Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

VFW honors Spring Hill Christian Academy students for Patriot's Pen essays

Patriot’s Pen essay competition winners from Spring Hill Christian Academy are, front, Ashley Lawrence, 11, back, from left, Zachary Vilardi, 12, Sierra Beard, 12, and Peter Lopez, 15.

Special to the Times

Patriot’s Pen essay competition winners from Spring Hill Christian Academy are, front, Ashley Lawrence, 11, back, from left, Zachary Vilardi, 12, Sierra Beard, 12, and Peter Lopez, 15.

SPRING HILL — Four Spring Hill Christian Academy students will be honored Saturday at a luncheon sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10209 for their winning essays in the Patriot's Pen national writing competition.

Sixth-grader Ashley Lawrence, 11; sixth-grader Sierra Beard, 12, and seventh-grader Zachary Vilardi, 12, will learn how they placed in the middle school contest, and sophomore Peter Lopez, 15, will find out how well he placed in the high school competition.

Also invited is Jenny Lopez, 48, a Spring Hill Christian Academy English, science and art teacher who was named VFW Teacher of the Year.

The middle school contest invites students to write a 300- to 400-word essay on a patriotic theme. This year's theme: "When Is the Right Time to Honor Our Military Heroes?" The contest begins at the local level, and winners advance to the national level, where the first-place winner receives a $10,000 savings bond and an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. Other top national winners receive savings bonds ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

Ashley said she embraced the contest because both of her parents served in the Navy.

As for being a finalist, Ashley said: "I feel like I'm proud. I did something. I accomplished something."

Sierra's family has an education background. Her father, Timothy Beard, is a vice president at Pasco-Hernando Community College. Her mother, Wendy Beard, is a reading specialist at PHCC. Sierra said she likes to write language papers.

Of her essay, she said: "I talked about the right time to honor our military and (how) they fight for our country."

Sierra was delighted to find out she had placed in the VFW contest.

"I thanked God afterward," she said.

Zachary suggested why his essay was chosen.

"I think it was because I thought about what I was going to write, and after I wrote it I went back and made changes," he said.

After he found out he had won, he said, "I was excited, because this was one of the first contests I entered."

Zachary is the son of Joshua and Jennifer Vilardi.

Peter, teacher Jenny Lopez's son, was one of the high school honorees, where the theme was "Does America Still Have Heroes?" He explained why he thought his essay made the cut.

"I think it was because I didn't talk so much about the people you first think of as heroes," he said. Instead, he said, he focused on the behind-the-scenes folks who help others and can change their lives. He referred to those who work in homeless shelters and soup kitchens and those who help build homes for Habitat for Humanity.

"He talked about them as heroes wearing hard hats and carrying hammers," Jenny Lopez said.

Lopez said she wasn't aware she was being considered as the VFW Teacher of the Year when she received the letter announcing she had won and inviting her to the same luncheon her winning students would be attending.

The purpose of the national program is to recognize elementary, middle and high school teachers who promote American history and traditions in their classrooms.

Lopez says she does not know who nominated her, but she is delighted to have been chosen.

"I didn't even know I was in it until they wrote me a letter and said I won," she said. "It really is a wonderful honor."

VFW honors Spring Hill Christian Academy students for Patriot's Pen essays 04/21/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 6:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Plan your weekend Aug. 18-20: Elvis in concert, Jason Aldean, Monster Jam Triple Threat, Sing-Along Grease


    Plan your weekend

    The king

    Elvis: Live in Concert: This year marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death, and Ruth Eckerd Hall will have a Graceland-produced Elvis concert on a movie screen, accompanied by a full live orchestra. Graceland calls it the closest audiences …

    Handout photos of Elvis: Live in Concert, a tour spectacle featuring a live orchestra backing the voice of Elvis Presley, projected onto a movie screen. The tour comes to Ruth Eckerd Hall on 8/18/17. Credit: Graceland.
  2. Woman convicted in murder of 18-year-old with cerebral palsy gets lighter term


    TAMPA — Linda Bonck, a 90-pound Chamberlain High School senior with cerebral palsy, lived near Tampa's Lowry Park. She struggled to walk and talk but was known for being friendly and trusting of strangers until she vanished one day in 1992.

    Georgia Miller, 39, was convicted for the 1992 murder of Linda Bonck, an 18-year-old Chamberlain High School student who had cerebral palsy. Originally sentenced to life in prison, Miller was resentenced Wednesday to 65 years, the result of U.S. and Florida Supreme Court decisions that found it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life. With gain time, Miller will be released from prison in the next six years. [Florida Department of Corrections]
  3. Boynton Beach woman arrested on DUI, child abuse charges


    A Boynton Beach woman was arrested Saturday and faces DUI and child abuse charges after she blew a .200 on a breath test with an unbuckled child in the backseat, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

    Brandy Lerma, 31 of Boynton Beach, was arrested on DUI and child abuse charges on Saturday. [Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office]
  4. Editorial: Why can't Hillsborough commissioners move Confederate monument?


    The violence in Charlottesville, Va., crystallized for much of the nation the danger of refusing to address painful symbols of the past. But not so in Hillsborough County, where the County Commission on Wednesday reversed itself yet again and left open the possibility of leaving a Confederate monument outside the …

  5. Former WTSP employee sues station's parent companies for gender discrimination


    A former director at WTSP-Ch. 10 has sued the station's parent companies, claiming she was the victim of gender discrimination.