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Pen, paper and patriotism: Winning essayists

Submitted photo NY Mills VFW Auxiliary President, Amanda Weller, introduces the NY Mills Voice of Democracy winners at a banquet on Friday. First place winner was Mariah Novak and second place winner was Rhianna Hayes. Third place winner, Jacob Haugen, is not pictured.1 / 2
Submitted photo NY Mills VFW Auxiliary President, Amanda Weller, stands with Patriot's Pen winners Henry Keskitalo, Heather Weller and Katie Thompson. Patriot's Pen essays were written on the topic of, "Our Founding Fathers."2 / 2

Is our Constitution still relevant? That's the question students at area high schools answered in this year's Voice of Democracy Contest, sponsored by local Ladies Auxiliary VFW chapters.

The top three winners received cash prizes.

Perham's winner, Kayla Heier, wrote in her speech, "I would ask instead, how can it not be relevant? The Constitution is the document that truly established the United States as a country, giving us form as a nation instead of a loose confederation of states, binding us together under the aegis of the power of the United States government."

In her essay, Heier talks of the three branches of government. She wrote, "The Constitution is what built our government in such a way - creating a structure that has withstood the test of time."

Heier explains the laws and the rights that the Constitution upholds: "The Constitution is what protects our freedoms; without it, we would never have the guarantees we are given now."

Heier concludes that, "Rights, freedoms, laws and the structure of an entire nation - this is what the Constitution has given to our country. It is the very backbone of everything we believe, everything we've built, and everything we value. There can be no document more relevant to us as a nation."

Mariah Novak was the winner at New York Mills High School.

Novak started her essay with this example: "An empty box lies in a corner. To most, it is just a wasted space, a piece of trash, but to a particular child, this box means adventure and the ideal Valentine container.  Like this story, the value of items often depends on the eye of the beholder. If the Constitution is thought to be just old quill scribbles old men did a long time ago, then yes, the Constitution is outdated and useless. However, if viewed as the document that guides our changing nation day after day, then the Constitution is truly alive and relevant."

 Novak goes on to explain the roll of the Constitution today: "...the framers of the Constitution made it possible to adjust the document so it will never go out-of-date; this confirms the Constitution is not just an old manuscript."

Novak concluded, "Most people prize these rights, but just a handful considers them so dear that they will choose to sacrifice their lives to defend them.  Our country's freedoms and opportunities, insured by the Constitution, are so extraordinary our military men and women want their families and generations after them to experience the greatness."

Local middle school students also participated in an essay contest, called Patriot's Pen.