VFW honors teachers, students
By LYNETTE SOWELL
The Copperas Cove Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8577 honored teachers and students on Saturday, naming winners of the Voice of Democracy and Patriot Pen contests, as well as the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher awards.
Post commander Willie Fields welcomed the audience to the awards ceremony, during which post member Chuck Downard said a few words to thank Katie Ryan, CCISD's deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction, along with the judges who read each entry. Judges included Tom and Victoria Dechoteau and Danny Palmer.
Three teachers were honored, one from among the elementary schools, one junior high teacher and one teacher from the high school. Nominations came from each campus.
Carol Hawkins, an 11th and 12th grade teacher at Copperas Cove High School, received the winning award. Hawkins teaches AP calculus, pre-AP calculus and precalculus and is a 30-plus years' veteran of the classroom.
Catherine Sharbeno won the award for the 6-8th grade level. Sharbeno, an Army veteran, teaches sixth grade social studies at Copperas Cove Junior High School, chair of the campus's history department and is a Junior Historian sponsor.
Paul Warren, also a veteran, is a K-5 music teacher at Williams-Ledger Elementary School and won the award of the elementary level. On his campus, Warren has coordinated and planned the annual freedom walk along with annual Veterans Day flag ceremony. Last summer Warren participated in Honor Flight New England during which he went to Washington Dd.C. over Father's Day with WWII veterans. Warren brought more than 80 letters with him on the flight and each veteran received three letters during “mail call.”
Each teacher received a certificate and a $500 cash award. They will also go on to compete at the VFW District level.
The Voice of Democracy awarded student entries, which were to include a 3-5 minute recorded sepech along with an essay. This year's topic was “My Vision for America.”
First place went to Copperas Cove High School freshman Dimas Bonet. Bonet shared his vision for the United States making immigration an easier and more streamlined process, with embassies giving classes and the process taking no more than a year, and he gave a reminder that the United States is a country built on immigrants.
He also talked about the need for good-paying jobs, and bringing outsourced jobs back to America, and spoke out against the U.S. making trade deals with countries like Malaysia that are against free labor and still practice slavery.
Second place went to Elizabeth Davis, an 11th grader at CCHS. Third place went to Elana Montanez.
In addition to receiving a medal and a certificate, first second and third place winners were each awarded $500, $200, and $100, respectively. There were not enough entries on the local level for the Voice of Democracy contest, so the winning entry does not qualify to go on for district competition.
Next up were the Patriot Pen awards. The theme for this essay contest was "What Freedom Means to Me."
Students also received medals and certificates, with first-place winner receiving $100, second place receiving $75 and third-place receiving $50.
Isabeloa Childers, an eighth-grader at Copperas Cove Junior High School, took first place. Childers' entry will go on to compete at the VFW's district level.
“We have independence, and independence is a beautiful thing. Our freedom gives us control over who we are and who we're going to be, surrounded by others with equal opportunities,” Childers wrote in her essay. “All men created equal – When this phrase was first coined in the Declaration of Independence, it was more of a hollow saying in a time of judgment. America was full of slaves, women were disrespected, and those in poverty weer spat upon. However, as time has passed we have built up intolerance to these injustices.” Childers also said the ability to choose is something that people era after era, time after time, are willing to fight for, and that freedom gives us the right to pick our paths without interference from outside forces.
Fabnella Torres, another student at CCJHS, took second place. Third-place went to Anna Papaioannou, also a student at CCJHS.