INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A sixth-grade student recently won 1st place in a state essay contest where youth wrote about their pride in America, authorities said. The achievement earned the student more than $1,700 in awards from local non-profit organizations.
Students from fifth through the eighth grade were allowed to participate in the Elks Grand Lodge Americanism Essay Contest.
Oslo Middle School student and winner Rachel Estillore received a $1,500 check from the Florida State Elk’s Association and a $250 check from the Vero Beach Elks Lodge for her essay, officials said.
“I really want everyone to understand the true struggles of our veterans and how proud I am that they fought for our freedom!” Estillore said.
The Elks Lodge chose the theme “Why Our Veterans Are America’s Heroes” for the contest.
The competition begins with local lodges and progresses through district and state levels. It concludes with the naming of national winners at the Grand Lodge Session in San Antonio, Texas, in July 2018, officials said.
“We received 100 essays each in the two divisions in our competition: grades 5-6 and 7-8. Rachel’s essay stood out as one of the best,” Vero Beach Lodge Exalted Ruler Jim Rannazzisi said. “Her success has generated much enthusiasm in our Lodge to further engage Indian River County students in patriotic endeavors.“
Judges focused on four main items for examining the essays – originality, development of theme, mechanics and neatness.
Estillore placed as a finalist in her division in the local competition, held from December through January, and then won first place in this year’s state competition, held in early April.
“What a wonderful opportunity for our Wildcat to show how her thoughts can make a positive impact on the world,” Oslo Middle School Principal Beth Hofer said. “We are so proud of her!”
Estillore’s essay will represent Florida in the national contest. She will read her essay at the Florida State Elks Convention May 26 in Orlando, according to officials.