One of those organizations in the Abita Springs area
is the Homer Williams VFW Post. Yearly, our local post encourages the development of citizenship in our area students by sponsoring
a variety of competitive endeavors aimed at doing just that. At their annual Christmas party, the winners of the competitions
were invited to attend the function and receive recognition for their efforts.
Sharlene Algaier teaches third-graders at Woodlake Elementary School. Her efforts to develop citizenship in her students earned
her the VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. The specific purpose of the award is to “recognize top classroom
teachers who teach citizenship education topics and promote America’s history, traditions and institutions effectively.”
Algaier works hard to fulfill the mission of instilling
those values. Her lessons include field trips to the National World War II Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the USS
Kidd, the Madisonville Maritime Museum, Louisiana State Capitol, the parish courthouse and local city hall.
In her classroom, she creates a “mini society,”
allowing students to experience entrepreneurial skills, the law, and military and citizenship concepts. Her students operate
the school post office in conjunction with the local post office. She and her students are involved in a class project, “Pets
for Patriots,” designed to benefit military dogs. That is an ambitious undertaking for a teacher who also has to pay
attention to reading, writing and arithmetic. However, smart educators often incorporate those elements together in teaching
things like citizenship skills.
The VFW also recognized a number of students who displayed
their love of country and knowledge of citizenship. Morgan Laurent, a senior at Fontainebleau High School, received first place in the “Voice of Democracy”
scholarship competition. The other winners included Samantha Anderson, a senior at Fontainebleau, second place; and third place went to Amy Jones, a senior at Northlake Christian School. The theme for this year’s essay contest was, “Does my Generation Have a Role in America’s Future?”
Middle school students participated in the “Patriot
Pen” essay contest. This year’s winners were: first place, Ada Tusa, an eighth-grader at Mandeville Junior High;
second place, Dayna Celino, Northlake Christian School; and third place went to Carson Ryan, Mary, Queen of Peace
Catholic School. The competition was stiff, including 330 entries from five schools. The essays were forwarded to the Operation
We care organization for distribution to our troops.
There were also four Americanism contests that drew
1,451 entries from eight area schools. Two of the participating students won district honors for their entries. Gabrielle
Gauthier from Abita Springs
Middle School displayed artistic as well as patriotic knowledge in the drawing
competition. “What the Fourth of July Means to Me” was the title of the winning theme submitted by Gabe Ingram
from Our Lady of the Lake Roman Catholic School.
The students and their teachers who took the time to
enter the various contests are all to be commended. Evaluating the large number of entries had to be a monumental task and
a shout out is in order to Kay Peats, who organizes all of this and provides the publicity for our local VFW post. In the
words of the old song, we need to “teach our children well,” and instilling the values that go with being a citizen
of the greatest nation in the world is a worthy endeavor.