EDISON — Sumant Pottepalem, a sixth grade student from Herbert Hoover Middle School in Edison was selected as the grand prize winner of the 9th annual “PNC Bank American Patriot Essay Contest.” A 75-foot-tall hot-air balloon visited the school Tuesday, June 12, where executives from PNC and the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning presented him with his award, which included tethered rides in the balloon in front of more than 300 schoolmates and his family.
Sumant also received four Blue Sky Club VIP admission tickets and a will take a ride in a hot air balloon during the 30th annual Festival at Solberg Airport in Readington, July 27-28-29.
His essay was selected from a more than 3,400 entries from across the state and he is the only the second boy to win the contest in its nine year history.
The festival also provided complimentary tickets to his teachers, his principal, and all 20 of his immediate classmates.
As part of its community outreach efforts through its association with the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning, the largest summertime hot air balloon and music festival in North America, PNC asked New Jersey students in grades 2-12 to submit an essay on “What the American Flag Means to Me.” The winners were chosen by a panel of judges comprised of PNC Bank and Balloon Festival staff.
“Sumant’s essay is a true reflection of the American dream and is a deeply personal account of what the American flag means to him and his family,” said Joseph Whall, Senior Vice President & Director of Client and Community Relations at PNC Bank. “We’re genuinely moved every year to read how young people are inspired by their families and teachers and how they express their love for our nation.”
“We’re very pleased to reward both students and their teachers for taking the time to write to us about their feelings for this great symbol of our country,” said Howard Freeman, Executive Producer of the Quick Chek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning. “The PNC Essay Contest has proven to be a great way for children to create touching and thoughtful essays as the American flag means something special to each of us.”
Sumant’s winning submission:
What the American Flag Means to Me
by Sumant Pottepalem
The American Flag is pride and honor to me. My family doesn’t have a long history here, but I thank America for my well being and my life. My dad grew up in a small village in India which is not very advanced. He didn’t have that much access to technology. My dad worked hard and did his best in school. Right now my dad is a software engineer in America because he sought for opportunity. Whenever I see the American Flag I am proud to be an American, and I am honored America gave my family an opportunity.