Students from across the region were honored for their outstanding work on Saturday at George Washington Carver National Monument, Diamond. The 29th annual Art and Essay Awards Ceremony was held at the park with standing room only attendance and numerous Missouri officials in attendance.

The annual contest, sponsored by the Carver Birthplace Association and Missouri Southern State University, had a theme this year - George Washington Carver's Thirst For Knowledge. Third and fourth graders submitted their artwork and essays. 2019 marked the first year that the competition was open to third graders. In the past, entries were limited to fourth grade students.

Missouri Governor Mike Parson, Lt. Governor Mike Kehoe, United States Senator Roy Blunt, Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr, 160th district Missouri State Representative Ben Baker and former state senator Ron Richard were on hand for the event.

Parson, Kehoe, Haahr and Baker each spoke briefly to the students before awards were presented.

"The kids who are here today, that have put effort into this (contest), I want to thank you because you're keeping Missouri alive," Parson said. "You're keeping our history alive. I want to share with you one of the things I tell my grandkids all the time. It's important for you kids to hear this too. All things are possible if you have the will to try it and the faith to believe it. I think you someday will be future leaders of our state and of our country, just like some of us up here."

Baker, who makes his home in Neosho, encouraged and congratulated the students who participated.

"It's always good to be at an event in my home district, to honor those students who are putting forth the effort in these areas," Baker said. He shared a quote from George Washington Carver, who once said, "Since new developments are the products of a creative mind, we must therefore stimulate and encourage that type of mind in every way possible."

"I think that's what we're doing today," Baker said. "We're showing these students and these young people that you can get above the obstacles in your life, you can overcome those things, you can pursue your dreams, you can pursue the God given abilities and talents that He's given you where you can make an impact on the world you live in. You can make a difference in our world today. You have unique abilities and things that only you can do that can contribute to society. We want to honor that today."

Kim Mailes, chairperson of the Carver Birthplace Association also spoke.

Third grade essay winners were Bisma Nagaira, Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, 1st place, Michelle Razo, Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, 2nd place, and Halen Starr, Diamond Elementary School, 3rd place.

Fourth place essay winners were Molly Leighninger, 1st place, The Summit Preparatory School, Madiha Rehman, 2nd place, Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School and Reid Stanley, St. Mary's Elementary School, 3rd place.

For art, third grade winners for 2-D art were Jordan Meador, 1st place, Diamond Elementary School, Bane Forste, 2nd place, Diamond Elementary School and Olivia Selsor, 3rd place, Diamond Elementary. Fourth grade winners in the same category were Ella Maliszewski, 1st place, St. Mary's Elementary, Casen Fregia, 2nd place, George Washington Carver Elementary, and Rhett Wilson, 3rd place, George Washington Carver Elementary.

3-D art winners for third grade were Ann Hiebert, 1st place, Thomas Jefferson, Autumn Schisler, 2nd place, Thomas Jefferson and Kyra Mitchell, 3rd place, George Washington Carver Elementary.

Fourth grade winners were Joselyne Perez-Villa, 1st place, St. Mary's Elementary, Tyler Murphy, 2nd place, Peacock Academy and Adrian Moody, 3rd place, Carver Elementary.

An award for the most creative classroom for third grade went to Mrs. Stokes' class at Diamond Elementary School. The award for best group in art went to Peyton Sanny and Gianna Burkhart, George Washington Carver Elementary, awards for the most creative classroom in the art division went to Ms. Stanton's class at St. Mary's Elementary School for 2-D, Ms. Lupini's class at George Washington Carver Elementary for 3-D and for a group, Ms. Billing's class at Martin Luther Christian School.

Fourth grade group winners included most creative classroom - essay to Ms. Arnold's class at Thomas Jefferson, best group - art to Ava Garrett, Catherine Martin, Madiha Rehman, Ava Farris and Spencer Long from Thomas Jefferson and the most creative classrooms for art were 2-D, Ms. Hosp's class at St. Mary's Elementary, 3-D, Ms. Turk's class at St. Mary's Elementary and group to Mr. Cole's class at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School.

All fourth grade students received an Every Kid in A Park pass, good throughout August 31, 2019.

The same pass is available to all fourth graders in the United States.

Through this program, any fourth-grader can take his or her family to a national park, forest or other federal land for free. The deal: The program, created by then President Obama in 2015, is designed to inspire children to explore national parklands, gives fourth-grade students a pass for free entry.

The George Washington Carver National Monument is located at 5646 Carver Road, Diamond.