Each year, Basehor VFW Post 11499 offers local students the opportunity to write an essay about patriotism and earn cash at the same time. This year’s Patriot Pen essay subject for middle school students was America’s Gift to My Generation, which garnered nearly 600 entries from USD 458.

Students were encouraged to write essays of 300 to 400 words, incorporating their views on the subject. All entries were reviewed and assigned points by a review panel of VFW members and community members.

Each of the winning entries were sent to compete at a district level with those winners progressing to the state level of competition.

Ten winning essays were read aloud by the students at an awards ceremony last week at Basehor’s VFW.

Patriot Pen essay winners include sixth-grade students London Lee, Prisha Patel, Alyiah Shirley, Garrett McMillen, Macy McKissick and Sebastian Laffoon as well as eighth-grade winners Austyn Hill, Grace Himpel, Hanna Hull and Ava Gunn. Each winner received a certificate and a cash award.  

In addition to the written essay contest for middle school students, high school students were invited to create an audio entry of three to five minutes on the subject of American History: Our Hope for the Future. The winner was Dalton Penix-Randel, a senior at Basehor-Linwood Virtual School.  

Special VFW guests Patrick Briggs, state senior vice commander, and Larry Albright, first district commander, were also on hand to give special awards to Grace Himpel and Dalton Penix-Randel, whose entries also both received third-place honors at the district level. Each received an additional cash award.

Along with the essay and audio contests, Post 11499 also took nominations for a National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. This year’s winner was Rebecca Hill, a fifth-grade social studies teacher at Basehor Intermediate School.  Nominated by her peers, Hill won not only the post’s competition but also the district competition as well for her work educating her students about the values of being a good citizen.

The daughter of an Army veteran, Hill was nominated by four of her fellow teachers as well as her principal. As part of the nomination process, she was required to put together a portfolio of some of her classroom studies as well as her personal volunteer work.

Within the Basehor community, Hill is involved with collecting food for Basehor-Linwood Assistance Services and also arranges interactive and informational visits for students from members of the Basehor Museum Historical Society, City Hall and the Basehor Police Department. She also has very high expectations for flag etiquette and showing respect for America. Hill is also active in the Wreaths Across America program, which aims to provide a Christmas wreath for all veterans who have been laid to rest at local cemeteries, including Leavenworth National Cemetery and Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.

Accepting her award, Hill was quick to recognize her teaching family as well as her biological family. She noted that being nominated by four peers as well as her principal put her in a unique class that even longtime members of the VFW do not recall ever happening.

“I had not seen that before and I thought it was pretty cool,” she said. “But as the daughter of a 35-year Army veteran, this award is for you dad.”

Beth Kornegay is a freelance writer covering news and events in the city of Basehor. If you have a story idea, email her at gabi_kansas@yahoo.com