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Deanna Auxier, a student at Christ Lutheran High School in Buckley, took first place in a recent essay contest.

The American Legion, Department of Illinois American Legion Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion sponsored the contest.

The aim of the contest is to aid the schools of Illinois in teaching Americanism and Good Citizenship.

The class was divided into three classes: Class I-seventh and eighth grade; Class II-ninth and tenth grades; and Class III-eleventh and twelfth grades.

All Illinois students in seventh and eighth grades as well as high school were invited to participate in the contest.

Auxier took first place in the Class II contest and won a $200 cash award for her essay.

Auxier received her award via mail this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In past years, winners were invited to the American Legion Auxiliary Convention to read their essays and receive their awards.

The essays will be printed online at due to the cancellation of the convention.

Auxier’s essay is printed below:

“What can I do to Unite Our Country?”

“One Flag, One Land, One Heart, One Hand, One Naton Evermore.”- Oliver Wendell Holmes. What can I do today to unite our country? I do not think about this question every day. When I think about this question, I think that I can do little because I am only a teenager. However, I can make some difference. I can work with others and show people that I care about them. I can help improve our environment, and then we as a group can help each other make the country a better place.

I can make a difference in our country even though I am only a teenager. Our country is divided right now; it has been for a while. By being respectful of others and knowledgeable about different polarizing topics, I can make a difference. Many times, people get frustrated and have a lack of knowledge which leads to uninformed arguments. If polarizing topics are not treated with importance and ignored, the country will never be a better place. It is up to my generation to gain education to make our country a better place by addressing polarizing issues with respect.

A basic human need all people share is the need to be loved and cared for. The world can be a harsh place full of problems and difficulties. If a generation, my generation, can work together to be a better generation, one that cares, this could change our country. A kind word or a caring act can be enough to spark unity between people that can spread like wildfire. If the country is united on a basic level of compassion for their fellow Americans, as a country, we can start tackling other more important problems.

Young people like me can unite to talk about environmental concerns, which have been a polarizing topic for a while. As a population we only have one home, one world. Our world has many different countries full of a variety of people. As a country, we could do better for the environment and set an example for other countries to follow.

If we could unite around a common goal such as being more eco-friendly, it would be a stepping stone for a brighter future for not only the country but the world. One idea that I have is to not use plastic bags when shopping. This is simple if America united and everyone only used recyclable bags to shop. If we are united, we can solve problems like this one.

Something as simple as a kind word to someone could have a ripple effect. As a teenager I can do this, by showing people that care about them. I can help improve our environment, and then we as a group can help each other make the country a better place. I can be a spark that ignites unity.