Each year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars sponsors two student essay contests, in which prize money is awarded to talented writers and thinkers.

High-school students can take part in the Voice of Democracy Oral Essay, which this year carries the theme: “Why I’m Optimistic About Our Nation’s Future.” Middle-school students grades 6 to 8 can participate in the Patriot’s Pen Written Essay, which asks them to write about “What Patriotism Means to Me.”

Both are promoted nationally but begin with competitions through the local VFW post. Cash awards are given at the post, district, and state levels, with the final award being a scholarship for the national winner. For the VOD essay the national winner receives a $30,000 scholarship; the Patriot’s Pen winner receiving a $5,000 award.

The Voice of Democracy contact person at Sonoma Valley High School is forensics teacher Janet Hanson. Students can see her for details.

Unfortunately at this time, there are no contacts at either of the local public middle schools or the Presentation School. Students interested in participating in the Patriot’s Pen essay attending these schools should first have their parents and themselves encourage their administrators to participate in the program. Essays and applications must be submitted to the local VFW post no later than midnight on Friday, Nov. 1.

For more information and application forms, visit vfw.org/Community/Programs and click on the essay program. Students may also call 938-3543 in the evenings to speak with the local VFW VOD/PP coordinator about the competition.

To learn more about the local program and to read last year’s winning essays, visit VFWPost1943.org.