Two BUHS students honored in Sanders’ annual essay contest

Taggard wins second place and Schmidt among the top 20 in annual State of the Union competition

BRATTLEBORO — Two Brattleboro Union High School students were named among the top 20 finalists from more than 400 Vermont youths in a State of the Union Essay Competition organized by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Ryan Taggard won second place in the contest, and Friedemann Schmidt, an exchange student from Leipzig, Germany, placed as one of 20 finalists.

The annual competition, now in its fifth year, is an opportunity for high-school students across the state to identify the issues they find most pressing facing the nation.

A panel of Vermont teachers named the winners from a field of 454 applicants.

Taggard's and Schmidt's teacher Bill Holiday describes both of the students as exceptional. He calls Taggard a “top-shelf student” who “adds to conversation” in class, and he describes Schmidt as “hard-working” and “sophisticated.”

The social studies teacher encourages all students to submit their work, and says that it's “not always about winning.”

In turn, Taggard credits Holiday.

“He first brought the essay contest to my attention, and without him I wouldn't have been able to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Taggard, whose essay identified funding for NASA as a critical point for the nation to encourage science in the schools and improve the nation's economy.

Schmidt, who wrote his essay on the realities of the U.S. national debt, is an exchange student from Leipzig, Germany, the most financially stable country in the European Union.

Schmidt has already had the unexpected privilege of meeting Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Governor Peter Shumlin, and he will soon meet Sanders when he and the other finalists engage in a roundtable discussion at the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier on Jan. 31 as a reward for their selection.

Each finalist's essay will be entered into the Congressional Record.

Essays can be read in their entirety on the senator's website:

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