South Orangetown Central School District

Members of Raymond W. DeMeola Memorial Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1615 recognized ten South Orangetown Middle School students for their outstanding submissions to the VFW’s annual Patriot’s Pen Youth Essay Contest at a December 12 ceremony. This is the seventh year that SOMS has participated in the competition, which is open to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. The 2019-20 theme, “What Makes America Great,” challenged students to examine America’s history and what it means to them based on their personal life experiences.

“The Patriot’s Pen contest connects with our social studies and ELA curriculum and gives our students the opportunity to write for an authentic audience,” said Principal Chad Corey. “Our students learn about American history by hearing directly from VFW Post 1615 members and I think it’s also meaningful for the veterans to engage with our students and hear that their service is valued.” Assistant Principal Joseph Onativia agreed, adding, “Students get to dig into their narrative, informational and persuasive voice to express their knowledge of, and personal reflections on, American history.”

An essay by eighth-grader Daniela “Dani” P. won first prize and will advance to regional judging. Dani’s winning essay credits “the men and women of the United States military who continue to sacrifice their lives to fight for our freedom, rights and happiness” with helping our nation achieve greatness. “We talk a lot about the military as I am very close to my grandfather who is a veteran and I know how important it is to him,” Dani said. Participation in the contest has become a family tradition; Dani has written essays each year at SOMS.

SOMS finalists were sixth-graders Emily B., Eva F., Elise K., Megan T., and Lukas W., seventh-graders Kevin K., Aoife Maria K., and Charles “Parker” T., and eighth-grader Daniel Y.

“When I read the essays every year, I am pleasantly surprised by how much the kids know about military history and how they feel about it,” said Post Commander John Antonucci. “We are very proud of all of the students.”

VFW members and essay contest winners posing in library