Asked to write an essay about pride in her country, Jocelyn Decker did what any good writer would. She sat and pondered for a while.

Asked to write an essay about pride in her country, Jocelyn Decker did what any good writer would. She sat and pondered for a while.

"I was trying to remember all the times in the past when I thought, 'Wow, America is really great,'" she said. "That is what inspired me."

The product of her inspiration was an essay that so impressed members of Worthington's VFW post that they awarded it first place among more than 220 entries in this year's Patriot's Pen contest.

The essay will be entered in the district level competition. From there, one will go on to the state level. At the national level, winners will receive savings bonds valued up to $10,000.

Jocelyn, 14, is an eighth-grader at Kilbourne Middle School. She received a certificate and $100 for her winning entry from members of the Paul W. Tibbetts Memorial VFW Post 2398 last week.

Post Commander John Forsythe said he was delighted to have Kilbourne participate this year. Students from five schools took part, writing 300- to 400-word essays on the theme, "Am I Proud of My Country?"

The theme is different each year. Students in sixth through eighth grade are eligible.

"We are trying to perpetuate a feeling of patriotism among young people," Forsythe said.

Jocelyn said it was not difficult to come up with reasons she is proud of her country.

She cited a book she read called "Of Beetles and Angels," written by an Ethiopian immigrant who said people in his country think of America as a paradise.

Jocelyn wrote that she was also proud one day when she saw three people in uniform at an airport.

"America is a safe place, a place where people can come to be safe and start new, better lives," she wrote. "America is a place that tries to do what's right."

Seven Kilbourne students opted to enter the contest by submitting essays through their social studies teacher, Sarah Federanko. She decided to participate to provide students with an opportunity to win money for college and to give them additional practice in non-fiction writing.

The VFW presented certificates to all those who wrote essays. They were Javonte Cole, Alyssa Senek, Meghan Garber, Jordan Dodson, Zainab Kabbia and Olivia Sturtevant.