WEST HARTFORD – Gabriel Epstein, 13, an eighth-grade Solomon Schechter Day School student, won first place in the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Connecticut’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest, “Why I Appreciate Americans Veterans”, announced Andrea Kasper, Head of School. Epstein, fluent in Hebrew and Spanish, will represent the state nationally with the essay that he read to a room full of veterans during the Annual Voice of Democracy and Patriots Pen Awards Dinner in Rocky Hill. A proud Epstein told the audience he was honored to receive the award from such a select group of individuals without whom our country could not enjoy our freedoms and liberties.
The essay contest that attracts more than 100,000 students each year encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society. The students draft a 300- to 400-word essay expressing their views based on a patriotic theme and the contest is open to students in grades 6-8 who are enrolled in a public, private or parochial school or home study program. Said Epstein, “I was happy when Mrs. Tafrate, my English teacher, signed us up to this type of contest because I truly believe our veterans deserve more recognition than they receive.”
Annually, for Memorial Day SSDS students get paired with veterans whom they interview and honor during a school ceremony. In honor of Veteran’s Day the students write letters to veterans and visit a VA hospital to meet and spend time with the veterans there. Said Epstein “These are some of the activities that made a difference in my education and that have helped form my character and my mind. I’m honored to represent my school and the State of Connecticut in such a prestigious contest.”
CAP: Gabriel Epstein, center, with Ladies Auxiliary State President Carol Preston, left, and VFW Dept. of CT State Commander Greg Smith.