It was a record-breaking year for the VFW sponsored Voice of Democracy Scholarship Program, with over 500 students from the Central Peninsula entering essays on the theme "Reaching Out to America's Future." When the judging was completed, Heather McIntrye, a sophomore from Kenai Central High School (KCHS), was selected as the local 1st Place Winner of this year's Voice of Democracy Scholarship Program sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Ladies Auxiliary.
McIntrye received $100 for being the first place winner from her school, and an additional $1,000 for placing first overall. Another KCHS student, Melissa Vasilie, took 2nd place overall honors and $500 for her efforts. Vasilie, who was born in Peru, commented after the awards banquet, "America's youth is brighter than ever. Even though we are shown so much violence through the world of entertainment today, we still hold true to a dream of peace, and I feel that our generation is really working hard to prove that we are going to make a difference for the better."
VFW Commander Lee Dotson, with VOD winners, their families and teachers, at the VFW Jerry V. Horn memorial post 10046 in Soldotna
With over 500 entries submitted this year KCHS language arts teacher Gweni Hurd was very pleased that both the 1st & 2nd place winners came from her classroom, "It was very exciting to have that high of a success rate and to see that the kids hard work paid off. The hardest thing for me is inspiring the kids with a topic and to get them to a place where they feel they can respond personally to what that topic is. But then came the September 11th incident and I thought, we have so much to say now, so I really used that as a platform and it was a chance for them to verbalize the respect they have for the people who suffered as a result, gave their lives for others, like the rescue teams, and just what it means to be free and what are we going to do next etc. So it gave the kids a chance to put down what was in their hearts," said Hurd.
Other local school winners in the VOD program were Miranda Zindel, from Cook Inlet Academy, Megan Thye, Nikiski, Amanda McKinley, Skyview, Riley Kent, SoHi, Brandon Ruffridge, Wings Academy, and home schooler, Andrea Martin. The next round of competition is at the state level and the winner will receive $1,000 plus a 5-day all expenses paid trip to Washington D.C.
The VFW and Ladies Auxiliary also sponsor a "Youth Essay Program," for pre-high school age students. This year's theme was, "Is Freedom Really Free?" Winning 1st place overall and $300 was Amber Hall, an 8th grade home school student, and in 2nd place receiving $150 was Kyle McMillan a 7th grader at Aurora Borealis Charter School.
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