Three students from Hillsdale Preparatory School in Hillsdale have been named local winners in the 50th annual America & Me Essay Contest, sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance. 

The three students, who earned the first, second, and third place awards for their school, are Hailey Bates, first, Maya Hamilton, second, and Emilia Lopez, third. All three received award certificates for their achievement. As the school's first place winner, Hailey's name will also be engraved on a plaque for permanent display in the school. 

Hailey Bates's first place essay now advances to the state level competition, from which the top ten essays in Michigan will be selected. The top ten statewide winners, who will be announced in April, will each receive a plaque, a medallion and a cash award of $2,000. In addition, the top ten essayists will be honored at a banquet in Lansing, meet with some of Michigan's top governmental leaders, and be the featured guests at a Lansing Lugnuts minor league baseball game dedicated in their honor. Also part of our 50th Anniversary celebration, we will be presenting each top ten statewide school with a $1,000 check. 

A team of finalist judges that includes a top Michigan government official and the sponsoring teachers of last year's top two statewide winners, will determine the ranking of the top ten statewide winners this year. 

Several thousand eighth grade students from over 400 Michigan schools participated in the 2018-19 America & Me Essay Contest, which was conducted with the help of Farm Bureau Insurance agents across the state. The topic of the 2018-19 contest was "My Personal Michigan Hero."

Started in 1968 and open to all Michigan eighth grade students, the contest encourages Michigan youngsters to explore the greatness of American and its people. As sponsor for the contest, Farm Bureau Insurance has earned 11 national awards from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.