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Americanism Awards are given to pair of Mt. Pleasant Area students

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 9:10 p.m.
Barbara Denning | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Mt. Pleasant Area student Anna Billey (first row, second from left) is a recipient of the Eighth Grade School Award by the James E. Zundell American Legion Post 446 in Mt. Pleasant. She is joined (first row, from left) by her brother, Peter Billey; James E. Zundell American Legion Auxiliary Unit 446 Chairman Barbara Rudnik; Auxiliary Unit 446 President Ferne Brown; Post 446 Commander Joseph Zeman; and (second row) parents Andrea and Brian Billey.
Barbara Denning | For The Mt. Pleasant Journal
Michael Sarnelli Jr., recipient of the Eighth Grade School Award, (third from left) is presented with a gold pin and certificate for his achievement from the James E. Zundell American Legion Post 446 in Mt. Pleasant and he is pictured with (from left) his parents, Michael Sarnelli Sr. and Gloria Sarnelli; Legion executive committee Chairman Gene Calabrese; James E. Zundell American Legion Auxiliary Unit 446 President Ferne Brown; and Post 446 Commander Joseph Zeman.

The James E. Zundell American Legion Post 446 and American Legion Auxiliary Unit 446 in Mt. Pleasant recently honored two recipients during the annual Eighth Grade Americanism School Awards program.

Donegal's Michael Sarnelli Jr., a student at Mt. Pleasant Area Junior-Senior High School and the son of Michael Sarnelli Sr. and Gloria Sarnelli, was presented with a gold pin and certificate by Legion Post 446 executive committee Chairman Gene Calabrase.

Mt. Pleasant's Anna Billey, a classmate of Sarnelli and the daughter of Brian and Andrea Billey, was presented a certificate by Legion Auxiliary Unit Chairwoman Barbara Rudnik.

Both recipients said they were unaware of the existence of the awards when the school's faculty told them that they had won.

“I was very surprised,” Billey said.

Sarnelli said he was told he had won “based on what I did at the school and for the community.”

The American Legion National Americanism Commission School Award Medal program recognizes a boy and a girl who are deemed most worthy of recognition for the high qualities of citizenship and of true Americanism, with an emphasis on their development of courage, honor, leadership, patriotism, scholarship and service, according to

Each year, the Legion contacts the school and Legionnaires work in conjunction with students and faculty to choose the medal recipients.

Legion Auxiliary Unit 446 President Ferne Brown said the program is very important “to show their patriotism, and to show love for the (American) flag and pledging allegiance.”

Students from the school's eighth grade class are chosen because it is the most impressionable age to reach youths, according to a summary provided by the Legion.

Billey is a volunteer with Visitation Church in Mt. Pleasant, where she is a member, who helps carry out festivals and assists during services.

Sarnelli — who plays the trumpet — is elected by the American Legion to play at funerals for Legion members. At such times during the school year, the Legion's Honor Guard transports Sarnelli from school to funerals.

Barbara Denning is a freelance writer.

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