When Jaden Earle, 9, stands for the Pledge of Allegiance or sings the national anthem, it is more than rote recitation.
"It gives me a great sense of pride and joy to know that when I salute our American flag, I am acknowledging the meaning behind its entire existence," he wrote in an essay. "I understand all of the sacrifices that were made in order to guarantee the freedoms that we all have and cherish."
Jaden, a Seeliger Elementary School fourth-grader, was announced Tuesday evening as the elementary level winner of the Carson City School District's 11th annual American Citizen Essay Contest.
Claire Benson, a seventh-grader at Bethlehem Lutheran School, took first place in the middle school division and Noemi Ortiz, a freshman at Carson High School, won the high school division.
All public, charter, private or home-schooled students in Carson City were invited to participate in the contest asking: "What do the following words from the national anthem mean to you: '...That our flag was still there.?'"
"Our flag guides," wrote Claire, 12, in her winning essay. "Our flag shows us that we can keep going on, even in the midst of dishonest politics and all the distractions we encounter in this life, because when I look at that flag, swaying gently to the breeze, or rippling furiously in a strong wind, I feel the pride swelling in my throat, and I am so glad to be an American."
Noemi, 14, wrote of a promise for her own future.
"The words, 'That our flag was still there,' means hope to see another day, hope to one day own your own business, hope for religious freedom, hope in general," she wrote. "If I would have experienced this momentous battle, I would know this is only the beginning of a fight to live, a fight that few can say they will fight.
"I hope that this fight to be free never ends. I hold this hope with our flag that is still there."
Winners were chosen from among 229 entries, and were judged for adherence to topic, quality of writing and originality of thought.
The winners for each level received $80 for first place, $30 for second place and $15 for third place.
First place: Jaden Earle, fourth grade, Seeliger Elementary School
Second place: Damian Branco, fifth grade, Fritsch Elementary School
Third place: Citlaly Acosta, fifth grade, Fritsch Elementary School
First place: Claire Benson, seventh grade, Bethlehem Lutheran School
Second place: Joseph Gallo, sixth grade, Bethlehem Lutheran School
Third place: Rachel Hall, seventh grade, Bethlehem Lutheran School
First place: Noemi Ortiz, ninth grade, Carson High School
Second place: Maddison Saarem, twelfth grade, Carson High School
Third place: Emily Chandler, ninth grade, Carson High School