Seymour fifth-grader wins mayor’s essay contest

Brenda Juarez Marcelo said she thinks Seymour is way underrated.

In her “What I like about Seymour” essay, she shared information about the Reno brothers committing the first documented robbery on a moving train in the history of the United States on Oct. 6, 1866.

She also noted singer-songwriter John Mellencamp being from Seymour and writing about it in his hit song “Small Town.”

The Freeman Army Airfield is another unique thing about Seymour. The Army base was established in 1942 as a pilot training airfield, and Black bomber pilots, known as the Tuskegee Airmen, trained there in 1944.

It also was the scene of an incident known as the Freeman Field Mutiny that ultimately led to the desegregation of the U.S. military. Today, the property operates as Freeman Municipal Airport, and there are two buildings housing the Freeman Army Airfield Museum.

Plus, the city has been the site of the Seymour Oktoberfest on the first weekend of October for 50 years, and it’s known as the Crossroads of Southern Indiana for the intersection of two major railroad lines, CSX and Louisville & Indiana, and two federal highways, U.S. 50 and U.S. 31.

Juarez Marcelo also explained how Seymour got its name in 1852 from the railroad’s civil engineer, shared two of her favorite places to eat, Pizza Palace and Donut Central, and noted Seymour High School has one of the largest high school gymnasiums in the country.

“Now that I gave you a ton of information about Seymour, Indiana, do you also think it’s underrated?” she concluded in her essay. “Seymour still has way more cool things about it, but I won’t tell you. You have to find out about it by yourself.”

Earlier this year, fifth-graders at all of the Seymour elementary schools were encouraged to participate in the mayor’s essay contest with the theme “What I like about Seymour.” From the entries, an overall winner was chosen.

Recently visiting Jeff Klakamp’s classroom at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School, Principal Tony Hack and Assistant Principal Curt Schleibaum surprised Juarez Marcelo by announcing she was the winner.

“Brenda, we are super proud of you,” Hack said.

“I will tell you guys, every year, I read these when you write them,” he said. “Fifth-graders get this opportunity. The teachers go through and then they send them to me, and we send them to the company. I will tell you, it has been 15 years since I was a teacher in the classroom, and the only student work I read every single word are these essays, and you guys impressed me. I appreciate your hard work. I appreciate how hard you have worked over your entire career.”

Allen Mitchell is the creator of Coloring My Town, where he produces fun, educational coloring books customized for individual communities. People in each community are featured with caricatures.

In the fourth edition of the Coloring Seymour coloring book, Juarez Marcelo is on Page 60 wearing a Brown Elementary shirt and holding a pizza. In the background are a train on railroad tracks, Seymour High School and military airplanes, all things she wrote about in her essay. On Page 61 is a copy of her winning essay.

Each student in Klakamp’s class received a copy of the coloring book, and a reproduction of pages 60 and 61 was made in color, put in a frame and presented to Juarez Marcelo.

“She is now famous in so many different ways,” said Hack, who noted he also is featured in the coloring book.

Hack and Schleibaum were joined by Juarez Marcelo’s father, Rodrigo, during the surprise presentation.

“I’m just really happy for her because she is always painting. Her sisters, too. They like to paint and draw things,” Rodrigo said.

Brenda said she has lived in Seymour since she was 7 and attended Brown since second grade.