Student wins contest for charity
by Mark Andrews
Feb 14, 2014 | 1163 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Will Payne, a 16-year-old homeschool student and resident of Emerson, recently won first place in a national essay writing contest for the Home School Legal Defense Association.

While Payne received a prize of $200, he also helped raise money for the Special Needs Children Fund, an arm of the HSLDA’s Home School Foundation, which, according to, “enables financially struggling homeschooling families to provide a quality education for their children with special learning needs.”

“The title [of the essay] was ‘Table Talk’ and the main theme of it was that the family dinner table is one of the most important traditions in American society because the way that values are passed on from it,” Payne said. “... In the essay I looked at two historical examples to back that up — one of them was the ancient Hebrews because a lot of their religious traditions and so forth are done at a meal, like Passover, for example, and because of that their culture has been more resilient and as a culture it has always been able to come back after the various exiles and whatnot.

“The other [example] was American society, and I made the point that a lot of the founding fathers, despite being such brilliant people, didn’t have a tremendous amount of formal education, a few had gone to universities, but not the majority of them. So, they were largely educated through their family discussions and whatnot at the dinner table.”

He continued, “The conclusion was that American society has sort of lost that tradition of the family dinner table with fast food and that sort of thing and that it would be important to bring it back.”

Payne, who has won the contest in the past, said he wanted to take a non-traditional approach to his essay.

“Since this was [for] Home School Legal Defense, I figured that most people would say something along the lines of democracy or something sort of cliché like that, and I sort of wanted to go in a different direction and look at something some people might not notice quite so much,” he said.

According to a press release, “Homeschooled students ages 7-19 were invited to submit essays under 700 words that discussed the topic of Traditions by answering one of three questions, based on their age category. Essays were judged for creativity, logical structure, style, and grammar.”

Payne won $200 through the contest, but he explained there is an entry fee for the contest and all profits beyond prize money goes to the Home School Foundation.

“The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is a nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1983 to defend homeschool freedoms,” the release states. “HSLDA sponsors four student contests each year in art, poetry, photography, and essay writing. All profits go to support the Special Needs Children’s Fund administered by the Home School Foundation, the charitable arm of HSLDA.”

Last year he won the contest for his age division by writing on the hypothetical topic of a platform if running for president.