July 9, 2014. Mount Pulaski, IL. Every year since 1947, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has held a scholarship contest for high school students across the country. The VFW’s Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition awards $2.2 million in college scholarships with the grand prize winner receiving $30,000 in paid tuition. Each state recognizes one local winner and last year’s national grand prize winner hailed from right here in Illinois.
Last year’s $30k VFW grand prize scholarship winner Madison Haley of Mount Pulaski, IL. Image courtesy of VFW.org.
Each year, an average of 40,000 high school students enter the annual VFW Voice of Democracy scholarship contest. Last year’s $30,000 grand prize winner was Madison Haley, a senior at Mount Pulaski High School in Mount Pulaski, Illinois. Additional runners-up received scholarships of their own ranging from $1,000 to $16,000. Also, each state’s local winner will receive an all-expense-paid trip to our nation’s Capitol in Washington, DC.
Last year’s winner
Fortunately, our friends at the VFW published Miss Madison Haley’s national grand prize winning essay from last year. And for any patriotic readers who want to be inspired by a teenager wise beyond her years, it’s worth giving it a read. If tomorrow’s America ends up in the hands of righteous young people like Madison, we should consider ourselves fortunate. Here’s a brief excerpt from her award-winning audio-essay explaining why she’s optimistic about our nation’s future, the topic of last year’s contest. Describing America as a ship created by our founders 200 years ago and launched into the sea of history, Madison Haley writes:
‘The winds of time carry her to lands of prosperity and through storms of adversity that riddle her to the core, but the crew never withers, and her body never breaks from the strain. Facing tsunamis such as the Great Depression, two World Wars, and two fallen towers, she sails onward…constantly and consistently moving forward. She may bend, but she never breaks, and though she sometimes loses her way, she is eventually led back on course by her unwavering compass, the Constitution. This is why I’m optimistic. I’m a crew member of the USS America, and because of her history, I know this ship will always cut through murky waters and weather all storms. When I look behind from where we have come, I am no longer afraid to look ahead to where we are going.’
While last year’s audio-essay contests topic was, ‘Why I’m Optimistic About Our Nation’s Future,’ this year’s topic is, ‘Why Veterans Are Important To Our Nation’s History And Future.’ The VFW website explains, ‘The Voice of Democracy Program is open to students in grades 9-12 (on the Nov. 1 deadline), who are enrolled in a public, private or parochial high school or home study program in the United States and its territories. Please note: Current high school seniors are not eligible for the 2014-2015 Voice of Democracy contest. Students must be in grades 9-12 on November 1, 2014.’
The deadline for this year’s VFW audio-essay contest is November 1, 2014. Again, the theme is ‘Why Veterans Are Important To Our Nation’s History And Future’. According to the contest administrators, the recording can be no shorter than three minutes and no longer than five minutes (plus or minus five seconds). It should be provided on CD, accompanied by a typed hard copy and official entry form. Entrants are instructed to enter at their local VFW. Contestants will be judged on the local level with qualifying audio-essays moving onto the state competition and with luck, the national judging.
According to the contest rules, ‘Originality is worth 30 points: Treatment of the theme should show imagination and human interest. Content is worth 35 points: Clearly express your ideas in an organized manner. Fully develop your theme and use transitions to move smoothly from one idea to the other. Delivery is worth 35 points: Speak in a clear and credible manner.’
For more information, visit VFW.org.
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