Winner of essay contest writes about father as hero

Published 8:00 pm Monday, February 28, 2022

DOWAGIAC — More than 50 local eighth-graders submitted essays for a nationwide competition, and the two selected winners were both from girls who wrote about their father as a hero. 

Dowagiac Middle School eighth-grade students participated in the 53rd annual America & Me Essay Contest, writing essays about their personal Michigan heroes – showing how friends, family and community members have made a positive, lasting difference in their lives. 

Haley Henry was selected as the top essay of the group, and will advance to the statewide competition for a chance at winning $1,000. Her essay was about her dad Bryan Henry, who is principal at Justus Gage Elementary as well as a baseball and softball coach. 

“My dad is a very hard-working man and yet he always makes time for me and my family,” said Haley Henry, in her essay. “ I don’t know how he does it. He always makes an effort to make it to me and my sisters’ sports or conferences.”

Mya Vazquez earned second place among Dowagiac students. Both students earned certificates for their achievement. Henry’s name will also be engraved on a plaque for permanent display in the school.

About 130 essays were written by the students, with 50 choosing to enter theirs into the contest. Essays were written in November, and were then read and selected by English teacher Denise Stockwell, as well as other DMS staff.

“It is always great to see our Dowagiac Middle School students find success,” Stockwell said. “We see it on the field, the court, and on the stage.  I truly love to see when they find powerful ways to stand out with their academics as well.  This particular essay is a look into the life and inspiration our students see around them.  Our DMS students do look at the role models around them and it is wonderful when students can be recognized for expressing themselves in meaningful ways.” 

Started in 1968 and open to all Michigan eighth grade students, the America & Me Essay Contest encourages Michigan youngsters to explore the greatness of America and its people. Farm Bureau Insurance sponsored the competition, and local agent Jeff Neumann submitted the essays for judging by the statewide panel. A team of finalist judges, including a top Michigan government official as well as the sponsoring teachers of last year’s top two statewide winners, will determine the winners.

The statewide winners, who will be announced in April, will each receive a plaque, a medallion and a cash award of $1,000. Farm Bureau Insurance will also be presenting each top ten statewide school with a $1,000 check, along with an additional $500 if the school was sponsored by a Farm Bureau Insurance agent.  

The traditional annual America & Me Essay Contest Awards Day is scheduled for Tuesday, May 31, 2022, in Lansing. The top 10 students and their teachers from across the state will be invited to participate in the day-long group recognitions.

Several thousand eighth-grade students from nearly 200 Michigan schools participated in the contest.