Essay contest winners will be headed to Washington, D.C.

WREA essay contest winners Pake Burke and Esmeralda Torres will travel to Washington, D.C., to present their letters to the president. Tory Lasker Photo

By Tory Lasker

Special to the Herald Times

MEEKER | The White River Electric Association (WREA) is a rural electric distribution cooperative serving eastern Rio Blanco County, southern Moffat and northern Garfield Counties. Not only does the association ensure that members receive safe and reliable electric service in their homes and businesses, they also sponsor multiple local scholarships awarded to students at the end of every school year.

One of the many scholarships presented is the NRECA Washington, D.C. Youth Tour, which entitles high school juniors to submit a one page letter or essay. This year’s essay topic was addressing issues, policies and or positive attributes students believe they have gained under President Trump’s administration. Once submitted the White River Electric Association and its panel of judges select one boy and one girl from the junior class to represent WREA in an all-expense paid, weeklong trip to Washington, D.C. The winners are treated to an experience of a lifetime. They meet with senators and representatives and tour the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, 911 Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, Library of Congress, Smithsonian Museum and many more. This year Esmeralda Torres and Pake Burke will get to embark on the journey to present their letters to President Trump in Washington, D.C.

When asked how the two winners felt about their accomplishment as well as the process of their process their responses varied greatly.

Torres-Pena wrote about the Trump administration’s policies on immigration.

“I’m not very into politics so it was difficult for me to find something to say. Eventually I got to sit down and think about what I would say to him,” said Torres. “I thought about my life and how living with an undocumented parent has affected us. I thought about the daily fear my mom would always go through. I knew I wanted to write about immigration, but I didn’t want it to be another one of those articles that people skim through. I wanted the person reading to understand where I was coming from and to understand why I was writing for it. It’s very different when you just read about things like this compared to actually living it. I feel like sometimes it’s hard to see things in others perspective so that was another reason why I decided to write from a personal point of view.”

Burke’s topic of choice was what he believes is best for the people of the United States.

“When I first heard about the essay scholarship, I was hesitant. Although I am not a political extremist, I disagree with many modern day politicians about what is best for our country and its people. I am not afraid to state my opinion; I have mixed feelings about our current president. I knew that I would be unable to address the president about any specific policy given my biases against his ideologies. Instead, I thought about politicians, and how so much of their world involves the whirlwind of bills, policies, acts, etc. Too often we let the logistics cloud the reality of our situation. Democracy is founded on the principle of the people’s voices, so I channeled that. I decided to write about what I believe is best for the people of our country. I wrote about how the president should talk less and listen more to the ideas and judgment of our country’s citizens. I mentioned how he should use his status to be progressive rather than try to fight change or undo the work of past leaders,” stated Burke.

Torresand Burke both expressed their appreciation for the opportunity and for everything WREA does for the community’s youth, and wrote, “We are eager to see what’s to come in the future, and we are extremely proud of each other. We are still in disbelief, and can’t wait to share this journey with a close friend.”

(Torres’ and Burke’s essays are below.)

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to you today not as a bitter voter, self righteous politician, rallying lobbyist, or greedy CEO, but rather, simply, as a fellow human being. While each of us have our own deeply rooted opinions, we shall not allow them to come between us in a more philosophical analysis of our current state. I want to discuss your plans for the future of our nation, but more importantly, your plans for ensuring the wellbeing of its people.

The past twelve months, instead of leading to unity, have caused deep, seemingly irreparable divisions.  We are confused, bitter and frightened. There is clear disorder within the nation, and harsh clashes of beliefs can be identified in any aspect of our government. I have the inclination to say that this disorientation can be largely attributed to the sheer amount of fear within American citizens–fear of others and fear for themselves. Skepticism and opposition have caused distrust and discord within the masses. This disunion is unsettling to me, as it might be to yourself as well. I do not wish to live in a world so strongly divided that I cannot discern my friends from my enemies. Fear can spark extremely negative, careless actions, so it should be approached cautiously.  I can attest to this personally. There have been major violent conflicts throughout the world for nearly my entire upbringing. For a child in a developed nation, I have seen too many terrorists attacks, mass shootings, barbaric protests, political scandals, and other horrifying human rights violations to count. We must begin to rethink how we view disagreements between parties. I propose, then, that fear should be replaced with reason, and instead of joining resistances, we should come together to resolve major issues. This shared passion can be utilized to make progress.

