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Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 308 and others gathered at the Newtown Municipal Center on Monday, December 19, to name and honor student winners in this year’s Patriot’s Pen essay scholarship program.
The Patriot’s Pen program is sponsored nationally by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its Ladies Auxiliary, according to the VFW, and the program is open to students in grades six to eight. The VFW also offers a Voice of Democracy program, which is an audio-essay contest for high school students.
Past VFW Post 308 commander and current Quartermaster Walter Dolan introduced everyone to the event and he thanked VFW Post 308 Chaplain Donna Monteleone Randle for starting the program in town. Mr Dolan said this is the fourth year the Patriot’s Pen essay contest has been offered to local students through the local post.
Ms Randle shared a short history of the program before this year’s winners were announced. The Patriot’s Pen essay contest started in 1947. This year’s entries were coded, Ms Randle said, so the three judges — Greg VanAntwerp, Christopher Geissler, and W. Scott Anders — did not know the name, grade, or school of the entrant.
The essay theme this year was “The American I Believe In.”
VFW Post 308 Acting Commander and Adjutant Don Bashak, the Patriot’s Pen program chair, named NMS eighth grader Clayton Kunzweiler as this year’s first place winner. Newtown Middle School seventh grade student Amanda Stowe, NMS eighth grade student Emmi DeSousa, and St Rose of Lima School student Mackenzie Ciambra are this year’s second place winners in the local program. Amanda’s essay was also selected as one of the top three in the district, Ms Randle said, and the rankings for the district level of the contest will be announced after January 21.
“What you all have achieved is really remarkable,” Ms Randle told the students.
Clayton earned a $100 scholarship and the three second place winners earned $50 scholarships.
State Senator Tony Hwang and First Selectman Pat Llodra also attended the day’s events to honor the students’ accomplishments. Teachers and administrators from NMS and St Rose were also present.