Charlie Seybold has been disappointed to see the number of entries in the Sertoma Club of Jackson County’s annual Freedom Essay Contest decrease over the years.
All sixth-graders in the county are invited to participate, but with so many other assignments and requirements, some teachers choose not to get their classes involved.
But this year, Seybold, chairman of the essay contest, said there was an uptick in submissions.
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“We had a good turnout in both quantity and quality,” he said. “I think students are really starting to get it, and that spirit of freedom and patriotism is coming back.”
For the contest, students were asked to compose a short essay describing what freedom means to them.
After reading through all of the entries, Sertoma members selected Kassidy Wischmeier from Lutheran Central School in Brownstown as the overall winner. She received a $100 gift certificate, a U.S. flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol in her honor and an official City of Seymour pin.
She read her essay aloud during the event.
Kassidy said freedom means different things to different people.
“I would say freedom is everything,” she said. “Freedom is choice and responsibility, choosing a path and dealing with every bump in the road, control over your actions and living with the consequences.”
But freedom is also hope, she said.
“Hoping for a better tomorrow, hope that the wars fought today will be over tomorrow, hoping that children will never have to see the repercussions of war on the television screen, hoping that they will never deal with the emotional ruin one gets from war, hoping that if we try hard enough today, things will be better tomorrow,” she said.
She also defined freedom as faith and love.
“Faith in a true God that made the Earth and that our founding fathers built into the Constitution,” she said. “Being able to see and touch your loved ones and every person you meet however you want to, loving as a friend or foe, loving as family or friends, loving the way you want to love your children, freedom is all of these things.”
Second place went to Owen Wischmeier of St. John’s Lutheran School Sauers, and third place went to Lyndsey Greenawalt from the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center. They each received $50 gift cards, flag sets and pins.
Other school winners were Lauren Bode of Immanuel Lutheran School, Destanie Bowling of Brownstown Central Middle School, Jacqueline Garcia of Medora Junior-Senior High School and Giselle Guzman of St. Ambrose Catholic School. Each student received a monetary award.
The club honored the students during its annual Freedom Banquet on March 11 at The Pines Restaurant in Seymour. Jackson County Superior Court I Judge AmyMarie Travis served as the keynote speaker, and Mayor Matt Nicholson delivered a proclamation declaring March as Freedom Month in Seymour.
“You’re all winners. There’s no doubt about it,” Seybold told the students.
In his essay, Owen wrote there are many different freedoms, including freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
Because of freedom, he has the right to worship the way he wants to and express his opinions to others, he wrote.
“As it stated in the Declaration of Independence, I, too, feel that freedom is about each person having the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he wrote.
But freedom does not come without a price, he added.
“Thousands of men and women have served in the military for our country. They fought for our freedom,” he wrote. “Many lost their lives trying to protect our country from communism and dictatorship so we may be free.”
In his family, the value of freedom has been passed down from generation to generation.
“And (it’s) something I will cherish my whole life,” he wrote.
Greenawalt wrote about how she is blessed with freedom.
Oftentimes, American citizens take their freedoms for granted, including the right to vote, to voice their opinion and to choose an occupation, she said in her essay.
“When you consider all that we have in the United States, I think you’ll soon be thankful for the freedom we have,” she wrote. “The citizens of this country can live the life they choose to live.”
Americans can choose which church they attend and where they want to live to raise their families, she said in her essay.
“We have the freedom to travel around the world. We citizens of the United States can stand up for what we think is right and not get arrested for having certain opinions,” she wrote.
Freedom is a blessing, she added.
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Winners in Sertoma Club of Jackson County’s 2019 Freedom Essay Contest
First: Kassidy Wischmeier, Lutheran Central School
Second: Owen Wischmeier, St. John’s Lutheran School Sauers
Third: Lyndsey Greenawalt, Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center
Other school winners: Lauren Bode, Immanuel Lutheran School; Destanie Bowling, Brownstown Central Middle School; Jacqueline Garcia, Medora Junior-Senior High School; Giselle Guzman, St. Ambrose Catholic School