A statewide program designed to teach fourth-graders about flag etiquette has produced a local winner, Alaina Linnemeier.
Linnemeier competed against approximately 2,000 students and received $1,000 for her efforts.
Sponsored by the American Legion, Linnemeier represented Post 82 locally.
Larry Thiele, the post's commander and flag etiquette chairman, has worked 18 years with the program that began in 1996.
Some posts participate, while others do not, according to Thiele.
“For young people, it's the first time they achieve something,” Thiele said. “They look at the flag differently after they complete the program.”
Five elementary schools were sponsored by Post 82: Franke Park, Lindley, Study, Most Precious Blood and St. Paul Lutheran.
Mark F. McKissak also represented the post at the district level. Linnemeier and McKissak represented St. Paul Lutheran.
Thiele said he explains the program to students, showing the proper way to fold the flag, while explaining the significance of each fold.
Participating students first must read a colored comic book, “Our Country's Flag,” which is a history of the U.S. flag. The comic book is designed to hold the student's interest, Thiele said.
After students read the comic book, they take a true-false test, consisting of 20 questions. They must get 100 percent on the closed-book test to advance. Students also must write an essay about the flag on back of the test.
Judging takes place at four levels: school, legion, district and state. One boy and one girl are selected at each level. Indiana has 11 districts.
Thiele said students complete the program “not only to win but to learn about our country and symbol of freedom.”
A recognition ceremony was held for students Jan. 19 at American Legion Lincoln Post 82. Thiele said 100 people, including parents, teachers and principals, attended the ceremony.
“It's nice to see parents, teachers and principals there,” he said. “It makes the kids feel good, too.”
While participation on the school level has “slipped a little bit,” according to Thiele, he has noticed changes in teaching staff and administration has brought more interest to the program.
“If you don't have the administrative side, it's pretty hard to sell to young people,” he said.
Linnemeier will read her essay to district delegates next week, and in July will read her essay to state delegates in the American Legions convention, he said.
The boy winner at the state level represents Post 468 in Berne.