First-time:Two St. Brendan students move on to national DAR essay competition

For the first time, two St. Brendan Catholic School students have been named state winners of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) American History Essay Contest. Sixth grader Maverick Knight and eighth grader Matthew Shipman's essays have moved on to the national contest.
The lives of children in the Revolutionary War was the theme of this year's contest. Students were asked to depict the life of a child growing up during the Revolutionary War, whether a real person or fictional character, in approximately 1,000 words. Scores were tallied by members of a DAR committee, based on the title page, historical accuracy, subject, organization, originality, interest, spelling, punctuation, grammar and the bibliography. All schools in the Mexico  area were asked to participate.
The DAR is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women's service organization that promotes patriotism, preserves American history and secures America's future through the education of children.
DAR Regent Jackie Hanke said, "Every year we take the paper work to each school. We give them about two months and then pick up the completed essays.  They were asked to portray a child involved in the Revolutionary War and what it felt like to be that child. The children, for their age, came up with original material that portrayed how they felt. When we read these essays, we saw that these kids came up with thoughts that made you feel as though they could have been those children. Maybe that will spark some interest in the revolution and the history of this country, which is what the DAR would like."
Knight and Shipman will be honored at the DAR luncheon.
St. Brendan fifth-eighth grade English teacher Cheryl Bledsoe said she was very pleased with her students, all of whom participated in the contest. "We do well each year locally, but this is the first time we've taken first, second and third in each grade level and the first time we had two state winners," Bledsoe said.
The other local winners from St. Brendan Catholic School were fifth grader Carter McIntosh and seventh grader Matthew Spurling.
St. Brendan fifth-eighth grade social studies teacher Vicki Maassen and Bledsoe shared in preparing the students for the history-English project.
Bledsoe said, "This year there's a lot more room for creativity, where as in years past the essays were more research based. This was very open ended, I thought. Some kids perform better when it's creative, verses the research, but other kids need the structure. The winners this year did a great job. These two boys are very creative, so this essay was right up their alley."
"I could hear the cannons firing in the distance," Knight begins in his winning essay. "I knew the fighting was far away now, but could be right outside our door in no time at all. The war with Great Britain had started a few months ago on April 19, 1775, and we had not heard from my father, Gerald Jones, since he left with the Patriot party to fight for independence from Great Britain."
Knight's essay revolves around a fictional boy, whose family helps to aid two American soldiers, one of whom is injured in battle. His brother, Tom, eventually follows the soldiers into war to join his father, who is already enlisted. The protagonist begins taking his father food from home in "haversacks," and is glad to feel like a part of the war effort.
After reaching his father's camp without being detected by British soldiers, his father is impressed by his stealthiness and introduces his son to General George Washington. Washington asks the boy to deliver a message to Colonel William Prescott. The boy would go on to become an official messenger and eventually a soldier.
Though Tom is killed in battle, both the father and protagonist return home after the Treaty of Paris is signed to end the war.
Knight said one of his favorite parts of the project was researching time-period words, such as haversack: a small, sturdy bag carried on the back or over the shoulder, used especially by soldiers and hikers. He thinks this may have been one aspect of his essay that made it successful in the state contest.
"I'm nervous about not knowing if I will be the best, or even, could I be the best?" Knight said about the national contest. "I wish good luck to everyone who we are competing against."
Shipman was also nervous about participating at the state level, "but I just wish the best of luck to all the people who are competing. I hope everybody gets a fair chance and may the best essay be the winner," he said.
Though he may be a little anxious about the competition, writing the essay was easier for the experienced eighth grader. "We write essays every year in fifth-eighth grade. I think I won, because I had a lot of information about Fort Moultrie and what it would have been like, and I kind of grab on in the beginning with a bit of action and the death of the boy's father. But, I couldn't have done it without my mom and dad's support."
Like Knight's essay, Shipman's is fiction of a tragic nature. His characters move from cities such as Lexington and Charleston in their stand against the British invasion and inevitably participate in the Battle of Yorktown.
Shipman's favorite aspect of writing his essay was being free to create his own story. He said, "Since you're writing it, you get to decide what happens next and how you think it would be best for the story to go.
"It gave a vision of what the time was like. Reading old history books, you don't get a real interpretation of how bad it could be. When you look further into it, you realize what the war was like for people living in that time."
Shipman's essay concludes: "The Battle of Yorktown was long and hard and so many good men died that day. When the battle was over we had won. The British had surrendered and it was over. My father's death was avenged. We returned home, back to where we started. We finally were able to give my father the burial he deserved and we were finally able to get back to our lives."