The numbers are in and five of 15 Ahwatukee Foothills Montessori kindergarten students have placed in the Grand Canyon State Games Essay Contest.

The Grand Canyon State Games, organized by the Arizona Sports Council, is a multi-sport Olympic Festival for Arizona amateur athletes of all ages and abilities. Each year the organization hosts an essay contest for students in kindergarten through 12 grades, and adults 18 and older. Participants were allowed to pick one of five themes for their essay. Gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention medals are awarded for each grade and age group.

Ahwatukee Foothills Montessori encourages its students to participate in the essay contest. The school has participated for 16 years. This year they had the most participation in the “Small Schools” category.

“We are very proud of all of our kids for choosing to participate. We think it makes them all winners,” said Meaghan McClung, owner and administrator of Ahwatukee Foothills Montessori.

McClung also believes that the children gain self-confidence by participating in the essay contest.

“We are very proud of the children. The confidence that they gain is just invaluable,” said Shirin Bhaloo, one of the founders of Ahwatukee Foothills Montessori.

Bryan Wang, 6, won the gold medal for his essay about his healthy lifestyle. In his essay Wang states that Benjamin Franklin said, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”. Wang believes that, like Franklin, in order to stay healthy he must sleep well. He also believes that exercise is important.

“I want to be a healthy boy,” Wang said.

Stefanie Fan, 5, won the silver medal for her essay that was also about her healthy lifestyle. Fan describes her eating habits. She drinks lots of water and eats plenty of fruit in order to stay healthy. Fan tries to sleep at least 10 hours each night.

“I want to be very healthy,” Fan said.

Sanjana Kota, 5, and Aaron Martin, 6, also wrote essays about their healthy lifestyles. Kota received an honorable mention for her essay, and Martin received the bronze medal.

In her essay Kota writes that in order to have a healthy body and mind, one must eat the right foods and exercise regularly. Martin says that he enjoys playing soccer and swimming. He is on the swim team and likes to hike.

Anushka Dharia, 5, wrote an essay about her typical day. Dharia enjoys her art and Spanish classes, and playing on the monkey bars. She received a bronze medal for her essay.

The students were very excited upon learning they had placed in the contest. They also thought that the essay writing process was tiring.

“I had to write my essay five times,” Martin said.

Ahwatukee Foothills Montessori is extremely proud of its young winners and hopes that its students choose to participate in the essay contest every year. They believe that along with other school subjects, writing is very important.

To read the students’ and other winners’ essays, visit

• Arselia Gales is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.

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