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Tuesday, March 25, 2014 8:40 AM

Steven Nelson reads his winning “My Personal Michigan Hero” essay about Charles Greenlund in the school gymnasium named after the long-time physical education teacher and coach. Family members, friends and classmates listen to his presentation. (Kevin Zini photo)
IRON RIVER— Three students from the West Iron County Middle School have been chosen local winners in the 45th annual America & Me essay contest.
Steven Nelson earned first place, Neil Tomasoski was selected second place and Victoria Maloney was named third place in the contest, sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance.
The topic of this year’s contest was “My Personal Michigan Hero.”
Nelson chose former West Iron County physical education teacher, and Wykon head football and basketball coach Charles Greenlund as his subject. Nelson wrote of Greenlund’s life and impact on the West Iron County community, detailing Greenlund’s bravery in rescuing a student from an explosion in 1988 that had rocked the school’s locker room area after he had been terribly burned himself.
“This is one of the most bewildering and heroic actions that I have ever heard of in our little town,” wrote Nelson of Greenlund, who died in 2012. “A man was almost killed, then selflessly went back and saved someone else’s life. On that fateful day, he proved that he was a true believer in what he taught.”
Tomasoski picked former Iron Mountain star and current Michigan State University men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo for his hero. Tomasoski wrote, “Tom Izzo is my hero because of his excellent work ethic and his involvement in his communities. He has made many young men superstars on and off the court. I am proud to be part of the region that Tom Izzo calls home.”
Maloney chose Forest Park Trojan star and 2014 Miss Basketball winner Lexi Gussert as her hero. Maloney interviewed Gussert for her essay and wrote, “Lexi’s leadership and leadership qualities are the biggest reasons why she is my hero. If I had one wish concerning anything, it would be to be a leader just like her.”   
All three students received award certificates for their essays, written in Kelly Richardson’s eighth-grade English class. Nelson’s name will be engraved on a plaque for permanent display in the school and his essay now advances to the state-level competition, from which the top 10 essays in the state will be selected. The top 10 winners will be announced in April.
Several thousand eighth-grade students from nearly 450 schools in the state participated in the contest.