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‘Young Patriots’ show grasp of constitutional rights in essays

Hannah Grady, 16, a junior who is home-schooled, won first place and $5,000 from contest sponsor Sentinel Patriot Club. She told The Tribune how the U.S. Constitution, developed in summer 1787, remains a “foundation our country was built, for rights and financially. If you take away such history and our morals, our country would collapse.”

She cited the “value of (right to) life,” regarding abortion, as among ongoing constitutional issues. “I’m a Christian,” she said. “I love to speak on ethical issues, and how they relate to these foundations.”

Grady’s writing was very “engaging” to judges and at an “adult level,” contest organizer Ron Kauffman said. Judges rated essays on a compelling and relevant theme, factual support to conclusions, original wording, proper grammar, and discovering key in-depth points on why the 13 sovereign states yielded much self-control to unify for common interests.

For instance, a navy could combat African privateers on the western Mediterranean’s Barbary Coast near Africa and into the Atlantic. Henry Leissing spoke on this, at the awards banquet June 26 Bay Breeze restaurant. He chastized this early “Muslim terrorism on the high seas” for seizing ships and cargo, thereby bankrupting the states and cutting off their European trade. Many were not pirates, rather “privateers” in Islamic Northern Africa nations’ surrogate navies. “They were cleaning house — capturing booty, enslaving crews,” Kauffman said earlier. “We needed a navy.”

Our forefathers’ other challenges included settling sovereign states’ trade disputes, countering English and Spanish trade sanctions, raising revenue by setting national tariffs and taxes, standardizing currency, paying foreign debt and also Revolutionary War soldiers revolting over pay. Another task was keeping peace, such as over Shay’s Rebellion of rural Massachusetts taxpayers in 1786 that lingered for a half-year.

In her essay, Grady noted states did not contribute to the national treasury, such as to repay a $2 million war loan from France. She wrote of states “collapsing,” an “urgency” for national stability yet also safeguarding individual and state freedoms, and “pure necessity of American unity.”

The Sentinel Patriot Club of Henderson County was co-founded by Kauffman and Leissing a year ago, to educate about constitutional rights and heritage. A Sentinel core raised the lofty $10,900 in prize money, to launch their annual contest with a bang. Kauffman urged prize winners to “pay it forward,” in helping others.

Forty-one students entered the contest. They had to be Henderson County residents. Leissing said “I admire these young people who stepped forward,” to chronicle “our rich history.” The word limit was 1,500. Winners first found out who won what at the banquet.

Second place went to Marissa Hill, a new graduate of Heritage Hall International School who eyes a business degree. She thereby earned $2,500 — also minus taxes withheld. She told The Tribune how crucial it is to have guaranteed rights such as for speech, religion and to bear arms to “protect yourself.”

As chief editor of her school paper, Hill applied research scrutiny of sources to find those with “credible backgrounds I can trust” for her essay. She focused largely on how basic rights have “withstood the test of time.” Her twin sister Michaela Hill analyzed constitutional preambles line by line, first for impact today then political and biblical roots.

Larry Thomas, who is home-schooled and into robotics, won third place and $1,500. He wrote his essay as a freshman. He realized that after winning independence from England in the Revolutionary War in 1783, sovereign states struggled for four years under the Articles of Confederation — weak in fear of more tyranny — until enacting the Constitution for a stronger, unifying central force.

Sovereign states were in “financial trouble, lacking money” and collective power such as to enact uniform trade treaties, Thomas said. He noted the Articles were virtually unchangeable, in requiring unanimous legislative votes for amendments.

Fourth place and $1,000 was awarded to Katlyn Searcy, newly-graduated from North Henderson High School. The redhead’s prime essay theme was how “the Constitution is relevant today, and we rely on it so much.” She emphasized the right to bear arms.

Keynote speaker Greg Newman, the local district attorney, stressed due process and other liberties of the 1791 Bill of Rights’ initial 10 amendments to the Constitution, which is a “framework, to be strong abroad and at home.”

Honorable mention and $100 each went to these nine students: Hendersonville High new grads Kelsey Decker, Molly Thomas and Victoria Thomas and HHS rising junior Karen Sanchez; North High’s Ellie Caldwell (rising senior and multi-sport star athlete) and Will Baldwin (rising soph.), West Henderson rising junior Hope Johnston, Heritage Hall grad Michaela Hill, and Veritas Christian Academy grad Courtney McLean.

Judges were Newman, Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk, Carl Sandburg Home Supt. Tyrone Brandyburg, Blue Ridge Community College professors Dr. Russ Foster (history) and Elaine Thompson (constitutional law), Caroline Patterson who directs public schools’ English and social studies in grades 6-12, Hillandale Elementary ESL instructor Debbie Flores, and Hope, Inc. founder-CEO Denise Williams.

Winners can use cash prizes as they wish, such as to buy a used car to drive to school, Kauffman noted. Main winners said they will set most money aside for college.

‘Grady Bunch’ Captain

Grady, of Mills River, told The Tribune she will save to travel back to Honduras in winter for a third missionary stint aiding a girls’ orphanage, and for the Patrick Henry College debate camp (with a $1,000 fee) ongoing now in Virginia.

With remaining money “I’ll save for real estate investing,” she said. Her father David Grady does that, for a living. She wants to plan financially, avoid debt and “not squander” money. She began her winning essay by hailing this country’s “miracle of liberty and prosperity.” She helps her father such as researching land deeds. She interns for a magistrate in Buncombe County, dealing with small claims court.

Her mother, Anjie Grady, has a teaching degree, has taught and is Hannah’s primary instructor despite expecting her seventh child. Anjie proof-read Hannah’s entry. Hannah dedicated about three hours a day to it, for a week and a half.

Hannah “challenges herself” as a scholar, her mother said. “She is creative, and also detail-oriented and in-depth as a researcher. She’s also an excellent writer and speaker.” Hannah leads home-schooled peers in a debate club, coaching their squad.

Hannah said her mother is “incredibly hands on” as a tutor. When 7 years old, Hannah led siblings into an Indian-costumed reenactment of the Boston Tea Party. They tossed tea leaves into their yard, to symbolize patriots’ dumping tea into the Boston Harbor to protest steep tariffs. Hannah also studies from teacher Jeff Minick in Asheville. She just completed a year toward a communications degree online, from Thomas Edison State College.

In reversing roles, Hannah tutors her five younger siblings who are ages 15, 10, 8, 6 and 4. She figures how to best motivate each one. “Some are feisty hornets, others calm and collected,” she noted. “I love seeing how each one learns, and finds intelligence by first finding their loves and their strengths.”

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