Class assignment evolves into essay contest, book

By ERIN BLACK eblack@newnan.com When Arnall Middle School social studies teacher Pamela Ridge assigned her seventh grade class a research project about someone in history they admired, it inspired one student and his mother to start a nation-wide essay contest. Student Reid Geddie, who chose to write about his grandfather, a World War II veteran, for the project, soon realized there were many American heroes who deserved to be honored.
As Reid and his mother, Lynn Geddie, researched the story of Reid's grandfather, they were motivated to create and sponsor the first American Veteran Essay Project. The project required students across the nation between the ages of 13 and 16 to write essays about an American war hero involved in a battle from World War II to the current Middle Eastern War -- explaining that particular soldier's or veteran's story and why they deserved to be honored. From the submissions, the judges, Col. Frank Milling, a U.S. Marine Corps retiree, and Sgt. Patti Hood of the U.S. Air Force, decided which essays were eligible for publishing and chose first, second and third place winners for the most well -written stories. The winners received either a cash prize or a flight camp scholarship at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins. Forty essays were chosen to be in the book, which is titled "America's Soldiers: Teens' Tales of Tribute" and published through Author House Publishing Company. The teens published represent 10 states -- Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia -- and Washington D.C. Eight of those students are from the Newnan-Coweta area. Lynn Geddie said that once the idea was formulated, she and Reid both began to send out hundreds of e-mails to schools, educators, Scout troops and churches across America. She also spoke with Arnall Middle School's principal, Dr. Jan Franks, and with Ridge to spread the word about the project. Geddie said the completed manuscript was submitted to the Young Voices Foundation Book Awards, and it received a gold award in the Youth Nonfiction category. "The GOLD award seal is now featured on the front cover of the book, and everyone involved in the project is very proud of this accomplishment," said Lynn Geddie. All proceeds from sales of the books will pay for next year's competition. In producing the essay project and the book of essays, Lynn Geddie hopes that "Americans will make a real connection to those who have made individual sacrifices for the freedom and betterment of our country." "I hope teens will learn to distinguish the difference between what great courage and strength of character is and merely that of fame or celebrity, which will foster an awareness that our veterans are true mentors and role models for all Americans -- and inspire patriotism while offering an enrichment opportunity to teens through creative writing and learning history from those who lived it," she added. For more information on the American Vet Book Project, visit www.americanvetpowerof1.com


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