TOWNSEND -- Townsend VFW Post 6538 and its Ladies Auxiliary are sponsoring the Patriot's Pen Contest for students in grades six, seven and eight. The theme for this year's essay is "What I would tell America's founding fathers."

Each essay must be typewritten in English. No color or graphics should be added. The essay should contain 300 t 400 words. Every work, regardless of length, will be counted. A one-letter word, a hyphenated word or a number (no matter how man digits it contains) will be counted as a single word. The essay title or added footnotes do not contribute to the word count.

Students should not put their names on their essay. A completed Official Student Patriot's Pen Competition Entry Form must be stapled to the top of it.

Participants should not identify themselves, their school, town or state within the essay. Their approach to the theme should be positive and clearly focused. Quotations may be used sparingly if plainly identified whenever used.

The essay will be judged on knowledge of the theme (30 percent), theme development (35 percent) and clarity of ideas (35 percent).

This is the 18th year the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Ladies Auxiliary have sponsored a youth essay program that gives students in grades six through eight the opportunity to express their views of democracy and improve their writing skills while they compete for worthwhile awards and prizes. More than 11,000 students participated in this nationwide competition last year.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals has approved the Patriots Pen Contestfor the National Advisory List of Student Contests and Activities for 2012-13.

The program offers valuable prizes at several levels of competition. The tip prize is $5,000 in cash, which will be awarded b the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and its Ladies Auxiliary to the first place national winner of the VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary Washington Conference in March 2013. Additional national prizes included $4,000 for second place, $3,500 for third place, $2,750 for fourth place, $2,500 for fifth place, $2,000 for sixth place, $1,750 for seventh place, $1,500 each for the eighth- and ninth place winners, $1,250 each to the 10th and 11th place winners, $1,000 each to the 12th and 13th place winners, $750 each to the 14th and 15th place winners and $500 each to the 16th through 46th place winners.

At the local level, $100 will be awarded to the first place contest winner. The second place winner will receive $70 and $40 will be awarded t the third place winner.

The Townsend VFW Post and Ladies Auxiliary will advance one of its highest scoring essays to the District 15 level of competition for each 15 entries received at the local level. The District 15 VFW and its Ladies Auxiliary will award a total of $225 in cash to their top three winners. The winner District entry will be entered it the Department of Massachusetts VFW level of competition. The state's top five winners will each receive monetary awards from both the Department Of Massachusetts VFW and the Department of Massachusetts Ladies Auxiliary VFW. The first place state entry will be entered into the national competition.

Essay entries should be submitted to Townsend VFW Ladies Auxiliary President Betty Mae Tenney or Townsend Post Commander Russell Jobe by Thursday, Nov. 1. Students who attend Hawthorne Brook Middle School should submit their entries to Miss Tenney or Mr. Jobe through their classroom teachers.