Lehighton Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 256 presented prizes to the top three winners and honorable mention students who entered the VFW Patriot's Pen Essay Contest at Ss. Peter and Paul School. The theme of the essay contest was "Are You Proud of Your Country."

Serving as master of ceremonies was Harry Wynn III, senior vice commander.

Wynn said that the contest concludes each year near Veterans Day and he thanked the students and principal, Sherry Sernak for her cooperation and support of the contest.

"We have 30 entries this year and that means we were able to send the top two winners to the state competition," said Wynn.

The winners were: Amy McConnell, $50, eighth grade; Bruce Smith, $40, sixth grade; and Miguel Gonzalez, $30, seventh grade.

McConnell read her essay. She wrote, "Our ancestors came to this country for freedom. One of the first accomplishments as a new country was the winning of our independence from England and starting a democracy."

McConnell said that current soldiers risk their lives four our country every day. "We should be proud and thankful for all they do to protect our country and citizens."

"Through the years, many soldiers have lost their lives fighting for and protecting our freedom," said McConnell. "We can be proud of our country and the hard work of our ancestors that allows us to live in freedom today."

Second place winner Smith wrote, "I am proud of my country and I would not want to live anywhere else. The United States is the most beautiful place to live."

Smith wrote about starting is day in school saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school every morning. "When I look at the American flag, it reminds me of the military and their sacrifices. I pray for their safety and families every day."

He concluded with, "I am proud my family lives in the United States of America. We have many privileges that people in other countries do not have. I look forward to my future in this country because it has many opportunities."

Gonzalez wrote that he was proud of his country because the United States of America has changed the world.

"I have the right to vote for the leaders of our nation. I have the right to go to school and get an education and the right to choose my religion without being made fun of."

Gonzalez concluded with, "We have changed the world from winning wars for freedom to inventing the cell phone."

Honorable mention students were Daisy Dixon, Matthew Greenfield, Tyler Ritter, Ryan Andrews, Joseph Bradley, Isaiah Fitzsimmons, Victoria Eads-Rodriguez, Mason Smith, Abigail Rakos, Robert Middleton, Nola Barilla, Julia Barthold, Alexandra Lentini, Clarissa Colondo, Joseph Giordano, Julia Glitzer, Alexis Rohlfing, Zoryana Duda, Antonia Galasso, Kennedy Malsch, Jasmine Mooney, Valerie Hans, Mary Wilhelm, Emily Roberti, Annie Nelson and Sarah Bradley.