Caleb Bonner, a fourth grader in the Program for Exceptionally Gifted Students (PEGS) at Rose Acres Elementary, was announced as the winner in the grades 3-5 division of the CAF Red Tail Squadron
essay contest for his entry on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.
The CAF Red Tail Squadron created the annual essay contest to help young people gain a greater understanding and be positively affected by the Six Guiding Principles based on the experiences of the Tuskegee Airmen: Aim High, Believe in Yourself, Use Your Brain, Be Ready to Go, Never Quit, and Expect to Win.
“No, I didn’t expect to win,” Bonner said. “Maybe I thought I’d get third place at absolute most, but I didn’t expect to win. I didn’t think my essay was the country’s best.”
For winning the contest, he received a leather bomber jacket, a hat, a student achievement certificate and a dog tag.
“I had no idea that it would be like this today,” he said after a presentation of prizes on Feb. 28 in front of family members, teachers and classmates. “I knew I won the essay, but I didn't expect there would be all of this.”
Ms. Tracey Robinson worked with the students on the essays.
“Caleb was so excited to learn about the Tuskegee Airmen because he had never heard of them before,” she said. “He just had to read everything about them.”
She said the entire class found the topic interesting.
“I went on to Epic! and found everything I could. The kids read all the books and I found a couple of websites for them,” she said. “They just devoured all the information.”
Bonner’s paper was very unique because he focused on the personnel that supported the pilots.
“They’re all considered Tuskegee Airmen even if they weren't pilots,” Robinson said. “Everybody who had a part in making the squadron work was considered a Tuskegee Airmen and he focused on all the support personnel.”
It took him a few weeks to write the 1-page essay.
“I'm glad my teacher forced me to keep writing and editing because it made a huge difference.”
Of the six principles of the Tuskegee Airmen, two stand out for Bonner.
“I think Aim High is one because I want to be a comedian, and I guess Use Your Brain,” he said. “But Be Ready to Go? Not at the least. My mornings are not what you would call Be Ready to Go. It's more like Be Ready to Go back to bed.”
Fourth grader Harry Vandernoot placed third and received a student achievement certificate and a dog tag.
“I think the most interesting thing I learned about the Tuskegee Airmen is that they had their own college.”
All students that submitted an essay about the Tuskegee Airmen received a dog tag that features the Six Guiding Principles. Those students are: Caleb Bonner, Alexis Burroughs, Eli Dukes, Devin Garner, Joey Granillo and Harry Vandernoot.
Pattonville School District
11097 St. Charles Rock Road St. Ann, MO 63074 (314) 213-8500