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Students honored for good citizenship
February 26, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen DAR Good Citizen and American History Award winners include back row from left to right: Jonah Wright of Scottsbluff High School, Jayden DeCora of Bridgeport High School, and Mercy McAndrew of Community Christian School. Front row: Lydia Connot of Gering Junior High, Sarah Connot of Northfield Elementary, Megan Gifford of Banner County High School, and Jessi Smith of Bayard High School. Also pictured is Joan Coker, winner of the Community Service Award. Winners not pictured: Hadley Kirk of Gering High School and Laurisa Gonzales of Morrill High School.

Katahdin Chapter members of the Daughters of the American Revolution gathered at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Scottsbluff Feb. 17 to honor local students who have made their own contributions to preserve our American heritage.

Area schools choose a senior to represent them for Good Citizen Awards.

Entrants are judged by DAR members on high school interests, awards, community home involvement, extracurricular activities and plans for the future. In the process, members look for dependability, service, leadership and patriotism.

Receiving the Good Citizen Award were senior Jonah Wright of Scottsbluff High School, senior Megan Gifford of Banner County High School, senior Jessi M. Smith of Bayard High School, senior Jayden DeCora of Bridgeport High School, senior Hadley Jean Kirk of Gering High School and senior Laurisa Gonzales of Morrill High School.

American History Awards also were presented at the ceremony. Students write an essay topic and several of them read their essays at the event. Seventeen fifth- through eighth-graders wrote about the Stamp Act and how the colonists viewed it as taxation without representation.

Sarah Janet Connot of Northfield Elementary won the sixth grade division. Lydia Mae Connor of Gering Junior High won the seventh grade division, and Mercy McAndrew of Community Christian School won the eighth grade division.

Freshman through seniors wrote an essay on the similarities between voyages of Christopher Columbus and Charles Lindbergh and what effects 400 years had on each man’s hopes of success.

Megan Gifford, a senior at Banner County High School, won the 12th-grade division award. She said her family always has been involved in patriotic activities and her grandmother encouraged her to write an essay for consideration.

“I’ve come to really enjoy the stories of our American history,” Gifford said. “It’s important to remember those things because they still affect us today.”

In the fall, Gifford will be attending the University of Nebraska at Kearney to study English with a minor in history

“There’s always something new to try, like our early explorers,” she said. “There’s always something for people to do to be amazing.

No matter how much technology has changed and how much time has passed, people can still make a difference and be in the history books.”

Our American Heritage and Our Responsibility for Preserving It

By Megan Gifford

Of our American rights and freedoms, which one would you choose to celebrate and why?

In 1620, the Pilgrims came to America to escape religious persecution. The Revolutionary War was fought for freedom from a monarchy. The Civil War was fought for the freedom of slaves. All these examples demonstrate how important freedom is to Americans. After all, we are willing to fight wars and cross oceans for freedom.

The need for freedom is the very foundation of our country. Our nation is blessed with the Constitution and its twenty-seven amendments. The United States is one of the most free nations in the world, if not the most free. Which freedom is most important to me?

I could choose freedom of speech, which allows us to express our opinions and criticize the government. I could choose freedom of religion, which is especially important to me as a Christian. Now that I am eighteen, the right to vote is also of special importance to me. Of all these, the right that means the most to me is the right to choose my own path.

In communist China, neither are people allowed to vote nor are they allowed to choose their career. In America, you are not only allowed but also encouraged to follow your dreams. Your gender, race, and religion are not a limitation. Our nation offers equal opportunity employment.

If you were in Russia for the previous election, you may have seen angry mobs protesting Putin’s victory. In many countries, like North Korea and most of China, citizens are not allowed to vote at all. In the United States, citizens are encouraged to vote, because every vote matters. Never will our citizens go without representation.

In the Middle East, ISIS, a Muslim terrorist group, is massacring those who refuse to convert to Islam. One of the main reasons the pilgrims originally traveled to America was to escape religious persecution. Due to our unique religious freedom, people from a variety of cultures have flocked to our country. In America, whether you are Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jewish, or even atheistic or agnostic you are allowed to coexist.

Not only does the United States allow us our freedoms, it also gives us laws to protect us. You are not allowed to steal from someone who worked hard for everything they have, and consequentially, no one can steal from you. You are not allowed to take the life of another, or your own life. Laws like these and many others protect our citizens from harming themselves and others, making our nation a safe, peaceful place to live.

The freedom to choose your career, vote for your leadership, and choose your own religion all contribute to the right to choose your own path. Here you can choose your own lifestyle, for better or worse. Whether you want to aim high and try to live the American dream, or simply find a safe harbor for a time, America is the place to be. Here, you have the opportunity to make something of yourself.

Thanks to emancipation, race does not matter. Thanks to suffrage, gender does not matter. Many have proven that economic background does not matter. In America, you can be great, or you can live a happy, normal life. That is why the freedom most important to me is the right to choose your own path.

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