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Fox Chapel Area sophomore wins essay contest

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Deborah Deasy | Pine Creek Journal
Rama Godse meets former Gov. Tom Ridge.

Fox Chapel Area sophomore Rama Godse decided on a whim to enter an essay contest and to her surprise, got to read her award-winning work to former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

“One day I didn't have a lot of homework, so I thought I might as well enter,” the 15-year-old said of the civics-themed essay contest sponsored by St. Barbabas Charities.

“I was really excited to find out that I won.”

Rama took first-place in the contest, for which she wrote a 500-word essay on how veterans at St. Barnabus played a role in protecting homeland security.

Contestants had to consider that the Department of Homeland Security was officially created in response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

However, protecting the safety of American citizens has always been the priority of the military.

“I feel very passionately about topics like this,” Rama said. “Not only do veterans secure our nation physically, but also ideologically,” she said. “They preserve our values and our ideas through their actions.”

Sponsored in conjunction with St. Barbabas Charities 113th Founder's Day, the contest was open to all high school students in western Pennsylvania. Submissions were judged by a panel of outside experts.

Rama, a member of the high school's forensics team and Future Business Leaders of America, was invited to read her essay to Ridge, who served as the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.

He was among an audience of veterans at St. Barnabus during the Founder's Day celebration last week who served as an inspiration to Rama, she said.

“They were all very welcoming and had a lot of encouraging words to say.”

A Vietnam veteran, Ridge served as the 43rd Pennsylvania governor prior to his appointment with the federal government. He was awarded the Hance Award, St. Barnabas Health System's highest honor, at the ceremony.

“He referenced my speech during his,” Rama said. “It was just really incredible.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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