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TOWNSEND — Townsend VFW Post #6538 and its Ladies Auxiliary are sponsoring the Patriot’s Pen Contest for students in grades 6, 7 and 8. The theme for this year’s essay is “What Patriotism Means to Me.”

Each essay must be type-written in English. No color or graphics should be added. The essay should contain 300 to 400 words. Every word, regardless of length, will be counted. A one-letter word, a hyphenated word, or a number (no matter how many digits it contains) will be counted as a single word. The essay title or added footnotes do not contribute to the word count.

Students should not put their name on their essay, but a completed Official Student Patriot’s Pen Competition Entry Form must be stapled to the top of it. Participants should not identify themselves, their school, town or state within their essay. Their approach to the theme should be positive and clearly focused. Quotations may be used sparingly if plainly identified whenever used.

The essay will be judged on knowledge of the theme (30 percent), theme development (35 percent) and clarity of ideas (35 percent).

This is the 20th year the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Ladies Auxiliary have sponsored a youth essay program which gives students in grades 6 through 8 the opportunity to express their views on democracy and improve their writing skills while they compete for worthwhile awards and prizes. More than 125,000 students participated in this nationwide competition last year.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) has approved the Patriot’s Pen Contest for its National Advisory List of Student Contests and Activities for 2013-14. The program offers valuable prizes at several levels of competition. The top prize is $5,000 in cash which will be awarded by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Ladies Auxiliary to the first place national winner at the VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary Washington Conference in March 2014.

There are national cash prizes for second- through 46th-place winners.

At the local level, $100 will be awarded to the first-place contest winner. The second-place winner will receive $70 and $40 will be awarded to the third-place winner.

The Townsend VFW Post and Ladies Auxiliary will advance one of its highest scoring essays to the District 15 level of competition for each 15 entries received at local level. The winning district entry will be entered into the Department of Massachusetts the VFW level of competition. The first-place state entry will be entered into the national competition.

Essay entries should be submitted to Townsend VFW Ladies Auxiliary President Betty Mae Tenney or Townsend Past Post Commander Russell Jobe by Friday, Nov. 1. Students who attend the Hawthorne Brook Middle School should submit their entries to their classroom teachers.