Each year students in ninth through 12th grades can enter the Veterans of Foreign War’s Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition. Students in sixth through eighth grades can enter the Patriot’s Pen essay competitions. Both programs encourage students to have a better understanding and appreciation of America.
Ryan Richardson, a junior at Shenandoah High School, placed first at the district level of the 2019-2020 Voice of Democracy audio-essay program held Nov. 15 in Harlan. Richardson advanced to the state level judged Dec. 15.
I’m very excited but nervous,” said Richardson. “I wasn’t expecting to get that far at all.”
The theme for 2019-2020 was “What Makes America Great.”
Richardson said he has several family members that are veterans.
“They fought for our freedom,” said Richardson. “It was pretty cool to write about it.”
Richardson will travel to the state convention in Des Moines Saturday, Jan. 18, to find out where he placed among the 10 districts competing at the state level. The student placing first at state will advance to the national competition in Washington, D.C., judged on Feb. 15.
Two additional juniors from Shenandoah placed at the district level in the Voice of Democracy competition. Placing second was Mia Parker, and third was Brooke Bauer.
Additionally, the Shenandoah VFW Post 7224 had two sixth-grade students place in the Patriot’s Pen essay competition at the district level in Harlan. Placing second was Levi Rystrom, and third was Ellie Cook.
Senior Vice Commander of Shenandoah VFW Post 7224, Ernie Robinson said they had 192 students compete in the Voice of Democracy competition and 262 students compete in the Patriot’s Pen competition at the post level. Both competitions were held Oct. 15 in Shenandoah.
Robinson said a total of 12 students from Shenandoah advanced to the district level for the Voice of Democracy competition and a total of 18 students for the Patriot’s Pen competition.
Robinson said each VFW post could send one student to districts for every 15 students that entered the competition at the post level.
The student winning at the national level in the Voice of Democracy will receive a $30,000 scholarship, and the student winning at the national level for the Patriot’s Pen will receive $5,000.
Robinson said the Voice of Democracy is a two-step essay program.
“The Patriot’s Pen is strictly essay writing,” said Robinson. “The Voice of Democracy has a dual purpose.”
Robinson said for the Voice of Democracy competition, the students write their essays, and they are required to record their essays. This process is intended to help students with public speaking.
“This program that the VFW has designed is to help kids learn how to write essays, “ said Robinson.