Essay Contest

2021 Annual Essay Contest National Winners

Thank you to all of the teachers and students from across the country that participated in this year’s contest. We had our inboxes full when it came to reading all of the entries! The competition was fierce, but winners had to be chosen. Congratulations to the winners!


Winner: Grades 3-5

Anders Dahlin (Grade 4)

The grey laptop I get on at 8:00 AM in my house for virtral school because of Covid-19, the pandemic.This pandemic has changed peoples lives. One thing that it changed for my family and I is the ability to travel. Which means we have to be more careful where we go. Another thing that has changed is school, instead of going to real school I stay at home, log on to my laptop, go on a Google meet for school. After, I go to Google classroom to do class work, then I am done. Something else that has changed is food, my family has made more food because we can not go to restaurants.

One thing I think should change permanently is you should recycle, reduce, and reuse. Another thing that should be changed permanently is we should use LED light bulbs. Something else I should not use is plastic straws. They are harmful to the environment because they do not decompose. Also I will stop how much trash I produce, a human produces 4.3 lbs of trash a day and 1569 lbs of trash a year.

One thing that I could do to protect the environment is turning off the lights. Another thing I should do is bike and walk instead of using a car. Also I will reduce my use of paper towels. Something else that could help the environment is Reducing Greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide. Also do not use fossil fuels like coal, oil, natural gas, and gasoline.

One thing I think should be done in the US that is done in Germany is that biking is common. Germany has better laws about recycling. Germany has better public transportation. The US has good natural resources and a park system


Winner: Grades 6-8

Madeline Ladewig (Grade 7)

President John F. Kennedy once called West Berlin “an island of freedom in a Communist sea.” But West Berlin wasn’t really free or an island of freedom. Freedom means the power or right to act, speak or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. In August 1961, the East German government began building a wall separating East and West Berlin. Before the wall was built, people from East and West Berlin could move across freely. Some people had jobs on one side of the border and homes on another. Some people had family in East Berlin and were in West Berlin when the wall came up, like Ursula Bach. She was in a chaotic West German refugee camp, pregnant with her fiance’s child. Ursula had fled East Berlin, leaving her fiance, Fried, in East Berlin. She never saw him again. For citizens of East and West Berlin, the Berlin Wall meant that their world was changing.

When the wall went up, the people of East and West Berlin knew things would be different. The wall meant the citizens of East Berlin had to stay in East Berlin. Before the wall went up, there was a steadily rising number of skilled workers, professionals, and intellectuals that commuted from East Berlin to West. This pattern was threatening the economic value of East Germany. This means that East Germany could lose its citizens to the idea of a better life. You can’t really control people that could just bike over to a better life. The Berlin Wall symbolizes what happens when there is unchecked power and the pain that can come with it.

The Berlin Wall has been gone more years than it was standing, but it still is remembered because it caused pain. The Iron Curtain stood as a symbol of the Cold War because it showed other people that they could just as easily be ripped apart from their families by their government.

President Kennedy may have assured the American and the German people that he had a commitment to defend West Berlin and to keep it an island of freedom, but you can never truly have freedom when you know your neighbors can’t see their families or say what they want to say.

We, as humans, can always learn from our mistakes. We know that history repeats itself. We can’t undo this part of history, but the Berlin Wall taught us that we must help one another. This means that we can’t just turn our eyes away from a problem, no matter how small or how big. We have to work together peacefully when problems pop up, and we can never have people on an island of freedom because if only few people are free to do as they wish, the neighbors will be torn apart because of the thought of a better life. You can never truly be free when the bird next to you is still in its cage.


Winner: Grades 9-12

Peter Sawchuk (Grade 10)

The life and work of Sophie Scholl serve as a reminder that our work as humans, as thinking people, is never done. We must always be questioning authority and standing up for what we believe to be right. Perhaps Hegel was right in saying “We learn from history, that we do not learn from history”, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Through understanding our past we can better control our future. This is why Sophie Scholl is still relevant to today. With the ongoing struggles for civil rights in both Germany and the USA (and of course many other countries), the work of Scholl has never been more pertinent to our world.

Born to an upper-middle-class German family in 1921, politics was in her blood. Her father, Robert Scholl, was the mayor of the small town of Furchtenburg (in modern-day Baden-Württemberg) and preached democratic ideals such as freedom of speech; later, he would be critical of his childrens’ involvement in the Hitler Youth program. Despite her initial enthusiam over the teachings of the Nazi party, her brother (Hans Scholl) being arrested in 1937 changed her world. From that moment on, Sophie Scholl was a member of the White Rose, a covert operation to combat Nazi propaganda. The White Rose produced six pamphlets documenting the cruelty and ethical atrocities commited by the Nazis. Distributing them at the University of Munich and throughout the country, the White Rose was a powerful force against the führer’s dogma. After being caught by a adherent janitor, Sophie and Hans Scholl along with Cristoph Probst were executed on February 22, 1943. Shortly after the other members of the White Rose (Willi Graf, Alexander Schmorell, and Kurt Huber) were executed. The seventh pamphlet was drafted, but never finished.

Now, why is the work of Scholl and her friends paramount to today? I believe it is because they are inherently relevant, regardless of time or culture. The sentiments in the White Rose pamphlets reflect the common struggle throughout history of the people to cause change. Especially under facist dictatorships any semblance of reform or progress is near impossible, but that didn’t stop the White Rose from trying. Sophie Scholl is a reminder that we as human beings, ought to stand up for what we feel is right; that at no moment should we be complacent or comfortable. A lassiez-faire population is perfect for exploitation.

In the mean time our job is what it’s always been: just like Scholl to educate ourselves and others about the dilemmas we as a world face, and fight fervently until the society around us reflects the morals we hold. It is our job and obligation as thinking people, to not be on the side of the executioner, to not cower away from conflict, but to stand up for what we believe in. Or in Scholl’s own words: “I am, now as before, of the opinion that I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences that result from my conduct.”