Immanuel Lutheran School sixth-grader Kendrick Sterling stood before the group of adults and some of her peers.

She read over her essay for a moment before starting to speak and talking about what freedom means to her.

“In America, we have a lot of freedoms,” she said. “We have the freedom of speech, freedom of religion and many more.”

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Sterling was among the many students from local area schools who entered the Jackson County Sertoma Club’s annual Freedom Essay. Hers took the top spot.

They were recognized during the club’s annual banquet Feb. 18 at First United Methodist Church in Seymour.

In her one-page essay, Sterling talked about freedom for Americans from a time when some didn’t have freedom but were instead enslaved before the end of the Civil War in 1865.

Sterling then spoke about the Bill of Rights and the 13th Amendment before discussing what freedom affords everyone.

“I remembered learning that slaves didn’t have rights we do. That was kind of the main focus for it,” Sterling said.

Some of her sentiments were mirrored by keynote speaker Perry Hammock, executive director of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

Hammock spoke about the history of Indiana and how the state celebrated its centennial 100 years ago.

“In 1916, before the centennial, we didn’t even have a flag,” he said. “The Indiana state flag was created for the centennial in 1916.”

Hammock said the centennial celebration included dances, pageants and more.

He also spoke about some of the events the commission has planned for this year’s bicentennial celebration.

Torches are being designed that will be carried during a run that will visit every county at least once, and a lot of other events are being planned, he said.

“It’s our job as your parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to set these things in place for you,” he said to the winners present.

These essay winners included students from elementary and middle schools from across the county.

Sterling earned $50 and an American flag that flew over the state capitol for winning.

“I think the flag is really cool,” she said.

She said the experience was good, and she was proud of the work she put into her essay.

Andrea Bair of Brownstown Central Middle School took second place, and Emma Klinge of St. John’s Sauers Lutheran School finished third. They both took home $25 and an American flag.

Each school system had a winner.

The other winners were Sydney Stewart from St. Ambrose, Ella Passe from Crothersville, Brooklyn Baughman from Medora, Juleimy Alvarado from Seymour Christian Academy and Clayton Greenawalt from Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center.

Besides Hammock and the essay contest winners, Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman attended and issued a proclamation.

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Aaron Piper is a photographer and reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at or 812-523-7057.