Story by Shiloh Wolfork | Photography used with permission

An award ceremony was held for East sophomore Rachel Anderson by the East Veterans’ Club on Dec. 11, where she was given a gold medal and $100 certificate in recognition of her post-level win of the Voice of Democracy essay contest.

The Voice of Democracy essay contest is an annual nationwide audio-essay scholarship program that is sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The national first place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship and the winner from each VFW state is given a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. Anderson won at the West Chester VFW post level.

The competition gives students the opportunity to respond to a single prompt that is decided by judges on the national level. Each prompt is meant to promote democratic and patriotic thinking.

“Last year, the prompt was ‘hope for the future’. And then this year, the one that I won was ‘why my vote matters’,” Anderson said. “The contest was required in my speech class last year and my teacher submitted mine. I ended up being the runner-up. I was so close last year that I decided to enter on my own.”

For Commander of Post 7696 in West Chester Mike Barker, the clarity and thoughtfulness of her ideas presented Anderson as the clear winner.

“She was very well-spoken and the clarity of her thought from beginning to end really distinguished her from the other students,”  Mike said. “Every essay was based on the same subject matter, but the way that she presented herself was really excellent.”

According to Anderson, contributing to American democracy through voting is of the utmost importance.

“It’s not just one vote that makes a decision. It’s important for us to come together as a nation. Voting matters even if you don’t like the candidates,” Anderson said. “The more research you do on a candidate, the more you’re able to form an opinion and make a decision.”

For Advisor of the East Veterans Club Sally Barker, the contest provides students with a valuable opportunity to consider ideas based on good citizenship and Americanism.

“It’s so important to see kids get involved in things that are important to them,” Sally said. ”Things like this really allow students to express their opinions without having their thinking restrained.”

For Anderson, her involvement in the Voice of Democracy contest has proven to be a significant and rewarding experience.

“The win made me feel really good because the contest was a good way for me to push myself outside of my comfort zone. It made me think in different ways,” Anderson said. “Opportunities like this made me realize why it’s important to vote no matter what. When we unite, real decisions are made.”

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