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Essay Contest Asks Students to Express 'What Does Freedom Mean to You?'

By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2003 – Weekly Reader magazine is sponsoring an essay contest for children and teenagers in support of Operation Tribute to Freedom, a Defense Department program that encourages Americans to show appreciation and support for military personnel fighting the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Weekly Reader is a monthly student magazine founded in 1902 by Charles Palmer Davis. The magazine, which explains current news events such as the war in Iraq, has distributed more than 18 billion copies to students in the United States and Canada since the magazine began. It has some 11 million readers each week.

The topic for the essay contest is "What Does Freedom Mean to You?"

The contest kicks off Weekly Reader's yearlong "Election Connection" campaign, in which the magazine will discuss such topics as freedom, the constitution and the voting process, said Mia Toschi, Weekly Reader editor.

She said the essay contest will give children and teenagers a better understanding of what freedom means, and of the people overseas "who are not only giving their lives, but who are away from their families."

The grand-prize winner will get a trip to Washington, D.C., and a chance to visit the Pentagon. There, the winner will get to be a news correspondent for a day and sit in on an official Pentagon briefing, Toschi said.

According to Weekly Reader's Web site, winners will be selected in grades 3-6 and 7-12. The top winner in each grade will receive $50 and a chance to be published on the Weekly Reader site. Second prize in each grade is $25; third-prize winners get a World Almanac and World Almanac for Kids. Winners will be announced Oct. 25.

For students in grades 3-6, the essays should be double-spaced and no more than 250 words. Essays for those in grades 7-12 should be double-spaced and no more than 500 words.

Instructions on submitting essays can be found at the Weekly Reader Web site. The publication will accept essays by mail, or electronically by e-mail. The mailing address is:

Mia Toschi Weekly Reader 200 First Stamford Place Stamford, CT 06912-0023

Students may e-mail essays to mtoschi@weeklyreader.com. Toschi said e-mailed essays should be typed or pasted into the body of the e-mail message; attachments to e-mails will not be accepted.

Students under 13 must supply their first name only and a parent or guardian's e-mail address so the Weekly Reader staff can get permission to post their essays to the magazine's Web site.

Allison Barber, special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs at the Pentagon, said the essay contest is just one more important outlet for Americans to be able to express their "support of freedom and the value that freedom is."

"What we've learned over the past few years is that our students are very active in supporting our men and women in the military through a lot of different campaigns that they've done in their own classrooms. And so this (essay contest) is the culmination of a lot of different programs that young kids are doing around America to show support for the troops."

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