The local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Alida C. Bliss DAR, honored the winners of their annual Good Citizen Award at a recent meeting.
The winners are seniors Olivia Kief, of Morris Community High School; Zackary Landers, of Coal City High School; Chelsea Schultz, of Gardner-South Wilmington High School; and Alejandra Carbajal, of Minooka Community High School.
Students were first nominated by teachers and guidance counselors in their high schools, then the finalists were selected by the student body seniors, who voted on the person in their class they thought to be the best citizen.
“They were first selected from their schools,” said DAR member Lea Sharp, “so they are all leaders in their school. Then three judges who were not affiliated with DAR read their essays.”
For the award and to advance beyond local recognition, each of the students was required to write a 550-word essay in a two-hour time period with no reference materials besides a dictionary. They were given the essay question in a sealed envelope when they sat down to write it.
This year’s topic was, “Our American Heritage and Responsibility of Preserving It — How are our Freedoms and Responsibilities as Good Citizens Changing?”
Each of the four later read their essay to DAR members.
“They were very thoughtful essays” Sharp said. “All of them. Especially since they had no clue what they would be writing about.”
Landers’ essay also won at the district level and will be entered against six other district winners for the state title, to be announced April 27. The winner of state will go to national competition.
Landers began his essay describing how the blood of our American Revolution fighters made us free, the lives of our military during World War II kept us free and it is now our responsibility to use our freedoms in a responsible way.
“With the rise of technology,” he wrote, “we are free to access huge amounts of information and use it for good and just causes. ... As a good citizen, a young American man or woman must not only be aware of these freedoms, but use them as well ... for the betterment of American society.”
Carbajal said in her essay that our responsibilities for preserving our American heritage are even more important today than ever. During and after the American Revolution, she wrote, our country saw good citizenship as serving through military service.
“As time passed,” she said, “the label transitioned to encompass the blue collar men and women who worked diligently to provide and live out the American dream. ... Now ... emphasis is placed on those who constantly do good deeds, rather than those who serve our country.”
Carbajal said our country was made great from those sacrifices and that legacy should always be acknowledged and protected.
Kief and Schultz, like Landers, focused their essays on technology.
“Today our freedoms and responsibilities are truly changing faster than ever,” Kief wrote. “Technology enables us to do things that in years past were not even a thought, as a result, we are able to help more people in half the time ... spread awareness, raise money, and find volunteers for almost anything.”
“As time changes,” Schultz wrote, “many of the freedoms and responsibilities of a good citizen changes as well. ... Though Americans have freedom of speech, there are boundaries of what can and cannot be posted online. It is one’s responsibility to know his or her limits. This includes not cyber bullying others and making threats because of any disagreements one may have.”
Landers, who is advancing to state, said one of the things that helped him most in composing his essay was years of being on the speech team. His events are impromptu speaking and extemporaneous speaking, both of which require quick on-the-spot speech writing.
“It’s my favorite thing to do in school,” he said of speech, “so I didn’t panic with this essay. I developed an outline, then I wrote a strong thesis to hammer home.”
Landers enjoys writing and history and plans on going to the University of Illinois next year to study news editorial journalism.
He said he was excited to learn he had advanced to state and that he knows he will have some pretty stiff competition.
Parents of the award winners are Budd and Laura Landers, Pete and Cindy Schultz, Luis and Ernestina Carbajal and Troy and Teri Kief.
The Alida C. Bliss Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution will host another event soon to honor young essaysists.
• WHAT: Reading of local middle school history essay contest winners
• WHEN: Monday, April 8 beginning at 6 p.m.
• WHERE: The basement meeting room at Morris Area Public Library