Sierra Lutheran’s Mueller honored in Fleet Reserve Association Americanism Essay Contest
Sierra Lutheran High School
Sierra Lutheran High School sophomore Annalynn Mueller was honored Monday during a surprise ceremony at the school for taking second in the nation in the Fleet Reserve Association’s (FRA) Americanism Essay Contest.
The annual contest sponsored by FRA, which represents enlisted sea-going members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, is open to all students grades 7-12 who submit a 350-word essay on the required prompt.
Out of 100 local submissions and several thousand national entries, Mueller’s essay on the topic “What does freedom of speech meant to you,” took first in both the local and Western Region competitions, earning her $100 for each win. The Carson City resident’s piece then automatically advanced to the national finals where she earned second place among sophomores, recognized through a $1,500 cash prize.
“I first found out about the Fleet Reserve Association Essay Contest in eighth grade when my American history teacher assigned the essay to our class,” Mueller said. “I decided to enter the contest again this year.
“I found out in March that my essay placed first at the local level and I knew it was sent to the regional competition. I didn’t know I placed at the regional level, or that it was sent to the national level, and also placed at that level until Mr. Harris visited our school on Monday.”
The surprise visit to campus where she was honored in front of her peers proved to be a humbling experience for the talented sophomore.
“Initially, I was very surprised and overwhelmed,” Mueller said. “Now, I feel incredibly blessed to have been considered for and given this award.”
The FRA, which was chartered by Congress in 1924, has sponsored the annual contest since the 1940s.
“Each level of the competition has a team of members who review and select the winners,” said H.V. Harris, a 40-year member of the organization, and a retired Navy lieutenant. “Local Branch 137 selected this year’s winning essays using five individual members who blended a blind review (e.g. no names revealed) with a numeric rating system.”
Mueller didn’t have to venture far to find poignant inspiration for her entry.
“My inspiration for the essay and entering the contest is my grandpa, a Vietnam Purple Heart veteran,” Mueller explained. “Since he has fought for our freedoms, I thought it was important to enter the contest so my voice could be heard as an American and more importantly a Christian.
“When I started writing the essay I asked myself, what does freedom of speech really mean to me? I came up with the idea that freedom of speech is in place so we can express our opinions, but also so we can encourage one another.”
The aspiring writer’s talent was noted early on by the Sierra Lutheran High School English Department faculty.
“I have thought Annalynn was a brilliant student since I’ve known her,” SLHS English teacher Heather Kois reflected. “Her work is exemplary and she strives for perfection in everything she does.”
The SLHS administration was equally aware of her gift and not surprised by her success.
“Annalynn is a dedicated student with a definite gift for writing,” SLHS Principal Tami Seddon said. “It does not surprise me that her essay was honored at the national level.”
And though she still has two years of high school remaining, Mueller already has plans for the local, regional, and national cash prizes she has earned.
“My plan for the prize money is to save it for college and/or a car.”
Those interested in learning more about the FRA writer’s contest as well as a college scholarship offered by the organization can visit the Events and Programs tab at fra.org/fra/web/.