Six local students selected as Voice of Democracy essay contest winners
By Shiloh Appel
On Wednesday, January 8th, six local students were awarded by the Redfield Veterans of Foreign Wars at the American Legion Post 92 in Redfield for their Voice of Democracy essays on “What Makes America Great.”
The Voice of Democracy essay contest sees nearly 40,000 high school students from across the country enter to win a share of the millions of dollars in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the VFW each year. This year, Olivia Owens took first place in the Redfield School District, Abby Evans took second, and Alison Larson took third. In the Northwestern School District, Megan Nash took first place at the post level as well as the district level, Meadow Remily took second, and Sawyer Styles took third. Nash will go on to compete at the state level on the 28th of January in Pierre. If she places at the state level, she will go on to compete at the national level for the chance to win a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the winner’s choice of university, college or vocational/technical school.
Meanwhile, during the January 8th presentation, each of the six post-level winners read their essays to those in attendance. In Owens’ essay, she talked about how the words “opportunities” and “resilience” make America great. She gave credit to her grandfathers that served in Vietnam and the Korean War and her father, who served as an army medic.
“The grandfather that served in Vietnam was part of a special team of people that would do search and destroy missions, or also called tunnel rats,” said Owens. “The other grandfather, who was in the Korean War, was a missile technician that protected America from Russian bombers…I am so proud to be their granddaughter and I hope I will grow to be as brave as them.”
Abby Evans emphasized America’s government, laws, patriotism, education and community when writing about what makes America great.
“One of the most important rights to me is education. I am thankful for the opportunity to be able to attend school and receive an education. Even though school and homework tend to be hard, frustrating, and stressful, it is the foundation of students’ futures,” said Evans. “The level of education American students receive helps to build the brilliant politicians, doctors, teachers, and overall citizens who make America great.”
In Alison Larson’s essay, she listed the hardworking citizens of all ethnicities to be a major factor in what makes America great.
“Although the hardworking people do not get much credit, they are the face of this country,” said Larson. “Many people might say that the government, military, and the president are the face of America, however, it is the working people. These people keep industries, businesses, and other vital money-making jobs going.”
In Megan Nash’s essay, (which won at both post and district level), she said that America is a land “flowing with milk, honey, and endless possibilities.” She gave her respect to veterans as the “strong, courageous footings on which we build our lives.”
“As President Ronald Reagan stated, ‘Some people work an entire lifetime and wonder if they ever made a difference to the world. But veterans don’t have that problem,’” wrote Nash. “From fighting on the front lines to directing military plans, each and every veteran played a vital role in defending America and our ideals. We, as a nation, will not let these veterans be lost in the numbers throughout history. America is a great nation because these individuals chose to defend their own country with great passion and purpose.”
In Meadow Remily’s essay, she compared America to other countries, pointing out the many differences in every-day opportunities.
“What happens to maids or other workers who make normal salaries? Other countries will pay maids small amounts of money, if any money at all. Not in America, here maids can drive nice cars,” said Remily. “Construction workers can pay three to four dollars for a skim milk latte daily. Plumbers and waitresses can take vacations. All because America provides more opportunities than other places.”
In Sawer Styles’ essay, she compared the facts on education in America versus education in other countries.
“Pakistan, for example, was described as the worst education system in 2015,” said Styles. “In 2018, nearly 22.5 million kids [were] out of school. In primary school, thirty-two percent of girls compared to twenty-one percent of boys [were] out of school…when you step back and look at this, we really do live in a nation of opportunity where education is a right and a privilege.”
Styles went on to commemorate her great-great grandfather who fought in WWI and her great-grandfather who fought in WWII and earned a Purple Heart.
The evening concluded with each of the students receiving their awards and certificates of merit for being “outstanding spokespersons for freedom”.