SCHS junior gets honorable mention in Ford writing contest

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation has announced the winners of its 2024 Student Writing Challenge, and a Shawano teen is among them.

Makenna Bubolz, a junior at Shawano Community High School, received an honorable mention for her essay, which included a $500 cash award. After graduation, Bubolz plans to study rehabilitation science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, with a goal of earning a doctorate of physical therapy.

The foundation’s annual Student Writing Challenge encourages students throughout the nation to reflect on the values that the nation’s 38th president exemplified as he answered the United States’ call to public service, and how those values are applicable today.

This year’s contest was grounded in Ford’s humanitarian relief for America’s Vietnamese allies in 1975, dubbed “Operation Babylift” and “Operation New Life,” which evacuated more than 100,000 Vietnamese refugees fleeing the Communist North Vietnamese Army’s advance. This year’s writing prompt asked students to reflect on what the words “American citizen” mean to them.

“It is so heartening to see how many of our young students are engaged with their communities and public service,” said Gleaves Whitney, the foundation’s executive director. “We received more essays from more places this year than ever before, and they were truly inspiring. We thank the students’ families and teachers for implanting such virtue in our young people. They are our future, and it gives us hope.”

Nearly 840 students from the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American families serving in the Armed Forces overseas submitted essays in this year’s competition.

“This year’s submissions included clever, innovative and creative takes on the theme ‘What does being an American Citizen mean to you?’” said Brooke Clement, director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. “As a judge, it was encouraging to read these students’ fine submissions, and I was impressed by how the writers were able to connect President Ford to their own personal, family stories. Picking the top three was a difficult decision, as the caliber of entries this year was top notch.”