Jeff Melchor of Mount Carmel School topped all competitors in the Voice of Democracy’s video-essay contest, while Victoria Dela Cruz of Hopwood Middle School dominated her district for the Patriot’s Pen essay-writing competition.
An 8th grader, Dela Cruz even beat competitors from Guam in her division. She received a $150 for first place and another $100 for winning in her district, totaling $250.
“I thought the competition was pretty difficult but my mom really motivated me to challenge myself,” Dela Cruz said.
The Voice of Democracy competition has been a premiere scholarship program of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Students compete through writing and recording an audio essay on an annual patriotic theme. This year’s theme was “The America I Believe In.”
The Patriot’s Pen’s theme was “My Responsibility to America.” Students would compete not only against other students from the Public School System, but from private schools, schools run by the U.S. Department of Defense in Japan, Guam, and Korea, American international schools in Taiwan and Thailand, as well as home-schooled children.
Mariano Fajardo, competition committee chair of VFW Post 3457, said, “The reason we do this is to allow students to express themselves about what democracy is to them.”
Winners who will compete at the national level will get all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. for a chance to win $30,000 in scholarships. The national grand prize for the Patriot’s Pen contest is $5,000.
Second place winner for the Patriot’s Pen was Robin Alvarez from MCS, while Maria Gregoire from Saipan International School walked away with third place.
The Voice of Democracy second place winner was Amber Montegro from Marianas High School, while Diedre Rosete from MCS finished third.
All second place winners were awarded $100, while third placers received $75.
A total of 33 entries from four schools were submitted for the Patriot’s Pen, while Voice of Democracy amassed 118 entries from three different schools.
VFW Post 3457 commander Michael A. O’Kelley thanked all the students who participated in the competitions. “All students who took the initiative to enter our contests should be proud of their efforts,” he said.