On Jan. 9, judges selected the central Kenai Peninsula winners of the VFW's annual youth essay contest.
The top award went to Amber Hall, a home-school student in the eighth grade who lives south of Soldotna. She received $375 in prizes, $75 for winning the home-school category and $300 for winning the district competition.
In addition, her work and that of runners-up advance to the next round of competition at the state level.
Kyle McMillan, a seventh-grader at Aurora Borealis Charter School in Kenai, placed second. He won a total of $225 so far.
Students from five schools, plus home school participated. This year the contest had the most entries ever, 310, from the central peninsula.
The contest asked students in grades seven and eight to write a 300- to 400-word essay. This year's topic was "Is Freedom Really Free?"
Eight judges drawn from the community ranked the papers based on their clarity and how well they addressed and developed the theme.
Three winners from each school were chosen and received awards of $75, $50 and $25 for first through third places.
In addition, the top winners overall received additional monetary awards.
The winners from participating schools were:
Aurora Borealis: Kyle McMillan, first; Whitney Rysdyk, second; and Trevor Kauffman, third
Cook Inlet Academy: Lindsay Bauder, first; Jake Zufelt, second; and Marcus Brown, third
Kalifonsky Christian School: Kadin Pribbenow, first; Chris Desormeaux, second; and Adam Trippe, third
Kenai Middle School: Brad Brown, first; Toshua Wade, second; and Lindsay Keener, third
Nikiski Middle School: Tatiana Butler, first; Robert Zinck, second; and Emily Kennedy, third
The essays of the seven students with the highest scores advance to the VFW Department (state) level. Judging for state winners will be in February.
The top three state winners will receive U.S. Savings Bonds. The state winner will be eligible for national competition. The top national prize is $10,000.
The central peninsula competition is organized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Jerry V. Horn Memorial Post No. 10046 and its Ladies Auxiliary in Soldotna.
The post also sponsors an audio essay contest for high school students.
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