Area students receive national recognition for essays on democracy

·2 min read

Apr. 11—Two area students have received national recognition for essays on democracy they wrote for contests sponsored by the VFW.

Wyatt Perkins, a sixth-grade homeschool student in Mayville, N.D., has received a national award and a $5,000 scholarship for his essay in the VFW Patriot's Pen contest, which is open to middle school students, according to Al Johnson, VFW scholarship state chairman, Bismarck.

Perkin's essay competed with about 155,000 others submitted across the country in the Patriot's Pen contest, said John Hanson, commander of VFW Post 1874 in Grand Forks. His essay won first place at the VFW District 8, Post 4221 level in Portland, N.D., and then first place in the VFW state competition, before going on to the national competition.

Hannah Vaagen, a junior at Devils Lake High School, won at the VFW District 6, Post 756 level and then first place at the state level for her essay for the VFW Voice of Democracy contest. Her essay represented North Dakota among essays submitted by 54 VFW departments nationwide, Hanson said. She has received a scholarship from the VFW and VFW Auxiliary.

Every year, early 230,000 youth compete in the VFW Voice of Democracy essay contest, which is open to high school students, according to the national VFW website.

The Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen contests require students to write an essay, based on a selected patriotic theme, for the chance to win a portion of $3 million in college scholarships and awards. This year's theme was "Is This the Country the Founders Envisioned?"

Vaagen and Perkins also received a Dell laptop computer, headset, and a personalized VFW jacket as prizes for their winning essays, Hanson said.

Both students were honored at a ceremony hosted by the Grand Forks VFW Post 1874 on Saturday, April 3 at the Masonic Center.

"We of the VFW are proud of their talent and the time they took to write their thoughts from the heart," Johnson said.

This is the first time a student from the Mayville-Portland area has won first place in the Patriot's Pen contest, Hanson said. "It's quite an accomplishment for a sixth-grader," he said, referring to Perkins.

Hanson is proud of both contest winners, he said. Writing these essays "is quite a challenge for (students). It is heart-warming for these kids (to win)."

The winners are usually invited to attend the annual VFW state convention, Hanson said, but the COVID-19 pandemic has squelched that practice this year, due to the limited meeting space at the convention, planned for June.

Essay contest winners are featured on the VFW website: .

The top winner of the VFW Voice of Democracy essay contest, Erin Stoeckig of Rochester, Minn., will receive a $30,000 scholarship.