When the American Spirit Project offered cash awards and recognition to local youth city councils in North Ogden and Pleasant View as well as to readers of Connection Magazines, the challenge was accepted. Awards would go to whomever presented the best case for deserving Honoree recognition and included a $200 cash award. Naomi Elmer was the winner from the North Ogden YCC, and Grant Knight was the winner from the Pleasant View YCC. The honoree Award for Connection Magazine readers went to Emma Flattery, a senior at Weber High School. In addition, the WHS Counseling Department selected Arlis Fields, a graduating senior. All four students were able to cite convincing examples of American Spirit in their school and community activities.

The 2018 version of American Spirit Awards was preceded by six years of  public essay contests; each year a different theme was used for contestants to write about. Themes such as American Spirit of Veterans, First Responders, Pioneers, Explorers, etc. were used. Each year cash awards and prizes were given to winners and runners-up amounting to about $1200 each year.

The nexus of the American Spirit Project began in 2009 with a newspaper article about a young soldier from Cache Valley who lost his life in Iraq. The story included a photo of his young widow holding their six year old son receiving a neatly folded American flag from an Army General. The story was one that tugged at your heart (and still does); it caused some soul searching in me and finally, a plan of action. I felt that in some way I needed to honor those who give their service, even their lives for this country. The idea of a patriotic essay contest evolved, which I took to the Kiwanis Club of North Ogden. The Freedom Essay Contest resulted and with the approval of the Weber School District, the club sponsored a contest for 4th through 12th grade in the Weber/Fremont cone of schools for two years, 2010 and 2011. Dozens of schools participated and hundreds of students wrote essays on the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Federalist Papers and the Liberty Bell. More than two dozen student winners were awarded $8,000 in cash, CDs and savings bonds.

Because of the scope of this project and the demand on time, the Kiwanis Club decided not to continue the contest. I called friends who I knew to be patriotic and we put together a public contest beginning in 2012, the first year of the American Spirit Essay Contest. Supporting this project were Mrs. Kathy Smith and the late Bert Smith, Cattleman Cal Grant, Commissioner Kerry Gibson, Legislator Gage Froerer, Pastor Dave Duncan, Roger Blair and the North Ogden Kiwanis Club.

This year’s results are encouraging and can best be summarized as Honoree Emma Flattery stated, “Continue your amazing work and kids will continue to show their spirit.” Well, we do plan to continue in 2019 by offering more youth city councils the opportunity to participate in Weber, Davis and Box Elder Counties. We’re also looking at opportunities for other youth organizations, such as Future Business Leaders of America and Scouts. To learn more about this project, contact me at 801-782-8077 or e-mail wbarn28@aol.com; we’re looking for a few good men and women to help expand and energize this patriotic endeavor.

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