Alyssa Jean “AJ” Pantaleon, a seventh-grade student at Grace Christian Academy, topped this year's Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture's essay contest for middle school students.
CCAC invited grades 7 and 8 students from public and private schools to write an essay about coconuts in celebration of the 31st Annual Flame Tree Arts Festival last April.
The 12-year-old Pantaleon wrote that, “A coconut is a drupe, meaning it is not a true nut. The various parts of the coconut have many culinary uses. Some people from other countries have allergic reactions to coconut.” She said she was able to finish her essay after two days. Pantaleon is still waiting for her $100 cash prize from the Council.
It was her first time to win first place in an islandwide contest, but she said, “When I heard about the contest, I felt confident and told myself I will win first place. I prayed to God to help me win. When they told me I got first place, I was surprised and was really very happy. I thank God for helping me win.”
Her parents, Jess and Ana Pantaleon, said, “We were both happy and proud when we heard that she won first place. We are grateful to the committee for having this kind of contest to encourage kids to write and be aware of the things around them. We pray that this experience would encourage our daughter to write more and express herself.”
Pantaleon was the only GCA student who submitted an essay for the contest. Art teacher Esther Manzano, who registered all the CCAC poster, crafts, and essay entries, said, “I admire AJ for making a difference. Out of 58 grades 7 and 8 students from GCA, she was the only one who approached me after she saw the announcement on one of the bulletin boards and said she wants to join the essay contest.”
GCA's second placer and alternate to the GCA Spelling Bee participant in Guam last school year, Pantaleon has been joining other competitions such as Bible Sword Drill and PGFC since her elementary level and has been a GCA student since K5. (GCA)