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Kaitlyn McKnight's essay American Identity on What's Great About America received an Honorable Mention by Stossel in the Classroom. The contest was sponsored by the Sandra and Lawrence Post Family Foundation.
Kaitlyn was awarded a Certificate of Recognition and $50.
"It's pretty cool," said the 16 year-old daughter of Kathy and Kenny McKnight.
Kaitlyn's essay was part of AP English Language teacher Kevin Gose's challenge to students. He submitted several entries in September 2010.
"I was a little surprised because it was still in draft form," Kaitlyn said of her three page work, one of 7,514 essays submitted by students age 13-18 around the country.
Only 222 essays were chosen as prize winners with cash amounts ranging from $50 to $1,500.
When asked if she spent her prize money, Kaitlyn replied, "I'll probably save it for college."
Her essay depicts the positive, negative and a mutual mix of both about the United States.
"One part is about the good, one part is about the bad and the last is a rogerian of all the elements," she explained.
Kaitlyn feels America offers individuals a wealth of opportunity while awash in a financial crisis. She said the government needs to be fixed so it can fix the financial mess it created.
"Politics is a problem because people are elected with optimism and promises but too many times they fall victim to corruption and narrow-minded vision," she attested. "They were elected to help the people but end up serving themselves."
She sees her thinking as very conservative. While she respects the administration of President Barack Obama, she does not care much for some of his policies such as health care reform which "put us in more debt and now we're running up the deficit."
Kaitlyn aspires to be a teacher and really enjoys time in Mr. Gose's class.
"We get to talk, argue and debate topical issues," she said. "Sometimes the dialogue gets heated because students attempt to defend their stance but haven't done their research. When I take a side, I stick to it. My main goal then is to persuade you to see why I am right."
Mr. Gose said Kaitlyn is the perfect mix of academics and vigorous debate.
"She is very spirited," he smiled. "She's not afraid to state her feelings and challenge students to defend their position. I would be happy with a room full of 30 Kaitlyns."
The youth declared she does not disrespect the feelings of her classmates.
"I want them to know where I stand on the issues," she said.
A recent class debate on the consequences of teen sexting (texting sexually graphic comments to friends) got especially uncomfortable because, "it hits home to a lot of people my age."
"Kaitlyn is the kind who always finishes and turns in her work on time even with several extracurriculars and is a pleasure to have in class," Mr. Gose said. "She has a bright future ahead."
Kaitlyn is a member of BC's cross country and basketball teams. She also works during the summer coaching soccer for the Bullitt County YMCA and playing softball.
She works a summer job at Meyer JC Construction cleaning up after the general laborers.
She has three siblings. Emily is in eighth grade and Ryan is in sixth grade at Bernheim Middle School. Kelsey is in second grade at Lebanon Junction Elementary School.
The top essays and a full list of winners are available at http://www.stosselintheclassroom.org/essaycontest.php?p=winning_essays.html. John Stossel hosts a weekly show, Stossel, on the Fox Business Channel and also anchors several specials a year for Fox News. Before joining Fox in October 2009, he was co-anchor of ABC News's 20/20.
Stossel in the Classroom, a project of the non-profit Center for Independent Thought, provides free curriculum materials to teachers using video clips from John Stossel television shows and specials.
Bullitt County Public Schools has nearly 13,000 students in grades kindergarten through 12. There are 25 school facilities, a certified staff of over 850 and a classified staff of over 850 working every school day to make the district the leader in educational excellence.