LINDEN, NJ - When Isabella Buss stands to salute the flag each morning, her mind is no longer on her sixth-grade class at McManus Middle School.  Instead, she is thinking of all that her parents went through to come to America from Brazil and how grateful she is that that struggle has allowed her to build a life here. 

“My mom said that when she passed the citizenship test, she cried when she first said the Pledge of Allegiance,” Isabella said. “That’s what I think of when I salute the flag.”

That deep appreciation for where she came from and for her life in America — combined with a
love and talent for writing — helped Isabella take first place in the Veterans of Foreign Wars
“Patriot’s Pen” essay contest for middle school students.

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The topic was “Why I Honor the American Flag.” She was selected by a panel of judges led by former Mayor Richard J. Gerbounka and that included the leaders of Linden VFW John Russell Wheeler Post No. 1397.

Isabella gets $200 for her winning essay, and now will be entered into the VFW contest for all of
Union County. Two runners-up, Kiley Winkler and Rodes Safe, both seventh-graders from Soehl
Middle School, won $150 each.

“Isabella’s was a very well-written essay,” Gerbounka said, “and the theme was extraordinary — the
fact that she is an immigrant and so proud to be an American.”

Isabella entered the contest after learning about it from social studies teacher Anthony Ventura. Ventura said that as soon as he read the essay, he knew it was special.

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