Friday, June 13, 2008

Victoria Blackstone winner of the 'Wave the Stars & Stripes' essay contest VIDEO

St. Agnes freshman to lead convention event in Pledge of Allegiance Essay contest entries to be sent to Minnesota Guard in Iraq

SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The 2008 Republican National Convention, and its partners: the Saint Paul Pioneer Press,
Microsoft Corp. and Qwest Telecommunications International, Inc., today announced that Victoria Blackstone, 15, from Roseville, Minn., is the winner of the "Wave the Stars & Stripes" essay contest.

Blackstone, a freshman at St. Agnes School in Saint Paul, will lead an official convention event in the Pledge of Allegiance during the week of Sept. 1-4. Her 434-word essay, "Pledging Myself to the Flag of the United States of America," won out over a group of ten finalists.

Mark Rugnetta, 13, an eighth-grader at Eagle Ridge Junior High School from Savage, Minn., was named runner-up with his 337-word essay entitled "Colors on Cloth."

Both Blackstone's and Rugnetta's essays will be published in the June 15 edition of the Pioneer Press. Each student will also receive laptop computers provided by Qwest and Xbox 360 systems from Microsoft.
"We congratulate Victoria and Mark on having the best essays among the hundreds of students in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul community who chose to accept our challenge to be creative and share with us what the American Flag means to them," said Jo Ann Davidson, convention Chairman and contest judge

Essays from the ten finalists were presented to the Saint Paul Central Library, site of today's announcement, for display. In addition, all "Wave the Stars & Stripes" entries are to be sent to members of the 851st Vertical Engineer Company of the Minnesota National Guard, who are now serving in Iraq.

"We are sending these essays to the 851st so that they can know what the students of Minneapolis-Saint Paul have to say about the American Flag," Davidson said.

Ten finalists were selected from the hundreds of entries from the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area and judged by a local panel. Davidson was joined by Rachel Stassen-Berger, political reporter for the Pioneer Press; John Sampson, Director of Federal Government Affairs of Microsoft Corp.; John Stanoch, Qwest Minnesota President; former Minneapolis City Councilman, Brig. Gen. Denny Schulstad (USAF, Retired); Chas Anderson, Deputy Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Education; and Leah McLean, KSTP news anchor.

All finalists will receive a package of education software from Microsoft, in addition to Zune media players. The remaining finalists are:

* Erin Cichanski (Maple Grove, Minn.), 13, Maple Grove Junior High School, Grade 7
* Thomas D'Agostino (Woodbury, Minn.), 14, Saint Ambrose of Woodbury, Grade 7
* Christopher Fiore (Lakeville, Minn.), 16, Christian Life School, Grade 10
* Katharine Golightly (Saint Paul, Minn.), 17, Faith Baptist Christian School, Grade 11
* Brendan Halleron (Victoria, Minn.), 16, Holy Family Catholic High School, Grade 10
* Emily Hoffmann (Minnetonka, Minn.), 16, Holy Family Catholic High School, Grade 11
* Sandra Opokua (Saint Paul, Minn.), 15, Cleveland Junior High School, Grade 8
* Sam Roden (Eden Prairie, Minn.), 15, home schooled, Grade 8

The contest was open to schoolchildren, grades 7-12, from the local seven-county area of Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties. The 500-word essays answered the question: "What does the American Flag mean to you?" In keeping with the convention's promise to be the greenest in GOP history, entries were collected electronically through the convention's website: and through the Pioneer Press' website: and through the Pioneer Press' website:

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