For the first time since Pembroke Elementary began participating in the American Legion Americanism essay contest at least five years, two of its students have won at both the local and state levels to go on to participate in the national contest.

American Legion Auxiliary Unit 233 President Nancy Carter and representative Jane McKnight came to the elementary school Monday to deliver the news along with a pair of trophies for its inaugural state winners.

Fourth grader Makayla Taggart and fifth grader John Hale were given the honors in front several classes of their peers at the school's library.

Twenty-six students participated in the contest from Pembroke, a number that McKnight says rises each year. She will know and announce the results of the national contest in August.

"Pembroke Elementary School is lucky enough to have two state winners," McKnight told the assembled fourth grade class.

The contest is one that "helps our country’s most promising young citizens learn firsthand the principles of our free republic guided by the principles of democracy," according to the auxiliary's website.

The contest's cover sheet states the topic of this year's essay was "how can we address and prevent veteran homelessness in our communities?"

Each grade was given a specific word limit, and McKnight previously stated a few students who may have gone further were disqualified because they wrote too much. The word count for fourth grade was between 150 and 250 words, while fifth grade's was 250-300 words. Essays were scored on content, language command, originality, neatness and spelling.

Jesse Jones is the editor of The Eagle Post. Reach him at

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