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CCSD students win honors from Daughters of the American Revolution chapter in annual essay contest

SHHS student Elizabeth Koenck during award ceremony.Elizabeth Koenck sees service as a consistent theme that weaves through the whole of American history.

Koenck, a senior at Smoky Hill High School, penned the winning entry in the annual essay contest held by the Toll Gate Creek Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Koenck won the chapter’s Good Citizens Award for her essay, which explores the importance of civilian leadership in the history of the United States, from figures like English-tenant-farmer-turned-statesman Thomas Paine to those whose role in American history has been too often overlooked.

“One of my favorite stories of American history surrounds women’s involvement in the second World War. On the home front, women took over their husbands’ jobs to support their nation,” Koenck wrote. “(Others) helped in more direct ways, cracking codes with the military intelligence services or flight-testing planes … Their sacrifices demonstrated women’s dependability. By proving that they, like American men, were willing to help their nation, they helped the United States achieve victory in the most devastating conflict mankind has ever faced.”

Koenck also draws from her own personal experiences in the winning essay, which wasn’t the only entry from a Cherry Creek School District student to win an honor (Cherokee Trail senior Elda Abayneh was the runner-up for the Good Citizens Award, and CT senior William Daniels III was the chapter winner for Outstanding Service to Veterans and for the Patriots in American History essay contest). 

Koenck details her own volunteer work in her submission, service with the International Rescue Committee in Denver that began in 2019. “Every day in modern America, people continue to make little sacrifices of their time, money and energy to continue the betterment of our nation. In my volunteer work … I see countless volunteers working to make our community a more welcoming place for refugees from around the world. Their hours of service mean more new Americans are welcomed every day.

“Service helps our nation by allowing citizens to make it into the place they dream it can be,” she added.

Working firsthand with volunteers who devote their time, energy and resources to helping others made the themes of service and patriotism real for Koenck, who’s spent around 200 hours tutoring refugees in English through her work with the International Rescue Committee. As she wraps up her final year at Smoky Hill and looks to continue her service work studying international relations in college, Koenck said her volunteer experience and her guidance from the staff, students and community at Smoky Hill have made all the difference.

“I would never have even started volunteering if it were not for the International Baccalaureate program at Smoky Hill,” she said. “IB is a perfect setup for any student to have a lot of opportunities; I’m incredibly happy I went to Smoky Hill. I would never have wanted to go anywhere else.”

Her experience at the school and in her volunteer work offered the perspective and lessons that would steer the composition of her award-winning essay, a piece that stresses the importance of engagement, community and everyday civilian leadership.

“The citizens of America prioritize dependability, service, leadership and patriotism. Their dedication to these qualities has carved out a place in history for the United States of America,” she wrote, “the first nation to prioritize the welfare of its citizens, and the first where the citizens improve the welfare of the nation.” 

- Posted 3/30/22 at 1 PM