Local winners of this year’s Voice of Democracy (VOD) were honored at VFW Post # 10046 at a special presentation December 8th. This year’s VOD prompt for high school students was “My Vision for America.” Shania Johnson, a junior at Cook Inlet Academy was the second place winner of a $500 cash award. “For me it was an opportunity to give my opinion of what I thought was going to be the future of America from a positive as well as a negative viewpoint. Going forward I believe we need to look back at the documents given us by our founding fathers, not only the Constitution but the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence because they are there to correct us when we get off track,” she said. Taking 1st Place and winning $1,000 cash from the VFW was Paul Steffensen, a junior in the KPBSD Connections home school program. “My vision for America means striving to be the best we can be and to do that we must look to the examples that our veterans have given us. Many people need an example to follow and veterans are a great example for my generation to follow. My grandfather was a WWII veteran and he was a huge role model for me growing up. He was a building block for who I wanted to become as a person,” said Steffensen in an interview.
Among those hearty Veterans of Foreign Wars who gathered at the VFW Post for the presentation in Soldotna there was nary a dry eye. “It wasn’t only what they said but the way they said it that made me cry,” said Post Commander Mike Meredith. Steffensen’s recorded essay now will advance to the State VOD competition where another $1,000 prize for first place and an all expense paid trip to Washington D.C. awaits the winner. Rachel Jurco of the VFW Women’s Auxiliary has headed up the local VOD program for the last 20 years. Each year, nearly 40,000 high school students from across the country enter to win a share of the $2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the VFW’s Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition. Funds for the local program are all raised from the individual contributions of VFW members.