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She only had one shot, two hours and a proctor watching over her as she crafted her essay, the topic a secret until she opened a sealed instructions envelope from the Daughters of the American Revolution.
But in the end, senior Juliette Albert walked away with the $500 top prize for her 550-word entry in the Indianapolis chapter’s annual Good Citizen Award contest, the International School of Indiana’s first local winner in nearly a decade.
About the contest
Started locally in 1934, the prestigious national contest recognizes the best patriotic essays based on a confidential theme provided by the DAR. In Indianapolis, five schools – ISI, Christel House at Manual, Lawrence North High School, Pike High School and Scecina Memorial High School – routinely participate in the contest each year.
This year’s assigned theme: our American heritage and our responsibility for preserving it. Writers had to answer the question: How do the combined actions of so many good citizens keep our nation moving forward?
“Once I saw the prompt, I felt I had something to say about the topic,” Juliette said. “I don’t write well under pressure, but I wrote it around election time and felt very inspired by the country’s political climate. I was fueled by emotion and just wrote from the heart.”
Essay: Click here to read Juliette’s winning DAR submission.
She added: “English has always been one of my favorite classes. I’ve never had the same English teacher twice at ISI, which helped me a lot because I learned from a lot of different people and their different writing techniques. They inspired me to read more at home and write as often as possible.”
The selection process
Each year, ISI counselors and teachers recommend a student to the DAR based on academic records, school standing and community service. Those who meet the DAR’s stringent criteria are invited to participate in the award’s two-part process. Part one assesses the student’s academic record, personal accomplishments, interests and two letters of recommendations. Part two focuses solely on the essay itself.
It’s always difficult to pick an ISI nominee, given ISI's high-quality student body, but Director of College Counseling Linda Christy felt Juliette was the school’s best overall representative.
Her selection was based on more than just her straight-A GPA, too. Raised in a bilingual and bicultural French household, Juliette has attended ISI since kindergarten and has excelled in biology and visual arts. She’s active in ISI’s AV Club, volunteers at the Humane Society (shown at right), is passionate about animal rights and uses her drawings to advocate for social causes. She wants to major in medical illustration (think art design meets medical anatomy) and is eyeing Indiana University, the Cleveland Institute of Arts and the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“She just stood out in so many ways,” Christy said. “She is very creative, and she has a scientific mind. We thought having both those traits and a wide variety of interests would represent our school very well. Plus, she’s a very thoughtful and humble young lady, a prime example of who ISI students aspire to be.”
The prize and what's next
In addition to earning the $500 prize, Juliette was invited to read her essay to local DAR members via Zoom (shown above left), and she received a framed Good Citizen Award certificate, a DAR wallet card and pin. The last ISI local winner was in Paige Newhouse in 2013.
Up next: Juliette’s essay will be judged among those from 85 other DAR Indiana chapters. If she wins, it’s on to regionals and possibly nationals in April to compete with top essays from all 50 states. The grand prize: $5,000.
"Patriotism is an important component in a young person’s makeup,” said Teresa McCarthy, chair of the Good Citizens Committee for the DAR’s local Caroline Scott Harrison Chapter. “We’re looking for that student who is dependable, gives back to the community and has an exemplary school record. Juliette had all the right stuff, and she deservedly won.”
McCarthy added: “You know when somebody is a true essay writer, and that was the case with Juliette. We’re keeping our fingers crossed (on advancing), because I think she hit everything right on the head.”