WEST ORANGE, NJ - On Feb.6, several Liberty Middle School students were presented with Visa gift cards by Bill Michael of the West Orange Elks Lodge 1590, for their award-winning essays on "What Veterans Day Means to Me."  

The essay project was completed during the fall in the students' social studies classes where teachers Jane Horwitz, Tamara Von Ouhl-Kremer and Eric Studnicky had students that received awards, including the top three essay winners: eighth-graders Taniyah Smith, Rafaela Alcantara, and Nicolas Lucero. Each student received a $100 Visa gift card.

When asked how they felt about those serving in the armed forces and the importance of Veterans Day, Lucero said that he feels protected and safe knowing that his country is kept safe by servicemen and women. "They make our lives peaceful by giving up their own peace," he said.

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Lucero's' sister Lorena is part of the Air Force ROTC program at West Orange High School for which Lucero is also considering applying.

Each student had a member of their family in the service and appreciated the sacrifices they make for their country.

Students who received honorable mentions including eight graders Tiffany Sagustume and Ruth Mesfin, and seventh graders, Giancarlo Legaspi, Tiffany Mensah, Wes Rideou-Winds, and Victoria Chavez each received $50.00 gift cards.

"Liberty has participated in the Elks Essay Contest for several years," said Bob Klemt, principal at Liberty Middle School. "This year our Social Studies teachers offered to take on the project in their classes and we're excited about the results."