Roscoe VFW presents Voice of Democracy & Patriot's Pen essay awards
Roscoe VFW Post 2955 honored the winners of their student essay contests at the Voice of Democracy/Patriot’s Pen awards ceremony/pizza party on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023.
Each year, nearly 80,000 high school students submit an original 3-5 minute patriotic essay in both typed and audio form, to compete for more than $2 million in scholarships and incentives. Established in 1947, this year's Voice of Democracy theme was "Why is the Veteran Important?”
Each VFW post sends winners to District competition, while District winners compete in the state (Department) competition. One student from each state competes in the national competition, where the prizes include $171,000 in scholarships. The 1st Place winner receives the $35,000 T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship, while the 2nd Place winner receives the $21,000 Charles Kuralt Memorial Scholarship.
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The Patriot’s Pen Program for 6-8th graders gives them an opportunity to write essays expressing their views on an annual patriotic theme. This year it was "My Pledge to Our Veterans.” More than 84,000 middle school students participated in last year's nationwide VFW-sponsored youth essay competition.
Awards at all four levels nationwide totaled $1.4 million. Last year, a blond-headed eighth grader, Syed Ali of Lafayette, Louisiana, was named the 2021-2022 Patriot's Pen first place winner. His essay on the theme, "How Can I Be a Good American?" won him a $5,000 award.
For both contests, the deadline is the end of October of each year.
In the local Voice of Democracy essay contest, Auburn High School senior Veronica McLean won a 1st Place award for her school, with a $200 cash prize. Veronica also won 4th place at District and was awarded $150 there. Last year she was a District first place winner. In her speech on "Why is the Veteran Important?” Veronica said that as a child, she didn't really know what a veteran was. She would ask why she got a day off for people she didn't know. But as she got older, she began to understand the price that veterans have paid. She said veterans are "men and women who fight with all their physical, emotional, and intellectual strength to protect their beliefs and loves... They make history real," she added.
Another Voice of Democracy entry, Lily Jones of Hallstrom Homeschool Co-Op also won a $200 1st Place award. She won 5th Place at District, where she received $100 for her audio essay. Last year, brother and sister Lily and Hunter Jones won first place awards.
In the Patriot's Pen essay contest, Kaitlynn Jones, who is homeschooled, won a 1st place award of $200. She also won 1st Place at the District level and was awarded $600 there. Her speech was forwarded to Springfield for judging at the Department (state) level. This weekend, February 11 & 12, she and her family are enjoying an all-expenses-paid weekend in Springfield. The highlight is the Department Voice of Democracy banquet, where Illinois' Voice of Democracy champion will be announced - that winner will compete at the national level.
Among Willowbrook Middle School students entering the Patriot's Pen essay contest, Karley Weber won a 1st Place award of $100. She was also the 4th Place winner at the District level, where she was awarded $50.
As part of her "Pledge to Our Veterans," Karley said that people can show respect for veterans in simple, practical ways, such as holding the door for them. But she also proposed that schools could have a "Hot Lunch with Heroes" program so students could get to know veterans better.
Tom Cleland, Post Adjutant for Roscoe VFW Post 2955, says, "All the students represented our Post and Auxiliary very well. Congratulations to all these students, and to all the other students who entered the contests."
Voice of Democracy Winners:
Auburn High School
1st Place award - $200 – Veronica McLean
2nd Place award - $100 – Lucille Schwartz
3rd Place award - $75 – Josie Yakey
4th Place award - $50 – Sean Beckford
5th Place award - $25 – Makayla Mitchell-Martin
6th Place award - $20 – William Rollins
White Oak Independent
1st Place award - $200 – Analise Ramos
2nd Place award - $100 – Josiah Ramos
1st Place award - $200 – Lily Jones
1st Place award - $200 – Kaitlynn Jones
Patriot’s Pen Winners:
Willowbrook Middle School
1st Place award - $100 – Karley Weber
2nd Place award - $75 – Brynlee Werner
3rd Place award -$50 – Aaron Messner
4th Place award - $25 – Reese Andrews
5th Place award - $20 – Anna Comer
White Oak Independent
1st Place award - $100 – Silas Ramos