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Students learn through contest

We read and listen to a lot of comments about the U.S. Constitution — the document is a favorite topic for letters to the editor and other newspaper opinion pieces, radio commentary and viewpoints carried by television news programs.

Just about everyone, it seems, has something to say about the Constitution, and considering its importance, that’s certainly understandable.

Unfortunately, some of the viewpoints being tossed about these days don’t reflect a lot of admiration for the Constitution or the history behind it.

That’s one reason we like a program sponsored by the American Legion that is designed to develop a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the Constitution among high school students.

Since 1938, the American Legion Oratorical Contest has taught important leadership qualities, the history of our laws and better understanding of the duties, responsibilities and privileges of American citizenship.

Each year, participants compete in an academic speaking challenge that teaches them valuable leadership qualities and the ability to think and express themselves more clearly.

In addition to the many lessons to be learned from the competition, the young participants can come away with valuable college scholarships. More than $138,000 in scholarships can be awarded each year. Scholarships are offered at each level of competition, and the overall national winner receives a scholarship valued at $18,000, according to the American Legion’s website.

The contest is no snap. It takes a lot of hard work, practice and dedication, as participants begin with district meets and move through the various levels as they attempt to earn the right to compete at the national level.

Check out a list of competitors from past years, and you will find notable Americans from many walks of life.

One of the competitors this year is Peyton Luke, a home-schooled student from Valley View who recently took top honors at the state level of the oratorical competition, which was held on the campus of Blinn College in Brenham. Luke received a scholarship valued at $2,000 and the right to compete at the national level of the competition, to be held April 19-21 in Indianapolis.

She reached the state level by virtue of her winning record in the District 13 competition, held at American Legion Post 71 in Denton, and the Division 1 competition held at Denton’s Courthouse on the Square, said Lynn Vowell, state oratorical chairman.

The oratorical competition is open to all high school students, with competition beginning in January in each district. Materials will be available from high school principals at the beginning of school in August 2013. For more information about the competition, area students can contact Vowell at 940-727-8067.

We congratulate Peyton Luke on her outstanding accomplishments — we’re confident she will do well at the national competition.

And we commend the American Legion representatives who help provide this annual opportunity for area high school students.

Thanks for a job well done.