Already an enterprising young lady at just 11-years-old, Kaitlin Parnahay decided on her own to enter the Flag Day contest at her Valley Stream school and even stayed up late to make sure she didn't miss the entry deadline.
The sixth-grader from Wheeler Avenue Elementary School was one of six winners selected by a panel of Vietnam and World War II veterans for Assemb. Robert D. Barra's "What Does the American Flag Mean to You" essay and artwork contest.
Kaitlin spent about two hours drawing her winning poster, which featured a collage of iconic American images including George Washington and soldiers hoisting the stars and stripes. Kaitlin was both excited and nervous to receive her award, and was proud to honor her country on Flag Day.
"America is an important part of history and our lives, and means a lot to me and my family," she said.
Students, family and teachers from six different elementary schools in Valley Stream arrived at Arthur J. Hendrickson Park Sunday to accept the awards. They were joined by a group of local World War II veterans and Barra (R-Lynbrook), who presented the winners of the contest with certificates of merit and American flags. Six additional students received honorable mention certificates, and the rest of the more than 200 entries submitted were displayed at a reception following the event.
Some drew, painted and sketched like Kaitlin, and others, like eight-year-old Steven Zambrano, wrote essays of up to 150 words. Steven, a third-grade student at Robert W. Carbonaro Elementary School, said this contest was special for him because it was his first award.
He said writing it wasn't too difficult, he just thought about what was important.
"I was thinking about the veterans and how people should have freedoms in this country," he said.
Now in its second year, the contest gives children a chance to think about what the American flag symbolizes to them. Barra, who sponsored the event, said the program encourages students to write, learn and have pride in their country.