CHESTERTOWN - Clutching an awards citation, North Warren 7th grader Alyssa Jensen sipped a cup of punch during a reception at her school's annual Patriot's Pen/Voice of Democracy awards ceremony.
Minutes earlier, she had won a top award and $250 for her essay on how veterans and servicemen deserve recognition.
"This competition has been a good way to show veterans how much we care," she said. "They don't get as much appreciation these days as they deserve."
But Thursday, they did receive plenty of recognition, as a dozen or so members of V.F.W. No. 5513 shared the auditorium stage of North Warren Central School with a group of students who were awarded for their patriotic essays.
Alyssa, top winner in the Patriot's Pen contest for sixth through eighth graders, read her essay to the audience.
Students and other citizens can honor veterans, she said, by flying the American flag, participating in parades, visiting memorials, even reciting the Pledge of Allegiance proudly, she said. Also, honoring veterans can be expressed by visiting them and taking care of them when needed, she said.
But honoring veterans can be accomplished in other, less apparent ways, Alyssa said.
Students working hard in school to get a good education, in order to make wise voting decisions and serving our communities is also a way of honoring veterans, she said.
"The veterans must know that their devotion and sacrifice will be forever remembered in the hearts of their grateful countrymen," she said.
The 2009 Patriot's Pen contest was a joint academic assignment in the 7th and 8th grade Social Studies classroom of Jean Kubaryk and the English classes of Candy Fischer, plus the sixth grade class of Mary Matrose.
In addition to Alyssa, awarded for their Patriot's Pen essays were: Grant Cooper, Second Place; Daniel Hill, Third Place, Sofia Robbins and Jacob Dunkley, tie for fourth, and Meghan Eagan and Khadeeja Stewart, tie for sixth. A Teachers' Choice Award went to Dan Wilson.