By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Elation, surprise and disbelief were just a few of the emotions felt by the state-level winners of the Knights of Columbus essay contest this year.
What’s even more surprising is that half of this year’s winners came from the same school: Notre Dame Catholic Junior/ Senior High School in Burlington.
“When I found out I’d won state, I was beyond shock,” said Anna Marino, an 11th-grader. “Finding out two girls from school won as well was awesome.”
The Iowa KCs select one winner per grade; eighth-through-12th graders are eligible to enter. Grace Kohlhof was the top eighth-grader, and Morgan Christ won the ninth-grade category. This year’s essay theme was religious freedom.
“I was very impressed by the number of winners from the Burlington area this year,” said Bob Ukena, state youth director for the Iowa Knights of Columbus. The youths first entered their local council’s contest and the winners advanced to the state contest.
The essay contest was optional for Notre Dame students in previous years but this year the language arts and religion teachers worked the contest into the curriculum.
Grace wrote her essay about role models, morals and freedom. “I wanted to talk about how Catholics are called to be like Jesus and to accept everyone like Jesus.”
She mentioned that the current political climate makes the issue somewhat controversial, but Catholics are still taught to accept and welcome everyone with open arms.
Morgan used a variety of news resources to write an essay about how Christians are treated worldwide, especially in countries where someone can be persecuted for being a Christian. Researching the article “made me even more grateful that I’m able to have the opportunity to practice my faith freely without persecution.”
Anna’s essay focused on a similar theme. She, too, gained a new perspective in the process of writing the essay. “Here I am, going to a Catholic school; it’s easy for me to live out my faith. There are others who want that so bad but can’t because of persecution and discrimination.”
The winners each received a $50 check and certificate for winning the local contest and received a $100 Visa card and certificate from the state council. The state winners now move on to the national contest. Winners will be announced in early summer.
Ukena said the essays were thoughtful and mature. “The quality of the essays reflects very favorably on our parochial schools and should serve us well in the national competition.”
Notre Dame Principal Bill Maupin said of his students, “I am very proud of them.”