Essay contest winners

Stressing the many ways her new country affords her rights unheard of in her native land, Trinity Elementary School fifth-grader Bailey Keyes emerged from a record field to claim the top prize in the Pasco County Clerk & Comptroller’s fifth annual Constitution Essay Contest.

“I think the constitution is important because it gives people the same rights no matter what color you are, what religion you are,” Bailey wrote. “I was born in another country that does not have the same type of constitution that the United States has. I moved to the country at a young age and became a United States citizen. Now because of the constitution I can become whatever I want to be and have the rights as everyone else.”

Judges applauded Bailey’s grasp of individual liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, noting her personal examples along with her “clear beginning and logical ending.”

Second- and third-prize essays were submitted by Ryleigh McQueen, of Woodland Elementary, and Nathan Grimes, also of Trinity Elementary.

Ryleigh painted a word portrait of a nation in chaos “if we didn’t have the Constitution to guide us,” and rightly pointed out the Framers’ wisdom in “allow[ing] the possibility of adding amendments.”

Nathan described our constitutional government as a “three-legged stool” whose amendment structure allowed for extending freedom to former slaves and voting rights for women. But it was the kicker that wooed the three-judge panel.

“Without the Constitution, we wouldn’t be the great nation that we are today,” he wrote. “I believe that without the Constitution, we would live in a world with war and people getting killed. I prefer to live in a world with peace and sunshine!”

This year’s competition drew a record 72 entries, nearly 70 percent more than in 2016.

The winners will be awarded trophies at the Pasco County School Board meeting December 19. Top finisher Bailey Keyes gets a tour of the Pasco courthouse of her choosing, plus lunch with Clerk & Comptroller Paula S. O’Neil, Ph.D.