City district senior wins VFW essay competition

Klamath Falls, Oregon — What makes America great? As our country faces daunting political divisions and social challenges, it is refreshing to hear answers to that question, which was the topic of the 2019-2020 Voice of Democracy national audio-essay competition for high school students, sponsored annually by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The winning answer from Klamath’s VFW district came from Julianna Amenkowicz, a senior attending Klamath Learning Center (KLC) in Klamath’s City School District. She was honored Jan. 18 by the VFW in Malin.

Amenkowicz’s essay focused on freedom, the Constitution that declares freedom as an inalienable right, and the people who have defended that right.

“The question shouldn’t be what makes America great; it should be who made America great,” wrote Amenkowicz, naming Founding Fathers and military heroes, then calling on every citizen to continue their work:

“Ronald Reagan said in his inaugural address on January 20th 1981, ‘Well if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government must bear the burden.’ As a nation that must collectively work towards the same goals, we must always keep in mind that our freedom was fought for and won but can still be taken from us.”

Of presenting to an audience of VFW members from Malin, Merrill, Lakeview and Klamath Falls, Amenkowicz said, “It was really cool. Everyone was introducing themselves, and they had a special cake and certificate for me.”

Amenkowicz will travel to Eugene Feb. 1 for the state-level competition, whose winners will be awarded a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete for a $30,000 college scholarship.

Although she loves to read and has dreamed of authoring sci-fi novels, Amenkowicz had no expectation of winning a contest from a school writing assignment.

“It was such a surprise,” she said. “And I want to be sure people know I never would have won if not for the awesome teachers at KLC, especially Miss Pam and Brent,” she added, referring to teachers Pam Shannon and Brent Nichols.

Amenkowicz chose the city district’s alternative high school after a cross-country move two years ago, preferring its small size to larger high schools in the district.

“KLC lets me get my work done, avoid distractions and have time for other things,” said Amenkowicz, who takes classes 8-11:45 a.m., then spends afternoons doing general contracting and car repairs with her dad.

The hands-on work experience will be helpful for running a farm, which is Amenkowicz’s dream after she earns a college degree in horticulture or botany studies.

“I love to eat, and I’ve been cooking since I was little. I just think it would be great to grow my own food,” she said.

With a small piece of land in a free country, Amenkowicz has every opportunity to live that dream.

Above:  Julianna Amenkowicz receives her VFW award for her winning essay. Submitted photo via City Schools