BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – Two students at Columbia Middle School and two at Governor Livingston High School received their awards for having written winning patriotic essays in the nation-wide essay contest run by the VFW.

On Friday, Feb. 23, two Columbia Middle School students received plaques to commemorate their being named winners of the Patriot’s Pen patriotic essay from Frank Perlzak and Steve Falk, both members of VFW Post 6259 in Berkeley Heights.



The winners, seventh grade student Maddie McGowan and eighth grade student Emily Merriman, had each written an essay on “America’s Gift to my Generation.” Both girls were surprised when members of the post, accompanied by Principal Frank Geiger and their English teacher, arrived in their classrooms to present the award – neither knew their essay had been selected for the honor.

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On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Perlzak and Falk came to Governor Livingston High School to present the awards to two juniors, Mikayla Sanchez and Rachel Stuart, whose audio essays on “American History: Our Hope for the Future,” won the Voice of Democracy contest. Each winner had written, then recorded, an audio essay on the topic. 

The nation-wide contest entries are judged at the local level, then district, state and, finally, national level. The girls were all local winners – with Mikayla’s essay taking third place in the district, Falk said. He said all the entries were "wonderful," and he and the post members were very proud of the writers.