Alice Nagle is a typical third-grader who enjoys playing with friends, jumping on the trampoline, swimming and perfecting ninja fighting techniques. Or, as her father, Tom Nagle, describes her — a kid of all kids.
She also likes to write. Her mother, Jean Nagle, said ever since Alice could pick up a pencil, she had something interesting to compose. Those years of putting thoughts to paper paid off.
Alice was honored in April by the Department of Maryland American Legion Auxiliary, District 5, for her essay on patriotism. The Americanism Essay Contest was created to teach students the value of patriotism and what it means to be Americans. Students from third grade to seniors in high school can participate in the contest, which features a different theme each year. The theme of this year’s contest was “What does patriotism mean to you?”
Paige Thumel is Alice’s teacher at the Severna Park-based Oak Hill Elementary School. Thumel noted that Alice isn’t a student to back away from a challenge.
“From the day I passed out information for the essay contest, I knew Alice's essay would stand out because of the time, effort and passion Alice pours into everything she does,” Thumel said.
One could argue that it was only natural for Alice to have an award-winning essay on patriotism. She will turn 9 this year on July 4, a birthday she shares not only with the U.S., but with a pair of cousins.
“A little patriot, right from the beginning,” Jean Nagle said.
Alice’s essay centered around equating a love of country to a love of family. Themes of equality, love, trust and standing up for what is right are sprinkled throughout her piece.
“Linking her values of family to her understanding of patriotism shows how much she values these concepts in her home, community and world, and it confirms her commitment to setting a positive example and being a role model in her school and community,” said Pat Anderson, who taught Alice last year at Oak Hill.
Alice’s teachers, along with her family, have taken notice of Alice’s recent transformation, as she’s come out of her shell — taking calculated risks in the classroom and growing in confidence.
“In her essay, she shows maturity when she acknowledges how hard it is to keep everyone in a family, and country, on track and treat everyone equally,” said Lori Pere, Oak Hill third-grade social studies teacher and Green School lead. “But she states we should do so because we are a family. We should stand up and fight for what is right and be a good citizen. She is absolutely correct, and she is only in third grade!”
Alice, who loves meatballs, math, archaeology and the color yellow, said the lessons she’s learned about equality from her family have carried over into her peer interactions.
“Even if there’s people that I don’t really want to play with, and then I just include them and see where it goes,” Alice said. “And then I end up being really good friends with them.”
Jean Nagle said she was proud of her youngest daughter for taking on the project, win or lose.
“It was all about making sure Alice was proud of the product she put forth,” Jean Nagle said.
Alice’s dad was taken aback with Alice’s concept and associations for her essay.
“I was impressed with how technical she was with assembling it,” Tom Nagle said.
For an elementary school student who prioritizes treating others the way she would want to be treated, a bit of pride surfaced when discussing her $25 award.
“It makes me feel good about myself,” Alice said.