Student’s DAR essay selected as best in state

Published 12:04 am Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rod Guajardo / The Natchez Democrat — Cathedral fifth grader Baylee Rose Granning holds a copy of her essay titled “Young America Takes a Stand: The War of 1812,” which was selected as the state winner of the Daughters of the American Revolution annual essay contest.

NATCHEZ — Writing 600 words about the War of 1812 can be a pretty scary task for an 11-year-old, Cathedral fifth grader Baylee Rose Graning admitted.

But with advice from her parents — “They told me to (write) it on the facts,” Graning said — she was able to get it done, and she wrote the top essay of all the fifth graders in the State of Mississippi.

Graning was the state winner of the Daughters of the American Revolution annual essay contest. Her essay will now contend with winning essays around the country, and she will accept her award Feb. 17 at the National Defense Luncheon in Jackson.

“I was really excited,” Graning said of the news.

Graning dove into her research essay with care and stuck to what she thought was the most interesting topic of the war, which started exactly 200 years ago.

“I thought the New Orleans battle was very interesting,” Graning said.

The topic of this year’s DAR essay required students to pretend they had a friend who became famous for standing up for America during the War of 1812.

Graning’s first-hand account follows an 11-year-old protagonist named Julie Beauregard, who was born in Chalmette and often played on the banks of Bayou Bienvenue, according to her essay.

Beauregard was picking berries when she overheard British soldiers discuss plans for a sneak attack against America in New Orleans, Graning said.

The brave girl then took the information to Jean Lafitte, who passed it along to the U.S. troops that ultimately helped defend New Orleans.

“I knew all the research and (included details) that were real,” Graning said.

Graning’s teacher, Melissa Vaughn, said the essay project can be a challenge for fifth and sixth graders because they haven’t been taught how to write an essay.

“They take what they learn (from the experience), and it exposes them to what’s to come,” Vaughn said.

Graning said giving credit where credit was due and making sure to put the source’s information into her own words were the most valuable lessons that stuck with her from the essay.

She said she was relieved to finish the essay, but the work was worth it.

“It was hard, but I liked learning about it,” she said.

Graning, who also participates in basketball, softball, cheerleading, gymnastics and ballet, said the DAR essay combined her two favorite subjects — reading and social studies.

“I like the stories,” she said of both subjects, which might have contributed to her own writing skills.

“I’m proud of her,” Vaughn said.

Graning is the daughter of Ward and Susan Graning.