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Sherry Tang sees the stars shining when she looks at the American Flag.

That perspective helped Sherry, 11, a student at Riverdale Heights Elementary School, become a state winner in the annual American Legion, Department of Iowa, Fifth Grade Flag Essay contest.

American Legion Buffalo Bill Post 347, LeClaire, is the local sponsor, said Bob Brockhouse, of Bettendorf, post member.

Sherry’s winning entry was selected out of thousands of other essays by the Legion’s State Children and Youth Committee and supported by its charitable entity, the American Legion of Iowa Foundation. She will be presented with a $300 award at the annual Legion department convention July 18-21 in Des Moines.

At 8:50 a.m. Friday, May 17, Sherry will read her essay at Riverdale Heights. Students whose essays won at other schools also will be part of May observances.

The theme was “What the Flag Means to Me.”

Sherry’s parents are Yijin Tang and Lena Zhou. “They didn’t even know I was doing this,” said Sherry, whose dream is to become a Supreme Court justice. “”If I was a lawyer, too, that’d be one – it would be one more step to that dream.”

Brockhouse said Legion representatives visit six elementary schools in the area. The purpose of the contest and visits is for students to develop a deeper knowledge and appreciation for the United States Flag.

“The Legion has been doing this for more than 20 years, and has reached more than 6,000 students in that period of time,” Brockhouse said.

Brockhouse, a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1954-1956, enjoys watching students  become involved in patriotic observances. "When these students are out there and they salute the flag, it chokes me up,” he said.

Jennifer Gertson, principal, and Sherry’s teacher Olivia Day, are proud of their student. “The beauty of her essay is it was very heartfelt,” Gertson said. “It refers to her immigration.”

Gertson adds that, at Riverdale, students speak 18 different languages.

Writing the essay challenged her, Sherry said. “I had all these thoughts and I had to make this only 300 words,” she said. She spent about two weeks on it.

“This is the first time in 20 years a student has gone on to state,” Day said.

During the flag essay assembly, the students will gather outside around the flagpole. Brockhouse will be on hand to show the proper way to salute the flag, and Sherry will read her essay. The school also will receive a new flag.

Almost 95 percent of the fifth graders in the district participate in the contest, Gertson said.

All five building winners will be receive an American Legion plaque and will be honored on various days in May at their schools: Bridgeview Elementary, Cody Elementary, Hopewell Elementary, Pleasant View Elementary and North Scott.

Winning students also will read their essays at the May 28 Pleasant Valley School Board meeting.

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.

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