Three students from East Rockford Middle School have been named local winners in the 43rd annual America & Me Essay Contest, sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance. The three students, who earned the first-, second- and third-place awards for their school, are Christine Alexander, who earned first, Gabby Alcala, who earned second, and Annalise Petzak, third. All three received an award certificate for their achievement. As the school’s first-place winner, Alexander’s name will also be engraved on a plaque for permanent display in the school. Alexander’s first-place essay now advances to the state level competition from which the top 10 essays in Michigan will be selected. The top 10 statewide winners will each receive a plaque, a medallion and a cash award of $1,000. In addition, the top 10 essayists will be honored at a banquet in Lansing, meet with Michigan’s top governmental leaders, and be the featured guests at a Lansing Lugnuts minor league baseball game dedicated in their honor. A team of finalist judges that includes a top Michigan government official and the sponsoring teachers of last year’s top two statewide winners, will determine the ranking of the top 10 statewide winners this year. Several thousand eighth-grade students from over 400 Michigan schools participated in the 2011-2012 America & Me Essay Contest, which was conducted with the help of Farm Bureau Insurance agents across the state. The topic of the 2011-2012 contest was “My Personal Michigan Hero.” Started in 1968 and open to all Michigan eighth-grade students, the contest encourages Michigan youngsters to explore the greatness of America and its people. As sponsor of the contest, Farm Bureau Insurance has earned 11 national awards from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.