"What The American Flag Means To Me"
By Liz Premo
21 Voices & The Recreation Guide
A Publication Of Atlantic News
SEABROOK — Eleven-year-old Kirstin Provencher put her patriotism into prose and came up a winner recently when she took top honors in an essay contest sponsored by the Seabrook Lions Club.
Seabrook Elementary School, likes math, language arts, reading,
acting, and sharing her thoughts on what the American flag means
to her. [Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
A fifth grader at Seabrook Elementary School, Kirstin became a participant in the contest as part of a voluntary assignment given by her teacher, Miss Lisa Young. Contestants' essays had to describe in the writer's own words, "What the American Flag Means to Me."
Kirstin, whose mother won the same contest as a youngster, drew on the symbolism of the flag and her own personal family history to create her prize-winning entry (see Kirstin's entry at end). To prepare for her task, Kirstin interviewed her grandmother, Kay Deshais, about Joseph August Deshais Jr. — Kay's husband and Kirstin's grandfather, who served in the Marines.
"I'm really excited about winning," says Kirstin, "and I'm glad I did it about my grandfather." She admits she didn't think she would come out on top ("I thought I was going to win at least third place.")
She was invited along with other contestants to attend a Lions Club meeting, and when her name was announced as being the first place winner of the essay contest, "I thought I wasn't hearing right." Kirstin became the recipient of a $50 prize and a blue ribbon, and earned the right to read her prize-winning essay in front of her class at Seabrook Elementary School.
It's in that classroom that Kirstin enjoys two of her favorite subjects, language arts and math. She likes to write short stories and play "Mad bibs," where parts of speech such as adjectives and adverbs are used to "fill in the blanks" and create humorous anecdotes. For those occasions when the topic turns to exercises in addition, multiplication and division, Kirstin enjoys math games and moving up in level after level of the work contained in her math folder.
When it comes to science and learning about the rainforest, she enjoys giving her final answer when she plays "Who Wants to be a Scientist?" And, the Goosebumps and Harry Potter series of books are high on her list of favorite things because, says Kirstin, "I love to read." In fact, books happen to be one of Kirstin's favorite items to collect. She is also collecting the currently-minted series of state quarters, and has a specially-made map of the United States on which to display them.
Collecting travel miles has been easy for this honor student ("I've always been on the high honor roll. I usually get only As and Bs," she says.) Kirstin has been to Six Flags in New Jersey, where she enjoyed a centrifugal-force-based ride where the bottom dropped out from beneath her ("it's wicked fun"), and where she "got soaked standing on a bridge near a water ride." She's also enjoyed a class field trip to Lowell Mills ("I liked it there") in Lowell, Massachusetts; and an excursion to Santa's Village in Salem, New Hampshire offered Kirstin the opportunity to ride the roller coaster there.
On a Florida beach, says Kirstin, "I found a really cool shell," and when she went to show it to her mother, Kirstin says she had a little bit of trouble locating her at first because her mother had become so tanned. Kirstin picked up a little bit of color under the Florida sun herself, getting "sunburned so bad [I] couldn't move." She says she tried to use "lots of lotion to cool off."
Kirstin finds herself on the move close to home, too. She participates in a number of programs offered by the Seabrook Recreation Department, including a cooking class and the cheerleading squad. She is involved in softball ("This year I get to be pitcher,") and is looking forward to playing basketball on the school team next year.
Kirstin has also participated in numerous field day events that take place annually at SES. On field day, "you don't have to do any work in school," she explains. "You can do activities outside." She notes that it's a little different for students in grades five and up — "You go to Water Country instead."
Kirstin likes playing Monopoly, jumping on the trampoline and playing in the pool with her sisters Alyssa (age 5) and Stephanie (age 9). Both her siblings attend Seabrook Elementary School, where Alyssa is in Kindergarten and Stephanie is in fourth grade.
A theatre buff, Kirstin says she wants "to be an actress, because it looks like fun. We went to UNH with my grammy [to] see plays. We saw Oliver; it was really good. That's how I got the idea that I want to be an actress," especially one on television. She has already enjoyed a head start in her acting career, having played one of the title characters in The Three Billy Goats Gruff and performing in multiple parts in a "detective" play.
"We just did it for fun," she says of the production.
If Kirstin is looking for a head start in an award-winning writing career, she's already achieved it with her entry in the Seabrook Lions Club essay contest. When asked what it was that first motivated her to take on the assignment and write such a thoughtful reflection on the American flag, her answer is simple and honest: "I just wanted to."
"What The American Flag Means To Me"
By Kirstin Provencher
Grade 5, Seabrook Elementary School
Seabrook, New Hampshire
The American flag is red, white and blue. It has thirteen horizontal stripes, seven red and six white for each of the original thirteen colonies. It has fifty white stars, one for each state, that is set in a blue background. The white stripe signifies purity and innocence, red is hardiness and valor (bravery) and blue is the color of the Chief.
The broad band above the stripes signifies vigilance (watchful), perseverance (steadfast) and justice (the law). The star is the symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired; and the stripe is the symbol of rays of light in the sun.
When the flag is completely folded, the stars are on the top to remind us of our motto, "In God We Trust." After it is folded all the way and tucked in, it looks like a hat to remind us of the soldiers who served for our country and who fought for our rights, privileges and the freedom that we have today.
In order to tell you what the American flag means to me, I would like to give you a little history on my inspiration.
My grandfather, Joseph August Deshais Jr., enlisted as Private First Class in the United States Marine Corps in 1952. He was an Aircraft-Jet Engine Mechanic. In 1954 he got injured during action while in the Korean War and was sent to a Japanese hospital. There he met my grandmother and they got married. In 1956 he became Corporal. He was the commanding officer for Marine Aircraft and the Marine Fighter Squadron. In 1960 he was honorably discharged.
I don't remember him because he passed away when I was only one, but every time I think about the flag, I think of him. The American flag was draped over his coffin and the honor guard fired a twenty-one gun salute. The flag was then given to my grandmother
The flag has a lot of meaning to me, as it should to everyone. It is a symbol of life, belief honor and remembrance of veterans. It tells how brave men and women struggled for "our" independence.
I was told everytime I see the flag, I should place my right hand over my heart, stand straight up, and think of all the men who fought and died to keep our nation free. I am not only saluting the flag, I am saluting them as well.
Next time you see a flag floating freely, remember what it stands for and give it the respect that it deserves. I'm sure that it will wave right back at you!
Kirstin Provencher Wins Essay Contest
Hampton Union, Friday, February 2, 2001
The contest was an essay of 300 words or less (minimum 100 words) with the theme of "The American Flag."