Local students’ essays win Elks Lodge awards

The Sweet Home Elks Lodge rewarded five Sweet Home area students on Jan. 21 for their essays on “What Freedom Means to Me.”

They were treated to dinner and presented with award certificates. First-place winners Mitch Weidner, fifth and sixth grade, and Lacey Carranza, winners in the seventh- and eighth-grade categories, will continue to the district level and could win a $100 savings bond. The winners will move on to the state and then national level.

Weidner is a sixth-grade student from Holley. Carranza is a seventh-grade student from Sweet Home Junior High.

Placing second and third in the fifth- and sixth-grade division were Sarah Weishaupt, a sixth-grader at Sand Ridge Charter School, and Brittany Poteet, a sixth-grader at Holley. Placing second at the junior high level was Rachel Newport, seventh grade at Sand Ridge.

The winning essays appear below.

Mitch Weidner

What freedom means to me. That’s easy. I can sum it up in three words: red, white and blue.

These are the colors of the American Flag. Our flag represents freedom for all people in the United States of America.

The color red stands for bravery, strength and the blood shed by the U.S. soldiers fighting for our freedom.

One of those soldiers who fought for our freedom was my Great-Grandpa in World War II. He voluntarily enlisted in the U.S. Army and was part of the 95th Infantry Division, the “Bravest of the Brave.” He was shot twice and shed blood for me, even before I was born. He earned two Purple Hearts and an Oak Leaf Cluster.

The second color of our American Flag is white. White represents peace and honesty. Honest men like my Great Grandpa went to war to fight for our freedom. Others fled our country. Those who fled aren’t true Americans. U.S. soldiers, who were drafted or enlisted, care about peace and freedom. They are honest men.

Lastly, the color blue. This is the color of loyalty and justice. Loyal Americans respect our freedom and understand how we got it. It was earned by the soldiers fighting for justice for all people. Many continue the fight every day to defend our flag, our freedom.

Next time you see the American Flag, just think about freedom and how much it actually cost. Freedom isn’t free.

Lacey Carranza

Freedom lives in the mind and heart. It’s a very precious gift. There can be full freedom when rights are balanced with responsibilities. There is full freedom when everyone has equal rights. For all to be free, each one has to respect the rights of others.

It takes work to be free, but everyone has the right too. We have many more freedoms than other countries do, but they didn’t come cheap. They were bought with blood, sweat and tears of many people.

Everyone thinks about freedom differently. For some, freedom means graduating from school, finally getting out into the world, getting a job and earning money. For others, it means throwing all your belongings into a car and getting out of a city into the country to breathe good, clean air.

For me, freedom is simply being yourself without worrying about any consequences or not being crushed by responsibilities and commitments and being able to do anything you please.

I don’t have to worry about digging in a dumpster for clothing, living in fear, begging for food on the side of the freeway. I can make my dreams come true and have no fears about it.

Even though people say there is no absolute freedom, I like to think there is. Actually now that I think about it, you can find absolute freedom in the mind and heart. There will be full freedom when everyone respects equal rights.