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Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence

News Release Archives

Feb. 12, 2019 - Norman Public Schools' Fifth-Grader Wins Colonial Day Literature Contest

by OFE | 2019-02-12 14:34:17

Averie Blumstein, a fifth-grader at Truman Elementary School in Norman, has been named winner of the 2019 Colonial Day at the Capitol Literature Contest sponsored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

Averie, 11, was recognized and read her award-winning essay, “What It Means To Be An American,” during Colonial Day at the Capitol on Feb. 8 in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Nearly 500 students participated in the contest.

Martha Washington, portrayed by historical interpreter Katherine Pittman from Colonial Williamsburg, presented Averie with a plaque and a $100 prize during Colonial Day opening ceremonies. Averie also received a citation from her state senator, Rob Standridge, during the event. Averie interviewed grandparents in preparation for her essay, which told the stories of her ancestor, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the renowned anti-slavery novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and of her great-great grandfather, who immigrated to the United States from Russia to escape religious persecution.

“Averie’s Colonial Day essay was powerful as she described how being an American was so important to her family, both past and present,” said Johnnie Keel, Gifted Resource Coordinator for Truman Elementary, who has had Averie in her enrichment class for three years. “I am very proud to be her teacher and excited for her to have this opportunity to share her story.”

Keel said Averie is a charter member of her school’s GLAMS club, Girls Learning Agriculture, Math and Science. She is active in dance and piano lessons and especially enjoys studying math and history. Averie is the daughter of Raleigh and Angela Blumstein of Norman.

Also recognized at the Colonial Day opening ceremony were several contest finalists, who received certificates of merit. They were Zanston Clark, ARNETT Elementary School; David Gooden, Heritage Elementary School, EDMOND; Kennedy Williams, GORE Elementary School; Nefthali Macareeg , Ridgecrest Elementary School, MIDWEST CITY; Travis Clark, Houchin Elementary School, MOORE; Julianne Hoang, Fisher Elementary School, MOORE; Arianna Salinas, Epic Charter School, OKLAHOMA CITY; Layla Brothers, Northridge Elementary School in Putnam City Public Schools, OKLAHOMA CITY; Audrey Rampey, STUART Elementary School; Kaleb Kuhlman, TUTTLE Intermediate School; and  Gracie Long of VANOSS Elementary School.

During Colonial Day, nearly 500 Oklahoma fifth-graders dressed in early-American clothing, traveled back in time to meet historical figures, learn about the daily lives of early Americans, and debate whether the colonies should remain loyal or seek independence from the British crown. Colonial Day is coordinated by teachers who have participated in the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute through a fellowship program administered by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence.

            Major funding for Colonial Day at the Capitol is provided by a grant from Oklahoma Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The event is also made possible with support from Champion Hotels, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens, the Kirkpatrick Foundation Inc., Mattocks Printing Co., the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Oklahoma History Center, Charles L. Oppenheim and Panera Bread.  


Below is the text of Averie Blumstein’s essay, “What It Means To Be An American."

My family has personally experienced what it means to be an American. It means to have the freedom to make your own choices and to have equal rights for everyone. Equality is to want everyone to be treated in the same way. Opportunity is the chance for all to pursue their hopes and dreams.  Liberty is to grant all people certain rights and freedoms. Having equality, opportunity, rights and liberties is what it means to be an American.

My ancestor, Harriet Beecher Stowe, believed that everyone should be treated equally. Harriet went to college at a time that not many women got a college education. During her life, she saw how poorly slaves were treated. She then wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” which helped start the Civil War and eventually ended slavery. By getting a good education and having the courage to write novels against slavery, Harriet was able to help gain more equality in America.

My great-great grandfather, Henry Kahn, left Russia with his family where they were mistreated because they were Jewish. They had the dream to live somewhere where things were good and they could have another chance in life. The move to America was very difficult and risky. The family spent weeks in the belly of a ship. Once when Henry was looking out the porthole, he almost fell out but someone caught his foot so he was safe. The sacrifice of Henry’s family paid off because they found a better life in America with new opportunities.

My immediate family has benefited from many liberties and rights in America.  I come from a family with different religions. Since Freedom of Religion is one of our rights as Americans, my family is accepted in our community. My grandfather has had the freedom to own his own company for almost 30 years. My other grandfather worked as a prison warden to keep the community safe but also maintain the rights of the inmates. My family is thankful to be able to make our own choices.

Equalities, opportunities, liberties, and rights are all very important things people hope for in America. Harriet Beecher Stowe strongly believed that everyone should have equality. Henry Kahn’s family wanted to have a better life so they came to America for more opportunities. My family, past and present, is thankful for their rights and liberties in America. I am glad to be an American.