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Listen to a Life contest accepting essay entries

For young people, ages 8 to 18, grandparents’ day – this past Sept. 11 – was an opportunity to learn about the past.

The holiday served as a kickoff for the Legacy Project’s 12th annual Listen to a Life Essay Contest, in which children and teenagers are encouraged to interview an older role model in their lives and write a short essay on what they learn.

“We’re looking for more than just a laundry list of facts about a person’s life,” said Brian Puppa, a Legacy Project spokesman. “We’re looking for a compelling, true story from the older person’s life that is related to the contest’s theme of how the older adult overcame obstacles to achieve something in their life.”

Last year’s winner, Vann Bernette, interviewed his grandfather about a racially charged moment in his past. Runner-up Sarah Rigert wrote about her 86-year-old friend, a woman who served as a World War II Air Force pilot and received a Congressional Gold Medal of Honor for her efforts. Another runner-up, Josephine Grant, learned that, above all else, her grandmother’s life force is her family.

According to Puppa, thousands of applicants send in essays every year. There is a grand prize offered – this year, it’s a Lenovo ThinkCentre computer and $25,000 worth of software to benefit the winner’s school, not to mention separate prizes given to 20 runners up – but, ultimately, the contest is not about the material prizes that a few entrants will win. It’s about how all of them can learn from the past, a very different time that still holds very important lessons.

The Listen to a Life Essay Contest will accept entries through March 30. For more information, go to contests/ltal.html.