize that we are proud of our country,” said Mike Barbour, who handles the post’s publicity, in an email.

The annual, natinwide competition is designed to give students a chance to express their perspective on democracy in 300 to 400 words, vying for consideration to win U.S. savings bonds. The national winner will get a $10,000 bond, and a fully paid trip to Washington, D.C., with a parent or guardian.

The winning Naperville essayists and their schools included Annie Lalonde, All Saints Academy, first place; Jamie Zhang, Kennedy Junior High School, second; Caroline Lott, Lincoln Junior High School, third; Matthew Hatch, Ss. Peter and Paul School, fourth; and Kathryn Jin, Kennedy Junior High School, fifth.

In district-level judging, Matthew Hatch’s submission came out on top, which means he moves on to the state finals. Annie Lalonde’s essay took third place.

“Once again Naperville shines,” Barbour said.

The post will host the sixth annual Kendall Honors Banquet on April 5, recognizing the essay writers along with winners of its Voice of Democracy essay contest, the Police Officer of the Year, Firefighter of the Year, and the Educators of the Year at the elementary, middle/junior high and high school levels in Districts 203 and 204.

Barbour, who noted that the theme for 2014-15 entries will be “Why I appreciate America’s veterans,” was pleased with this year’s writings.

“As these students mature and take their place in society, America will be in good hands,” he said.