The grand-prize and second-place winners of the Sertoma National Heritage Essay Award had quite a bit in common.
Grace Barnes and Beatriz Lacerda are Creekside Middle School sixth-graders and had the same teacher in different classrooms at the Carmel school.
And then there is this: “Me and Bea are best friends,” Barnes said.
Barnes was named the grand-prize winner by Sertoma Club of Broad Ripple and Lacerda placed second for their essays on what “freedom means to me.”
“The three more important privileges that help me appreciate my freedom are my education, my security, and my freedom of expression,” Barnes wrote.
Nineteen schools with 84 classrooms submitted essays t o the contest. It is open to sixth-graders in Carmel, Zionsville, Fishers and northern Indianapolis. The three top places and honorable mention winner read their essays May 1 at the Knights of Columbus in Indianapolis.
“I was very shocked. I did not expect to win,” said Barnes, who worked on her essay for two weeks. “I’d never been in an essay contest before and I thought it would be an interesting opportunity.”
Barnes said she plans to save the $375 she earned for the grand prize.
Both students were taught in different classes by language arts teacher Amy Stuck.
“I feel like a proud mom, forget teacher,” Stuck said.
Lacerda’s essay touched on the many freedoms Americans have that her parents didn’t have in Brazil. Her family moved to the U.S. when she was a year old.
“We cherished the safety, security and dependability,” Lacerda read from her essay. “We still cherish them just like when we were newcomers. Freedom means being yourself without fear.”
Lacerda, whose favorite subjects are science and math, said it was a little scary to write the essay.
“I’m not used to writing about my experiences, and there was money on the line,” said Lacerda, who earned $250 for second place. “(Reading it) was kind of scary, too.”
Claire Wilmore, a Carmel resident, earned honorable mention.
“Writing just makes me happy,” Wilmore said.
Indianapolis resident Thalia Fecher Birdas, from St. Richard’s Episcopal School, placed third in the contest.