Eighth grade student Ethan Sweno won first place in the local Patriot Pen contest, which is open to middle school students. He went on to win the district competition and then the state, said Sandra Myers, a member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary. She said that 42 states qualified for the national award and that Sweno ultimately ranked 26th nationally. He received a $1,000 bond at the state level and another $1,000 bond at the national level.
Sweno was born in South Korea and was adopted by Eric and Kerry Sweno. His essay focused on citizenship in America and the rights that some American take for granted.
Eric Sweno said he was proud of what Ethan had written, in part because it “came from the heart.” He said that Ethan started working on the essay for extra credit in Brandy Woodall’s classroom. Before long, he was taking the essay very seriously and pitching ideas to his father while brainstorming about what to include in the essay.
“You could see the lights come on,” Eric said.
Dillon Page, another eighth grade student in Woodall’s class, won second place in the local competition. He came to the VFW dinner with his mother, Holly, his brother, Austin and his grandmother, Beverly Martin, a member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary. Page received a $75 United States savings bond.
Martin said she strongly encouraged her grandson to enter the contest and she thought his essay was very good. She added that she was not on the judging committee this year because he was involved. She had several glowing things to say about the Patriot Pen contest.
“The scholarships are wonderful,” Martin said. “It’s a wonderful program. I’d like to see more kids get involved. It’s a great chance to get money for their education.”
Third place local winner Faythe Rea was not present at the dinner.