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Holy Cross student wins national essay contest
Fifth-grader Alain Niyungeko wins a $500 savings bond and a bicycle for his essay about his move to America from war-torn Africa.
Alain Niyungeko, a fifth-grader at Holy Cross Academy in Fredericksburg, was named the national winner of an essay contest sponsored by the Armed Forces Foundation. The contest, a part of the Armed Forces Foundation's Operation Caring Classroom program, asked students to write about their thoughts on freedom. Alain received his award — a $500 savings bond and a new Schwinn bicycle — in front of his classmates following a school Mass last week.
According to Foundation President Patricia Driscoll, the Operation Caring Classroom program educates children about the military and the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families. The contest was a way to get students thinking about freedom, something that is often taken for granted.
Alain is from Burundi and lived in Kasuly, Tanzania, before moving to America with his family in 2007 as part of the Arlington diocesan refugee resettlement program. He wrote his essay on the differences between his life in Africa and his life in America.
“Now it is different because we live in America,” Alain wrote. “Now there are no bad soldiers like soldiers in Africa. It is fun to be in America with my friends. But, I will never forget my friends in Africa.”
Oblates of St. Francis de Sales Sister Susan Louise Eder, principal, thought Alain’s essay was very moving and was impressed by its lack of anger and bitterness.
“It’s special because it shows he appreciates what he has now, but still loves and cherishes where he came from,” she said.
Paul Niyungeko, Alain’s father, said he was very happy about his son’s win and couldn’t believe it when he first heard the news, since the boy is still new to the country and struggles a little with English.
“He’s a very sensitive and curious guy,” Niyungeko said. “He’s very sensitive to how people live and what people do to others.”
At Holy Cross Academy, the fifth-, sixth- and seventh- grades participated in the essay contest. According to Driscoll, 55,000 students participated in the contest nationwide.