The Temecula Valley Elks honored six students for their winning entries in the club’s annual “Americanism” essay contest.
More than 90 local students competed in the Elks district contest this year, an Elks news release said.
This year’s theme was “Why I am proud to pledge allegiance to our flag.”
Winners received certificates and savings bonds.
They also were treated to a dinner on Feb.14 with their families and teachers .
The judging committee chose three winners each in Division I, grades 5 and 6, and Division II, grades 7 and 8.
First place: Emily Rose, 6th grade, Van Avery Preparatory, Temecula.
Second place: Elijah Fang, 5th grade, Pauba Valley Elementary School in Temecula
Third place: Megan Sweeney, 5th grade Van Avery Prep
First place: Alexa Amatulli, 8th grade, Van Avery Prep
Second place: Talia Basch, 8th grade, Van Avery Prep
Third place: Kyra Storkersen, 8th grade, Van Avery Prep
Savanah Esteban is proud to be an American.
The 12-year-old proves it during her daily routine as a student at the San Jacinto Leadership Academy, and when she received an assignment to write an essay about why she is proud to pledge allegiance to the American flag, she wrote from her heart.
This led to her earning first place in the state for the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Grand Lodge Americanism Essay Contest.
“The pledge means I am part of this country,” she wrote in her essay that could not exceed 250 words. “Every morning when I recite the pledge, it gives me a moment to thank my two grandfathers who have fought in war for my freedom, and the many blessings this country has given me.”
Paul Gonzalez, the Southeast District Americanism chairman, said the judges were most impressed with those final words of Savanah’s essay.
“The feedback from the state chairman was that she clearly got the message of the theme and hit the nail on the head,” said Gonzalez, of Temecula. “There was so much truth in her words.”
San Jacinto Leadership Academy’s principal, Col. Francis Sick, said he submitted all essays to the local Elks Lodge No. 1740 for consideration. Jim Winget, who serves as Americanism and veterans chairman of the lodge, said he enlisted the aid of several schoolteachers to help choose the top six that should move on to the next level.
Savanah’s was among the group that competed with finalists from 19 other districts that are part of the California and Hawaii Elks Association, each one with multiple lodges.
“At that point she was judged at the state level and received first place. Now she will go for competition at the national level. We will learn the top three in July,” Gonzalez said.
Savanah is a squad leader and previously served as a platoon leader for the student body of 126 at the academy that models itself on military events.
“When we got the news she had won the contest, it was so meaningful. It represents what our family is about,” said her mom, Samiko Esteban. “When we were looking at schools for Savanah we met Col. Sick and loved everything he talked about. He put a lot of value on education and we felt the philosophy here was a good fit for her.”
The sixth-grader is no stranger to achievement, having earned science fair, spelling bee and perfect attendance awards since starting school in 2005. She also earned her black belt in Taekwon-do in 2007 and is captain of the Temecula Viper Volleyball 12 Amber club team. She is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and has appeared on television and in print ads.
Savanah said she likes the way she is challenged at school, with social studies and language arts being her favorite classes. Although she has changed her career goals a few times already, her mom said there has been one constant — her love of writing.
If you have an idea for a Young Achiever profile, contact Assistant Metro Editor Nikie Johnson at 951-763-3461 or njohnson@PE.com.
RESIDENCE: San Jacinto
FAMILY: Parents Bibi and Samiko Esteban; brother Cade, 6
NOTABLE: The San Jacinto Leadership Academy cadet placed first in the state for her patriotic essay.