2015 Dar Essay Stamp

Cappy Culver eighth grader wins countywide essay contest 

Posted: 6:06 am, January 11, 2016 by Reporter Jackie Iddings

Essay contest winner Juan Farias with parents Jose and Monica and DAR committee Sharon Wilson, Sally McFarlane and Lida Lucas. Photographs by Jackie Iddings

Local win places Juan Farias’ essay in the state level competition

–Juan Farias, an eighth grader from Cappy Culver Elementary School, is the San Luis Obispo County winner for the 2015 American History Essay Contest. The contest is held every year by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The announcement was made at a Friday morning assembly and certificates were presented by Sharon Wilson from the El Paso de Robles chapter of DAR. Sierra Laucella and Austin Williams, two more eighth graders from Cappy Culver also received certificates of participation for their essays. Wilson said the next step is entering Farias’ essay in the state level competition.

This year’s topic was “A Colonial Family’s Reaction to the Stamp Act.” The American History Essay Contest was established to encourage young people to think creatively about US history and learn about history in a new light. The annual contest is open to students in grades five through eight and a separate contest is held for high school seniors. The essays are judged by panels of local DAR volunteers throughout the year. One local winner is selected from each grade and that winning essay is automatically qualified for the state level contest.

Cappy Culver School essay contest participants Juan Farias, Austin Williams and Sierra Laucella

Farias stated, “My teacher said it was a good essay and I should enter it. I didn’t think it would win anything.” When asked what he found most challenging about writing the essay, Farias said, “The conclusion. It’s hard to write a conclusion without repeating things.”

“We are very proud of Juan,” said his parents Jose and Monica. “He is an excellent student. Math is his favorite subject and we were a happy when he got so involved in researching and writing the essay.” The Farias family lives in Heritage Ranch.

Language arts teacher Libby DeKorte and history teacher Jody Brown provided support for the students. “At the time we were reading ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ and the students decided they wanted to use a journal format for their essays.” stated DeKorte. DeKorte coached the students with language skills and grammar. Brown guided the students in fact checking for historical accuracy

“The students did all of the research and writing themselves,” stated Principal Stephanie Schofield. “The contest was open to everyone but not every student chose to participate. Just the fact that they did is quite something. We are very proud.”

This contest is open to students in public, private, and parochial schools, and registered home-study programs. Each year, a selected topic for use during the academic year is announced, and contest instructions are published online and sent to schools by participating DAR chapters. Essays are judged for historical accuracy, adherence to the topic, organization of materials, interest, originality, spelling, grammar, punctuation, and neatness.

Participating chapters send one winning essay from each of the four grades for judging on the state level. The state will send one winning essay from each of the four grades to be judged on a divisional level. The winning essay from each of the four grades will then be judged on the national level and the winners are announced.

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.

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To many folks, Presidents Day is a holiday marked by mattress and mall sales. But members of the Los Gatos chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution mark the February holiday by awarding prizes to students who have participated in a contest that explores America’s history through essays.

“The purpose is to inspire children to learn about and appreciate our country’s founders and history,” DAR regent Jill Hygelund said.

Ten students were recognized at a Feb. 3 DAR luncheon, where several read their winning essays and accepted American flags and other prizes for their work.

The first place good citizen award was given to Saratoga High School senior Jennie Werner, who wrote on the topic “Our American Heritage and Our Responsibility for Preserving It.” She described how the cultures of two of her friends have changed her life and how she, in turn, has taught them about her family’s traditions.

“When I moved to Saratoga, I was exposed in depth to Indian and Jewish culture for the first time. I went to my friend’s traditional dance class, and the experience piqued my interest in her Indian culture,” Jennie wrote. “Since then I have grown to appreciate her mom’s ethnic cooking and I’ve learned a few phrases in Hindi. On the other hand, my Jewish friend invites me over for Friday night dinners, complete with traditional prayers and Challah bread.”

Jennie and other competitors were given two hours to write their essays, with no opportunity for research–they were handed an envelope with the topic and had to write then and there.

The essays count 30 percent toward an award, with a student’s dependability, leadership, service and patriotism also taken into account.

Jennie’s essay concluded, “No matter our family history, we all value the freedom and opportunity of America. However, these qualities can only be preserved if we continue to share our cultures with others to make this a nation of open-minded and knowledgeable citizens.”

Jennie took home a $200 prize and second-place winner Caroline Fukawa of Presentation High School received $100. Leigh High School’s Caitlin Grimm, Branham High’s Kaeleigh Robitaille and Zoe Nilson from Prospect High were also recognized for their participation.

The DAR contest also involves fifth- to eighth-grade students. They wrote about “The Lives of Children During the American Revolution.” Eighth-grader Hamza Qadeer from the Challenger School’s Almaden campus wrote a “journal” of the life of “William Smith” that begins March 15, 1777–the day William’s father dies as a Revolutionary War prisoner.

“As I went out to the fields today, I saw our neighbor Mr. Matthews limp down the street. He was a healthy man in his early 30s when he left for the war with my father. Now he looked emaciated,” Hamza wrote.

Shortly thereafter, “William” joins the Revolution and writes, “I now lie sick with dysentery at Valley Forge. I may die and never see my family again, and I risked my life and underwent the hardships of war. But the thought that my mother and siblings may live to see the fruits of liberty assures me that my sacrifice was worth it. My fellow soldiers, my father and I gave up everything for freedom. I can only hope our posterity remembers our sacrifice and preserves the freedom we gave so much for.”

Hamza and other elementary student winners received $50, plus a certificate of recognition and an American flag. The seventh-grade winner was Jerry Peng from the Harker School. Other winners were sixth- grader Anusha Ghosh and fifth-grader Quynh Nguyen from Challenger’s Shawnee campus in San Jose.

The winner of the Christopher Columbus essay contest was Archbishop Mitty High School junior Namrata Balasingam. She wrote on the topic “How Do Americans View Christopher Columbus and George Washington Today?”

Namrata discussed the risks both men took to accomplish their objectives and wrote, “The appetite for risk-taking that these two men displayed foreshadowed the distinctly American flair for entrepreneurship that would ultimately earn the United States its exceptionalist [sic] role in the world. Today … the courage, resilience and business acumen of Columbus and Washington should serve to inspire us.”

Washington, by the way, was born on Feb. 22, 1732, and the Washington’s Birthday holiday was established in 1885. In 1971, the holiday was moved to the third Monday in February and renamed Presidents Day as a way to celebrate all presidents. This year, Presidents Day falls on Feb. 17.

For more information about the Daughters of the American Revolution, visit losgatos.californiadar.org.

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