High school student Caroline Hoskins, the daughter of Security Assistance Command employee Tom Hoskins, has won a national high school essay contest sponsored by the National Sojourners Inc. Her essay, titled "Americans with Disabilities Act," was both a personal and analytical account of how U.S. laws protect its citizens from discrimination and promote freedom.
For most Americans, July 4 is most widely recognized as the defining moment in American history. Using that as the context for its 2019 high school essay contest, National Sojourners asked students to describe what they believed to be the most pivotal event or moment in American history under the theme, "A More Perfect Union."
"Starting with the Declaration of Independence, our country has been structured around each citizen's right to pursue happiness," Hoskins wrote. "Although hundreds of years later, the ADA builds on this idea and is another step towards keeping our country a country of opportunity."
Hoskins gives much of the credit for winning to both her father, a division chief in the USASAC Central Command Regional Operations Directorate, and her father's second line supervisor, Col. Jason Crowe, the CENTCOM Regional Operations director.
"My dad brought me to work for 'Take your Child to Work Day,' and he introduced me to Col. Crowe. When Col. Crowe found out I was interested in creative writing, he suggested I compete in the essay contest sponsored by a group he belongs to, the Sojourners," she explained.
The National Sojourners Inc. is a fraternal organization consisting of Master Masons who are also current and former members of the U.S. military services and other select organizations. One focus for the group is to support and develop patriotism, according to Thomas Craig, National Sojourners Inc. Chapter 353 secretary, past president and past commander of the Heroes of '76.
"The essay contest is a good way to get young people involved and learn about our country," Craig said.
Students must have a Sojourner sponsor them to enter the contest.
"Col. Crowe served as my sponsor," Hoskins said. "Myself and another student who entered met with our sponsors and other members, and they provided critiques and recommendations."
Hoskins said the essay must be very concise since it is limited to 500 words, and that one of the recommendations from the meeting was to address how the Americans with Disabilities Act personally affected her and her father.
In her essay, Hoskins relates how the signing of the act in 1990 allowed her father to not fear the consequences of being a disabled American, and how she can also enter the workforce without the fear of being treated differently because of a disability.
"We are able to review and critique the essays at the chapter level, and they are then submitted to compete at the national level," Crowe said. "It was an honor for us to have a student sponsored by our (Redstone Chapter 353) chapter win at the national level."
Hoskins was presented a check for $2,000 and a plaque recognizing her as the 2019 first place essay winner by the National Sojourners Inc. regional representative, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Michael Caldwell. Caldwell praised her efforts, noting there are 160 chapters across the U.S. that were able to sponsor essays for the national competition.
Hoskins' mother, Tammy, expressed how she felt her daughter's work on the essay took on additional significance when President George H.W. Bush died last November.
"Caroline knew President Bush had signed the act, so that made her essay even more important to her," Tammy Hoskins said.
Hoskins plans to save the award money to use for college, where she hopes to study for a career in writing. In addition to the message of her essay, she also has advice for other students her age.
"Students are always looking for scholarship money, but there are other ways to win money besides the traditional scholarships," she said. "There are lots of smaller, more specialized contests that you can enter like this -- you just need to find them."