Kingsway senior, Madeleine Malesich, placed third in the state for this year’s Voices of Democracy Scholarship competition.
Established in 1947, Voices of Democracy (VOD) is an annual voice essay competition for high school students. The contest was created by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) as a way to teach students about what it means to be a citizen of the United States.
Post 10886 Harrison-Woolwich Twp Memorial has an impressive history of involvement in the competition. However, it is rare that a student advances so far on the state-level. Post Commander Charles Wells has been a long-time supporter of the Voices of Democracy program.
Students who participate in the contest must submit a three to five minute audio essay responding to the prompt. This year’s topic was, “Why is the Veteran Important?”.
“I felt like I needed to understand who the veteran was,” said Malesich when asked about her first thoughts on the prompt. “This impacted my approach to interview veterans and ask them questions regarding their service and how citizens can best support them,” she continued.
Malesich found out about the program through her AP psychology teacher at Kingsway. The Post relies on local teachers to support Voices of Democracy by getting information out to their students.
“I realized that I didn’t know much about the VFW and what it stands for. Once I researched, I felt it was an area of our lives that goes unnoticed and unappreciated, so I wanted to learn more,” said Malesich.
Her essay began with a list of the unofficial mottos for each branch of the military. When people think of the armed forces, many are quick to think of the Army and Navy, but often forget the Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Space Force, and other under-represented branches. Malesich’s decision to pay homage to these branches was the result of her extensive research into the different types of veterans and why each of them are important to the protection of our country.
Malesich first heard about her victory at the Post-level before Christmas. She was invited to the VFW Holiday Party at Vesuvio’s along with the local winner for the Patriot’s Pen Contest, which is a similar essay competition for middle-school students.
She also attended awards dinners for her first place finish in the district and her third place finish in the state.
“Adjunct Janice George and Commander Charles Wells were extremely welcoming and excited to support students in the VOD process. I found everyone, especially them, that I have met at all levels of competition to be eager to educate young people reference our veterans,” she said.
Through her research, Malesich said that the most noteworthy takeaway was that many veterans do not want recognition or glory from their community for serving our nation. Instead, they want our help. Many of the veterans she spoke to expressed concern about the lack of funding or programs to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life.
Whether this be through veteran’s hospitals, mental health care, or simply helping veterans to find new lifestyles after they retire, Malesich is adamant about the fact that members of our community need to start giving back to their veterans.
The final sentence of her essay read: “The veteran is important because they forgo their own wellbeing for the greater good of others and demonstrate what it means to truly be selfless and altruistic”.
Even though as a senior Malesich has officially aged out of the Voices of Democracy competition, she plans to continue getting involved with Post 10886, and she encourages her classmates at Kingsway and members of our community to do the same.
by Audrey Pachuta, 12th Grade