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Essay winner knows what it takes to be a 'good citizen'

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ivy Herron photo

Staunton Elementary 5th grade teacher Sherri Turner poses with the 2006 David Deuter Memorial Essay Contest winner Stephen Watts, and his parents, Renee and Grant Watts, after the presentation of the award Wednesday morning.

Do you know what it takes to be a good citizen?

An 11-year-old Staunton Elementary 5th grader's answer to "What Being a Good Citizen Means to Me," won the Clay County division of the Indiana Trooper's Association 2006 David Deuter Memorial Essay Contest.

The essay contest is a memorial for Indiana Master Trooper David Deuter, who was killed in the line of duty in July 1998.

"I wanted to write about how people should treat each other," Stephen Watts said.

For Watts, being a good citizen means helping others. He used examples to get his points across in his essay entry of 100 words.

"If you see a lady pushing a baby in a stroller, open the door for her. If you see a person struggling with their groceries, help them carry them. Help elderly people in any way you can. Good citizens help others," he wrote.

Staunton Elementary 5th-grade teacher Sherri Turner encouraged her students to enter the contest.

"This contest is open to all 92 counties in the state. We had 52 entries here, and other schools participated around the county," she said. "It's a great opportunity to teach students how to treat each other and become better people."

Stephen's parents, Renee and Grant Watts, also liked the educational aspect of the competition.

"(The contest) is a great way to encourage students' writing skills," Renee said. "But we especially liked how it made Stephen have to think about what it takes to be a good citizen. Kids this age need to know why it is important, they need to respect their peers and make the right choices."

"We're really proud of him," Grant said about his son being selected from all the entries in the county.

Over 1,400 Indiana public and private schools across the state were invited to participate in the 10th annual essay contest for 5th-graders. Each participating school selects a winning essay to represent their school at the county level. One winner and four runners-up are selected from the county entries at state competition.

On June 16th, all winners, their families, school officials and state legislators will appear at the Indiana State House for the statewide awards program where Gov. Mitch Daniels, Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Suellen Reed and Indiana State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell are scheduled to speak.

Approximately $50,000 in U.S. savings bonds and engraved plaques are awarded to the county/state winners. The state winner receives a $1,000 bond, the four runners-up receive $750 bonds while all remaining county winners receive a $500 bond for their efforts.

Stephen's bond will be placed into his college fund, although he hasn't decided on college or career options beyond being a major league baseball player.

"I'm really good at it," he said smiling.

The winners are also invited to attend a law camp during the summer months, which Stephen is looking forward to attending.

"I think its important to treat people right," he said. "I think everyone should learn how to be nice to others."

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