VFW Post 735, Pocatello, Idaho, held their annual Citizenship Awards Luncheon on Saturday, November 23. The luncheon, which honors the winners of the Voice of Democracy speech competition, Patriot’s Pen essay competition, and the Teacher of the Year, was held at the Pocatello Elks Lodge.
Ms. Marilana Buck, who teaches at Williams Thomas Middle School in American Falls, was selected as the Teacher of the Year. Ms. Buck teaches 8th grade social studies and is a student council advisor. Each year she has her students study the Constitution of the United States in a very unique way, from the perspective of an immigrant. Students pick a country from which they will “move to America” from, select a name, and, by completing assignments, “earn money” to reach America. At the end of their studies, they take a 100-question test using questions from the U.S. citizen test bank. In addition, in March of each year, she leads a one-week trip with her students to visit Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and other historical areas.
The winners of the Voice of Democracy speech competition this year are Mckelle Robinson, 1st place, Emma Otvos, 2nd place, and Eddy Crowder, 3rd place. Robinson attends Century High School, Otvos attends Calvary Chapel Christian School, and Crowder is homeschooled.
The Patriot’s Pen essay competition winners for 2019-2020 are Zoe Zufelt, 1st place, Samantha Waldron, 2nd place, and Haidyn Christensen, 3rd place. Zufelt is a homeschooled student, Waldron attends Connor Academy, and Christensen attends Alameda Middle School.
The first place winners and the Teacher of the Year winner now advance to the District level of the competition.
Established in 1947, the Voice of Democracy audio-essay program provides high school students with the unique opportunity to express themselves in regard to a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay. Each year, nearly 40,000 9-12 grade students from across the country enter to win their share of more than $1.9 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the program.
The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. A complete list of other national scholarships range from $1,000-$16,000, and the first-place winner from each VFW Department (state) wins a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
Each year more than 111,000 students in grades 6-8 enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest for a chance to win their share of more than $900,000 in state and national awards. Each first-place state winner receives a minimum of $500 at the national level, and the national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief.
(All photos courtesy of VFW Post 735)