DHS senior essay second in 50,000 entries
Jamie Zvirgzdins knows what perseverance is all about.
The De Soto High School senior used the word to earn runner-up status in the "Being an American Essay Contest" earlier this year.
The process began early in the school year, when Jamie's government teacher gave students an assignment to enter an essay contest.
"There were four or five contests you could enter," she said. "There were prizes for some of them, but it would be OK if we didn't win. It was for participation."
Jamie treated the contest as a normal homework assignment.
"When we first got the assignment it wasn't due for three months," she said. "I worked on it at first, then picked it up again when we had two work days in class."
The "Being an American Essay Contest" asked students to pick a civic value and relate it to a historical document, famous American and to their life.
"I chose perseverance," she said. "They had a big list of values like respect, communication and integrity."
After choosing her value, Jamie said it wasn't difficult to pick subjects to write about.
Jamie chose to write about the U.S. Constitution, Thomas Edison and her family for the essay.
The Constitution was one of the most obvious and appropriate choices, she said. She took more time researching Edison before making her choice.
"I wrote about how our county had persevered through many challenges since the beginning," she said. "For the U.S. Constitution, I wrote about how it had to go through many drafts to be the perfect law of the land. I chose Thomas Edison because he had to go through a lot of challenges and still became one of the greatest entrepreneurs."
The personal portion of the essay came easily for Jamie.
"I knew I wanted to write about my family," she said. "My family has had to persevere because my dad is in the military and we've had to live without him three times when he's been deployed. He's the glue to our family, but we've made it through."
Jamie said it was always hard talking about her family's perseverance.
"It's a personal thing," she said. "But I knew this was for an academic thing and I decided I could write about it. It helped me connect and make me feel that I knew what I was writing about."
When Jamie received a letter telling her she had placed runner-up out of 50,000 entries, she was shocked.
"I wasn't expecting it at all," she said. "I had no idea I was going to place at all. My teacher had told me that he hadn't had anyone place except a few years ago. I was really proud of myself."
Jamie received a $250 prize and the De Soto High School government department received a matching amount, she said.
Jamie said she would offer this advise those entering essay contests for school to take them seriously.
"I tried to put effort into it," she said. "You never know what could happen."