Three students of Dawn Caldwell-Rothfusz's sixth grade class at Minden Elementary School won the Minden-Douglas Elks' essay contest on what it means to be American.
More than 56 essays from seven different classes were turned in for the competition. Essays had to be under 250 words.
"We do this to stimulate the minds of the kids," said George Johnson, chairman of youth activities for the Minden-Douglas Elks Lodge. "To get them thinking about patriotism. What does it mean to be an American?"
First place winner Camry Varble, who won $75, said Americans support each other.
"You pledge to respect each other," Camry said. "It doesn't matter what you look like, or what color your skin is."
Second place winner and recipient of $50 Brandon Pankey said freedom was key in defining an American.
"To be free and have the freedom and right to do what you want," he said.
Third place winner Daisy Gudino-Cueva, who won $25, said Americans support their troops.
"An American says the Pledge of Allegiance and stands up for the troops," she said. "An American gets butterflies in their stomach when they hear the 'Star-spangled Banner.'"
Caldwell-Rothfusz said she was proud of her whole class.
"These are hands down the best essays a class has ever written for the contest," she said.
Brandon's essay was selected at the state level to go onto the national competition in July, where it will compete with essays from 2,200 Elks lodges across the country.
"We're ecstatic," said Brandon's father Charlie Pankey. "He put in a lot of work and deserves this."
Three Carson Valley Middle School students also won for the seventh and eighth grade division contest.
All eighth graders from Elizabeth Leiknes' English class, Logan Peterson took first place, Brianna Randall took second and Yuechen Jin took third.
"These kids are going to be our future leaders," said Johnson.