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Amy Beverland sixth grader Mikayla Stephens accepts the award from Michael Brown, Sertoma Club of Indiana – Northern District Governor, for winning the District’s essay contest entitled “What Freedom Means to Me.”

In November, 2012, all students in Mrs. Macalister’s sixth-grade class at Amy Beverland Elementary School (ABE) were asked to write an essay titled “What Freedom Means to Me.” This annual event, sponsored by the Sertoma Club of Indiana, asks fifth- and sixth-grade students from participating schools all across Indiana to write an essay about Freedom. School officials select the best essays and submit them to their local Sertoma club which, in the case of ABE, is the Lawrence Sertoma Club.

At the time, sitting in Mrs. Macalister’s class Mikayla Stephens had no idea how impactful this essay would be for her. She simply wrote the following from her heart:

What Freedom Means to Me

Freedom is a word that has different meanings to everyone. So what does freedom mean to me? Well, it is the describing word for our country. It’s the description to why I’m not a slave, why I can choose a religion, and why I have a choice every day. Freedom means so much to me. It means being able to have a choice.

Without freedom in my life, everything would be different. I would be forced to wear clothes that I wouldn’t want to wear; I would wake up knowing that I don’t have a choice. Freedom means being able to make my own decisions in life. Freedom is what has allowed me to choose what I am, what religion I am, and what choices I’m going to make.

Freedom is something everybody takes for granted. We shouldn’t, though. At one point, in the United States slaves didn’t have the freedom they deserved. The slaves were like puppets that the American people could control. The slaves couldn’t vote, they didn’t have a choice on what they were going to do that day, and they couldn’t say what they wanted. But then President Lincoln came, and he gave them freedom with the 13th Amendment. They were grateful and had their freedom. They were free.

Freedom has allowed me to have fun in life, to go to school, and to make a choice in life. I can watch a movie, or I don’t have to. I could hang out with my friends or I could hang out with my family, and it’s all my decision.

Freedom also means that my choice is a choice only I can make. People can certainly influence me, but I am the one to make the ultimate decision. I can make my choices be heard, or I could keep them to myself. That’s a choice within a choice. Choices are within everyday life, and you may not even notice it. For example, you chose to read this article, and I bet somebody influenced you; but, like I said, you made the ultimate decision to read this.

Freedom is being able to have control of what I do. People can give me a command, but I decide on whether I follow their command or ignore it. I control who I am and what actions I take. I decide who is my friend, and nobody can stop that.

Freedom is also our perspective; it’s our point of view. I may view the world differently than you do; I view what people say different than you do. And I can express how I view things to my friends and family without fear. Writers express their opinions through their books; companies express their feelings through their products; and people express their feelings through words and body language. Everybody has their own way of expressing their feelings, and that’s part of their freedom.

Freedom is something most people take for granted. But outside of the United States, people don’t have the kind of freedom we do. Freedom is a choice, and we need to take that freedom and use it. People don’t realize how lucky they are to have freedom. Freedom is our choice and we need to use that freedom.

Mikayla was honored to learn that her essay, among others, was selected by ABE school officials to be submitted to the Lawrence Sertoma Club for their consideration. To later learn that her essay was one of two finalists in Lawrence Township was amazing. Mikayla read her essay at a banquet sponsored by the Lawrence Sertoma Club on February 5, 2013. That night, she learned that her essay was selected as the 1st place winner. She received a very special plaque with her name engraved on it and a substantial check from the Lawrence Sertoma Club.

But the story doesn’t end there. Each Sertoma Club across the State submits their 1st place winner to the Sertoma Club of Indiana, and a northern and southern district winner are selected.

Mikayla said “I was surprised, but very happy to start preparing for February 23 when I would read my essay to the Sertoma Club of Indiana.” Sertoma clubs from all across Indiana were represented at the banquet, as were the essay winners from each club. Each student who read his/her essay did an outstanding job and truly represented themselves and their schools at a remarkably high level. At the end of the night, Mikayla was thrilled beyond belief to hear her name called as the 1st place winner for the Northern District! She was presented with a beautifully-engraved plaque and another very generous check from the Sertoma Club of Indiana.

Mikayla summed it up by saying, “This is an experience I will remember forever. Thanks to everyone at the Sertoma Club for sponsoring this event!.”

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