Compete in VFW Voice of Democracy essay contest

Submitted by Patty Locher, Sabetha Memorial Post 7285 of VFW

The VFW has announced the start of this year’s Veterans of Foreign Wars and its Auxiliary “Voice of Democracy Program” competition. Veterans of Foreign Wars annually offers the Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition for high school students, with a new patriotic theme each year. The theme for the 2018-19 contest is “Why My Vote Matters.”

High school students have the opportunity to compete in the annual audio essay program and win valuable scholarships and awards.

The Voice of Democracy is a script-writing program designed to give high school students the opportunity to voice their opinion on the patriotic theme and to express their thoughts to the American people. It’s not too early for interested students to begin working on their entries, which are due locally on Oct. 31.

All ninth- through 12th-grade students, in public, parochial and private schools and home study programs, are eligible to participate through the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Exchange students and past first-place state-level winners are not eligible to participate. With the deactivation several years ago of the Hiawatha VFW post, and the 2016 deactivation of the Horton VFW post, leaving no active VFW post in Brown County, area students who are interested in entering the Voice of Democracy audio-essay contest are encouraged to submit their entries to Sabetha VFW Memorial Post 7285.

The top three place winners at Sabetha Memorial Post 7285 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars level will receive monetary awards locally and a certificate of recognition, and the first-place winner’s essay will be forwarded to district level.

The Department of Kansas (state-level) program will give scholarships and other awards. First-place winner is awarded $1,000 plus an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., March 2-6, 2019. Department of Kansas second- and third-place winners receive monetary awards of $500 and $300 respectively. VFW National Scholarships totaling $154,000 will be awarded, with a first-place scholarship of $30,000.

Submissions must strictly adhere to the rules stated in the entry form, including recording instructions. Judging criteria are listed on the entry form. A current entry form with instructions can be downloaded from the website at; click on “Community,” then “Youth and Education,” then “Youth Programs.”

For more information about this annual contest, contact Patty Locher, Sabetha VFW Post 7285 Youth Programs Chairperson, at 785-284-0387 or

Send entry submissions to Patty Locher, Sabetha VFW Memorial Post 7285 Youth Programs Chairperson, 3373 Antelope Road, Sabetha, KS 66534, to arrive no later than Oct. 31. Submissions received after Oct. 31 will not be eligible.

Past Winners

In 2014, Post 7285’s VOD essay winner, Sabetha High School senior Dayna Williams, won the Voice of Democracy contest at district level. She received a monetary award from both Post 7285 and First District for her selection as first-place winner.

In 2015, Post 7285’s VOD essay selection, submitted by Anna Knapp of rural Bern, placed first at both First District and State, earning Knapp $2,000 in scholarships at the National level as well as two all-expenses-paid trips, one to Washington, D.C., and one to Valley Forge, Pa. In addition to her national-level scholarships, Knapp received $100 from Post 7285 for her first-place win, $100 from First District and $1,000 from State.

As a result of her Department of Kansas win and all-expenses-paid trips to Washington, D.C., and Valley Forge, Knapp has had quite a number of very interesting experiences in her young life.

“I’ve made connections all over the country as a result of my VFW experience and have been introduced to a whole new field of interests with many opportunities,” Knapp said.

For example, last year Knapp attended Patriot Academy, a “political boot camp” designed to teach young people about the political process and Constitutional principles.

“I would give it a five-star rating,” she said. “I heard about it from the Department of Arizona winner, whom I had met at VFW nationals. She had been elected governor of the Arizona Patriot Academy and invited me to go that year.”

While some of Knapp’s experiences are less formal, her resultant networking has the potential to reap many beneficial results and contacts.

“I’m on a group chat with the ‘VFW Class of 2016,’ as we call ourselves, but recently we’ve been adding other classes to another group chat and now we have national finalists from 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018,” Knapp said. “We are like one big family with a wide expanse of experiences and interests.”

Knapp, who entered the annual Patriot’s Pen essay contest each year she was in middle school, as well as entering the Voice of Democracy contest her first two years in high school, said she encourages students to seriously consider entering this worthwhile contest.

“In addition to the experiences you can enjoy if you win, you will learn a lot about our nation’s foundations as you study and do research in preparation for writing your essay on the assigned theme,” she said.

“Writing the essay piqued my interest in politics, economics and Constitutional Law,” Knapp said. “Even just scratching the surface of these fields of study has helped me to become a better – and more informed – citizen and voter. If you have an opportunity to write the essay this semester, go for it. You can’t go wrong.”


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