Kaitlyn Neal, 13, a student at White Sands School, was recently recognized by the Bill of Rights Institute for her take on whether or not the NSA should monitor phone and internet activities.
Neal, who doesn’t leave home without her Constitution of the United States of America pocket book, said this was a subject she was passionate about, and since she already knew so much information about it, it took her about an hour to write the award winning paper for the contest held by the institute.
“I became passionate about it and I already know most of it. You need both to maintain balance. If you have one, you won’t have protection. If you have the other you won’t have freedom of speech,” Neal said.
Earlier this year White Sands School middle school teacher Wendy Graham prompted the students in her class to write the essay. She said it was easy for her to get in contact with the Bill of Rights Institute to obtain a lesson plan to teach prior to the contest.
“This is something I found by searching for lesson plan ideas,” Graham said. “They were really easy to work with. Overall it was a good experience.”
Each student received a Constitution of the United States of America pocket book, but Neal had already obtained hers a while back as a gift from her dad. Neal said she references her Constitution pocket book every so often during school assignments.
“What amazes me about Kaitlyn and her family is their strong belief that more people need to be aware of what is in the constitution,” Graham said.
In her essay Neal said she was a firm believer in strong national security but was not willing to give up all of her constitutional rights for it. Neal believes there must be a balance between a citizen’s constitutional rights and making national security a priority. She said the government should be allowed to monitor certain websites and maybe even certain phone calls as long as it protects the citizens from terrorist activities.
“The NSA has been protecting us since 1952 and the fact that no one knew about them meant that they did their job well…A democracy has certain obligations to its citizens and national security is by far its number one priority…Finding that balance is true democracy,” Neal wrote in her essay.
Neal said she was happy to hear she had won the contest, which also came with a $50 prize. Though Neal has not received the money yet, she said she is planning on saving it.
“She was a little surprised. Kaitlyn is a quiet young lady, but she is passionate and has a strong voice. She’s a very hard worker and she’s very passionate about history,” Graham said. “She had her own pocket book constitution, which is probably why she didn’t need to do (much) research.”
Neal attributes her passion for history to her family. She said they watch the news together to stay in tune with world events. Although Neal has a passion for history in general, she said she wants to obtain a degree in animal science.
“This one just came up and I feel really passionate about this stuff,” Neal said. “I feel passionate about history in general, it’s just interesting to me.”