Wins National Essay Contest

Alexis Oetterer, an eighth-grade student at St. Gertrude School, center, was named the National Elks Drug Awareness Essay winner. The Washington Elks Lodge held a reception for Oetterer Saturday, Sept. 8. With her, from left, are Bob Stemmler, assistant in the local drug awareness program; Tom Hausmann, local drug awareness chaiman; Doug Mattenlee, director of national drug awareness program; Gene Delleart, district deputy and grand exalted ruler; Frank Scarpino, state drug awreness chairman; and Mike Heimann, vice president of the Northeast District. Oetterer is the daughter of James and Monica Oetterer, Krakow.    Missourian Photo.

For the second time in three years, the Washington Elks Lodge has sponsored the winner of the Elks National Drug Awareness Essay contest.

Alexis Oetterer, an eighth-grader at St. Gertrude School, won the national contest.

Tom Hausmann, local Elks drug awareness chairman, said all 50 states participated in the contest. He wasn’t sure how many students participated at the state or national level, but about 1,000 students participated on the local level.

“This is the first time the Washington Elks has won anything national, these two essays, in the history of the club, which is 83 years old,” Hausmann said. “I’m awed by that. Even to be the first one to ever win anything national in the organization like that is unbelievable.”

Oetterer wrote the essay last October, as a part of her seventh-grade reading class. This year’s theme was “The Choice 4 Me Is Drug-Free!”

“Alexis is an excellent student, very dedicated and very serious,” said Barb Delleart, who was Oetterer’s seventh grade homeroom teacher. “I think she has a lot of potential to go a long way.”

The essays were submitted to a panel of local judges and one was chosen from each eligible grade — sixth, seventh and eighth grade.

Oetterer was named a state winner and advanced to the national contest and in April, she was named the national winner.

To honor Oetterer, the Elks hosted a reception for her Saturday, Sept. 8, at the Lodge. She was presented with a plaque and a check for $250.

She also received $200 for winning the state contest and $100 for winning the local contest.

Oetterer is the daughter of James and Monica Oetterer, Krakow.

Her essay is below.

“A puzzle can be easily torn apart, but not easily rebuilt. It is funny how simple concepts can be applied to life; lessons are to be learned. Just as a puzzle can be broken apart, a family can be broken apart by the lasting effects of a family member who chose the wrong path. . . the path of drugs. Think of the puzzle as your life. You are building it, and working hard to make it better, easier. The pieces fit together perfectly. Then, you make the decision to move the puzzle and the pieces fall apart just as if you make the decision to use drugs. The life you were perfectly fitting into falls apart before you know it.

“People choose the wrong path every day. You see it on the news, in newspapers and on the Internet. It is virtually everywhere. These people you see and hear about have foolishly overdosed or have used a fatal drug and are now dead. They don’t get a second chance to stop and ask themselves a simple question we should all ask ourselves. . . Is this a choice I will regret? Teens everywhere are making imprudent decisions. They go to parties and overdose, partly because of peer pressure. Most are kids who wouldn’t think of doing drugs in the first place, but peer pressure causes them to, and some never wake up.

“It is a scary thought that more and more young people are taking drugs. I have a choice and I  choose not to use. I can and will build a great future for myself. I don’t want to become just another person that becomes part of a drug statistic.

“Think to yourself, will I choose the right path, to be drug free, to live a good life on the path of success? Or stray from the path of rightness to the path of drug addiction? Will I say ‘NO!’ to the people who pressure me into doing drugs? Every person makes a difference. If one person says no to drugs, other people will join in and choose not to use. I will be that person. I choose not to use! Do you?”