Another flaw I want to identify is our inability to cope with societal change. Too often, contrasting opinions create a boundary that separates individuals from any development outside of their personal worldviews. Ironically, change can give rise to fear; many people have a tendency to advocate for a brittle, traditional foundation rather than accepting possible outcomes from a malleable structure in society. However, despite its intimidating stigma, I do not fear change, as change is the driving factor behind all notable progress in society. Change is what brought man out of darkness and sparked the Cognitive Revolution. Change is what allows for humans to make social advancements, scientific discoveries, technological breakthroughs, and our ability to adapt to unprecedented events. Accepting positive change in a population strengthens bonds and unites the public to conquer more trying obstacles. Change is the pathway to solutions.

Possibly the most pressing matter I’m concerned with is the evolution of democracy, and the security of a true democracy. Too often, we become consumed by the menial affairs within our political spectrum. Individual party affiliations encourage a competitive environment, with legislature serving as a platform to make bold statements. I am anxious, though, for we may be on a path towards losing our voices in government and depending on the pompous figureheads who are chosen to “represent” the people. For the sake of our posterity, I hope that we are not, in fact, regressing. I hope that we will have the strength to stand up for what is morally correct rather than what is easiest for the government to implement. The government is made to serve the people and ensure their freedoms, not the other way around.

Our citizens need a leader to resolve their fear and show them that they can change their fate. I am well aware of your ability to capture the attention of others, so I ask you, sir, to use your time in office to serve all the people. I ask that you not be rash in your actions, but instead make timely decisions based on knowledge, moral standards, and the collective judgment. I ask that you spread change with open arms and an open mind. I ask that you help bring back innovation, creativity, and cooperation to our nation. I ask one last thing of you, Mr. President: Will you accept the challenge?

With Best Regards,

Pake Burke


Dear President Donald Trump,

I am not writing this for sympathy but rather for understandment. I am a 17 year old girl with siblings the ages of 12 and 6. My mother is a 36 year old single parent. We’ve always had a pretty good life. Not much to complain about except everything to fear. The three of us being born in the United States had nothing to worry about. My mother however had everything to worry about. From how to raise three kids alone, how to make sure there was a hot meal on the table, and how to stay in the United States with us.

My mother was about 5 years old when she was brought into the U.S. and it’s all she’s ever known. She didn’t do it out of respect for this country, she had no choice. She considers herself a proud American in all ways except paper. Although my mother paid taxes, had a decent job, sent us to public school, and followed every law there was, there was still a chance that any second her whole life could be ruined. In any second her three children that she worked so hard to raise could be taken away from her in less than the time it took her to raise us.

August 1, 2001 the first bill was passed which enabled the program DACA. This program allowed alien immigrants that entered the states as a minor  to enroll in college and receive a  visa so that they can educate themselves. Because of this program my mother was allowed to receive her  visa and further educate herself, further contribute to the economy and further give us a life that she had always wanted.

September 05, 2017 as I saw my mother cry over you sir ending DACA I realized how much this program meant and not just to my mother but to millions of Dreamers as well. Thanks to DACA, young immigrants have been able to pursue higher education, start their own businesses, and continue to work and contribute back to our communities. Without it there is no hope. No opportunity to work for your life. In a land of freedom and liberty and justice for all I hope you reconsider bringing a program back like DACA that will help young immigrants work their way into this country instead of living in the constant fear of something that was not their choice.

Help the ones who like my mother were brought in as children and have to live with the fact that they are immigrants because of their parents. I strongly encourage you sir to think about the millions of families that this would help. The less number of fatherless and motherless children who are left with nothing after one of their parents get taken away from them because of their status. We are all human and we are trying to make a better life for ourselves and our future generations. Bringing a program like DACA will help immigrants show that they are worth a chance and will make illegal aliens prove that they can contribute to this country’s economical well being. 


Esmeralda Torres