"Choosing a winner was not an easy decision, but agreeing to judge the entries was," she says. "Many, many of the writings were terrific. What a delight it was to read the essays and to hear the voices of our future leaders."
Barrera (Director of Education and Interpretation at the Institute of Texan Cultures) joined La Prensa's Nina Duran and Worldwide Languages and Communication's Javier Ramon as part of the 2014 panel of judges in the local chapter of Celebrate America (sponsored nationally by the American Immigration Council, and facilitated locally by the law firm De Mott, McChesney, Curtright & Armendáriz)
In the public school category, the winners are:
* 1st place: Jade Gibbs, Bonham Academy
* 2nd place: Daisy Espinoza, Poteet Intermediate
* 3rd place: Gavin Betancourt, Wilshire Elementary School
Betancourt's sister, Promise Pitman, placed first in 2013's contest, marking the first time siblings have participated since the program's San Antonio launch. As their mother, Bianca Betancourt, says, “Just like we pass stories down to our children and grandchildren, now we're passing this contest down from generation to generation. I'm proud of my kids for taking part in it.”
In the private and home-school category, the winners are:
* 1st place: Liliana Danford, Saint Thomas More Catholic School
* 2nd place: Isabella Rose Brown, Blessed Sacrament Catholic School
* 3rd place: Chloe Martinez, Blessed Sacrament Catholic School
Danford and Gibbs will each receive a $100 cash prize and a replica of the Statue of Liberty; the second and third place students will also receive cash prizes.
In addition, Mya Barrera, from Bonham Academy, has received an Honorable Mention, and will receive a pass for admission to the Institute of Texan Cultures. Her teacher, Paula Strechlun, will receive $100 for referring the most students to the contest.
The winning students will be recognized at an official Naturalization ceremony, where they will have the opportunity to read their entries before an audience of new United States citizens. This year's ceremony will take place at 2:00pm on Wednesday, May 28, at the Edgewood Theatre of Performing Arts (402 Lance St., San Antonio, TX 78237). “It's always exciting to see the students as they witness the impact of immigration first hand,” says Joseph B. De Mott, founding partner of De Mott, McChesney, Curtright & Armendáriz. “I can't think of a greater way to teach them about what it means to be American.”
Lupita Barrera adds, “What makes programs like Celebrate America so important is that they inspire children, and families, to explore their history. And that's part of our history too, so it's a wonderful opportunity for all of us to share our stories and learn from one another.”
For more information on the contest, please visit the San Antonio chapter's page at www.celebrateamericawritingcontest.org.