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Scholarship awardees Reagan Rubright, Kada Jackel, Nicholas Kosuda and Dylan Ruffing with VFW Post 914 Commander Jake Bradich. (Submitted photo)
Four West Mifflin students each received top honors from All-American Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 914 Intrepid West Mifflin for this year’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen contests.
The winners were accepted from more than three dozen entries that gave the local scholars a chance to earn some of the $2 million in national educational incentives awarded annually through the VFW.
Earning the nod for this year’s VOD competition are Reagan Rubright, Kada Jackel and Dylan Ruffing from West Mifflin Area High School.
Nicholas Kosuda from the West Mifflin Area Middle School was awarded the top slot for the post’s Patriot’s Pen scholarship.
“We are again very pleased with the high participation and quality of essays we’ve received from students this year,” said Jake Bradich, commander of Post 914 and VFW life member.
“Over the last several years, there’s been an enormous amount of support from the school district staff," he said. "The veterans here are proud that youngsters in our community are eager to get involved.”
The three VOD winners each received a $100 award from VFW Post 914 Intrepid West Mifflin at the organization’s Nov. 30 meeting at the Thompson Run Athletic Association, as well as a VFW medal. A $100 check and a VFW medal was also presented to the post’s Patriot's Pen winner.
The topic for this year’s VOD essay competition was "American History: Our Hope For The Future." Competitors for the Patriot’s Pen contest wrote to the theme of "America’s Gift To My Generation."
In all, VFW Post 914 received 38 entries for this year’s VOD competition. The post is permitted to advance one in 10 entries for each competition annually.
Melissa L. Fulmer, an English teacher at West Mifflin Area High School, again assisted with the program promotion and collection of essays for this year’s competition. Last year, Fulmer was named by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Pennsylvania as the VFW Voice of Democracy Teacher of the Year.
Navy veteran and Post Quartermaster Gary Ruston said the quality of essays the organization received this year was "simply outstanding."
“It was hard to pick three winners," he said. "The total number of essays were whittled down to 11, then down to five. And after much deliberating, we finally got our three winners.”
All of the VOD candidates will move to the next bracket of competition to be held at Pittsburgh’s VFW District 29. If forwarded from there, entrants will earn a chance to compete at the VFW Department of Pennsylvania. After that, winners will then vie at the national level where the top laurels include a $30,000 scholarship.
Other VOD national scholarships range from $1,000 to $16,000, and the first place winner from each state earns a minimum scholarship of $1,000, plus an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
Last year, approximately 40,000 high school students throughout the United States participated in the VFW’s Voice of Democracy audio essay competition.
As the Patriot’s Pen award winner, Kosuda also earned the chance to advance to the next level of competition in the VFW’s youth essay contest. The top Patriot’s Pen competitors selected from each state can earn $50,000 in awards, as well as a top prize of $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
Originally published December 15, 2017.