Students from John A. Ferguson High School and Christopher Columbus High School beat out more than 50,000 other participants for top spots in America’s largest high school essay contest, the Bill of Rights Institute announced recently. Representing the South Atlantic Region, Geidys Mederos, a senior at Ferguson High, earned first place and $5,000 in the fourth annual “Being An American” essay contest. Matthew DeFranks, a senior at Columbus High, earned an honorable mention prize and $250.
The national competition is sponsored by the Bill of Rights Institute, an educational nonprofit based near Washington, DC.
Mederos’ sponsoring teacher, Carlos Ardaya, received a matching cash prize of $5,000. DeFranks’ sponsoring teacher, Randall Martinez, received a matching cash prize of $250.
In addition to the cash prizes, Mederos and Ardaya won paid trips to the nation’s capital, where they were honored on Mar. 23 during an awards gala. The Washington, DC, trip also included a Capitol Hill luncheon with federal lawmakers and the students participated in tours of the U.S. Capitol, Supreme Court and National Archives.
“It is encouraging to see so many teens heading into adulthood with a solid understanding of the principles upon which our country was founded,” said Bill of Rights Institute president Victoria Hughes, a former teacher. “This year’s winners deserve the accolades of their peers, teachers and communities for their contribution to the national conversation on American citizenship.”
More than 100,000 students attending public and private high schools, and homeschooled students from all 50 states, have participated in the “Being An American” essay contest to date, with nearly one half million dollars in prize money being awarded to winning students and their teachers.
To participate, students were asked to share their thoughts on American citizenship by answering the following question: “What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?”
In her winning essay, Mederos, who selected “responsibility” as the civic value topic of her essay and thought George Washington most embodied the American character, wrote: “Responsibility is what takes us from wanting to do something to applying ourselves and achieving it. With responsibility and determination, we are able to do nearly anything. Likewise, without responsibility we are able to destroy everything… George Washington personified responsibility like few have done; his example of accountability should be followed by all… Indisputably, responsibility is the conductor of success, which in turn stimulates our country’s continual freedom and welfare.”
In his essay, DeFranks, who also selected “responsibility” as the civic value topic of his essay and thought Abraham Lincoln most embodied the American character, wrote: “The first 10 amendments show that the framers found it their responsibility to not only create a government, but also to protect the people.”
More information on the “Being An American” essay contest can be found at < www.BeingAnAmerican.org >.