At the Veteran’s Day celebration at Shelbyville High School in November, two outstanding students were recognized by the VFW Voice of Democracy competition: Elliot Smithson and Drennian Martin.
Martin and Smithson, both seniors at SHS, received stipends of $300 each for their excellent audio- essays on the topic, “Why I’m Optimistic about America’s Future.”
Martin’s essay was selected to advance and Smithson was named runner-up.
Recently, Martin’s essay went on to win at District 11 in Monticello against eleven other essayists and will soon be entered into state competition.
On Jan. 12, a reception was held in Monticello where Martin was officially feted and presented with a cash award of $200 and notification of advancement to state in Springfield.
Drennian Martin commented, “It’s an honor to be advancing to state and I have to thank the VFW and my teachers at school helping me with the writing and delivery of my speech. It’s an honor to represent VFW District 11 in this contest.”
The state winner will be decided on Feb. 7. Martin will attend the VOD banquet in Springfield, Feb. 8, and will find out how his audio essay fared against winners from as many as 18 other districts.
Martin, and all other first place audio-essay winners, will receive at least $300 for advancing to state.
On the local level, the stipend may vary from year to year and is sponsored in Shelby County by Shelbyville VFW Post 4829.
Unlike other essay contests, each entrant must have a voice recording on either CD or tape and a typed copy of the speech. The essays are graded 30 percent-originality; content- 35 percent and delivery-35 percent.
Since 1947, the Voice of Democracy has been the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ (VFW’s) premier scholarship program. Each year, more than 50,000 high school students compete for more than $2.3 million in scholarships and incentives. Students compete by writing and recording a broadcast script on an annual patriotic theme. The VOD program is offered through VFW Post 4829 and is available to all schools in Shelby County as well as homeschooled children 9-12th grades.