ENGLEWOOD — Veterans of Foreign Wars is honoring L.A. Ainger Middle School student Eleanor Keys, who ranked first in Florida for the Patriot’s Pen essay competition, with another accolade — $500 for ranking 33rd nationally.
The writing contest asked the question, “What would I tell the founding fathers?”
Eleanor spent 30 hours researching the founding fathers.
Here’s an excerpt from the essay:
“Although America has made its own mistakes over the years, and seen and experienced its fair share of war, poverty, political divisions and acts of slavery, the fundamental principles have always survived and remained true. And as time progresses, these principles…have brought both challenges and great changes that have united a country with its people.”
The essay touched on themes of adversity, principles and perseverance.
“It’s a great honor to be awarded,” Eleanor said. “I’m putting (the money) into a savings account for college.”
The Keys family celebrated the state honors at a ceremony in Orlando.
“I think it is tremendous Eleanor won first place in the state,” said Darryl Keys, her father. “We learned (Wednesday) that as Florida’s representative, she placed 33rd nationally, which is remarkable considering she was one of 140,000 entries nationally.”
Roger Luedtke, VFW Post Commander 10476 in Rotonda, was present at the ceremony.
“It’s terrific to see a bright young lady with such an honor,” Luedtke said. “We submitted three (essays) to our district. Our post never had such a participant before. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment with 92 entries (to our post).”
Eleanor’s older sister, Katie, who attends Lemon Bay High School, sang the national anthem at the ceremony.
“(Eleanor’s) essay clearly answered the question and articulated it very well,” Luedtke said. “She nailed it. It speaks well for the school, parents and her teacher. ”