Voice of Democracy

Established in 1947, our Voice of Democracy audio-essay program provides high school students with the unique opportunity to express themselves in regards to a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay. Each year, more than 51,000 9-12 grade students from across the country enter to win their share of more than $1.9 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the program. 

The national first place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. A complete list of other national scholarships range from $1,000-$16,000, and the first place winner from each VFW Department (state) wins a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. Want to apply? Read the rules and eligibility requirements, and download the 2020-21 entry form application, as all student entries must be submitted to a sponsoring local VFW Post by midnight, Oct. 31.


The 2020-21 theme is: 
Is This the Country the Founders Envisioned?

About the 2019-20 winner ...

Shruthi Kumar, a high school senior from Marian High School in Omaha, Nebraska, was named the 2019-20 Voice of Democracy first place winner. Shruthi's speech on the theme, "What Makes America Great," won her a $30,000 college scholarship. Shruthi was sponsored by VFW Post 1581 in Omaha, Nebraska. Watch as Shruthi delivered her winning speech during the Parade of Winners ceremony at the 2020 VFW Legislative Conference.

Want to catch up on everything that happened this year? You can watch the Parade of Winners ceremony from the 2020 VFW Legislative Conference, see this year's complete list of winners, or listen to the winning essay from your state. 


Patriot's Pen

Each year more than 138,000 students in grades 6-8 enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest for a chance to win their share of more than $900,000 in state and national awards. Each first place state winner receives a minimum of $500 at the national level, and the national first place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. 

The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief. Want to apply? Read the rules and eligibility requirements, and download the 2020-21 entry form application as all student entries must be submitted to a sponsoring local VFW Post by midnight, Oct. 31.


The 2020-21 theme is: 
What is Patriotism to Me?

About the 2019-20 winner ...

Ruby Howe, a seventh grade student from Rochester Hills, Michigan, was named the 2019-20 Patriot's Pen first place winner. Her essay on the theme, "What Makes America Great," won her a $5,000 award. Ruby was sponsored by VFW Post 334 in Lake Orion, Michigan.

Watch as Ruby delivered her winning essay, or see the complete list of 2020 national winners.

Scout of the Year


Some of our earliest ties to the community involve youth groups and perhaps none are stronger or more lasting than the relationship between the VFW and America's scouting organizations. In fact, our partnership with the Boy Scouts of America dates back to 1915 when VFW Post 2100 helped to establish Troop 1 in Everett, Washington.

Our Scout of the Year program provides members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who display standout citizenship, patriotism and love of country with the opportunity to be rewarded with college scholarships of up to $5,000. 

Before submitting your Scout of the Year application, please review the rules and eligibility requirements.


JROTC, Civil Air Patrol, and ROTC Awards


Every year the VFW has awards for JROTC, Civil Air Patrol, and ROTC awards that are presented to cadets of these programs. The awards are nominated by their local command staff for having excellent leadership, academics, community service, and dedication. Our post currently supports presentations to Ola, Stockbridge, and Luella High School JROTC programs. We are happy to support more in Henry County for these programs. Please contact the post for more information.

VFW in the Classroom


Every day, we strive to thank America's educators by providing them with helpful resources and encouraging our members to visit local classrooms. Let us help you educate America's future leaders and bring history to life!

Veterans play an important role in educating our nation's youth about the founding principles upon which America was founded. As combat veterans, VFW members can provide students with a unique perspective about the sacrifices America's service members make to maintain freedom for all of us.

When visiting a classroom, a VFW member will prepare a brief introduction, a main presentation and a Q&A session. Depending on the topic, a member may bring appropriate memorabilia, uniforms, photographs and other relevant material.

American history is something we all share, and there's no one better to help tell that story than someone who's had a great part in shaping it.

Contact our Post to arrange for a veteran to visit your classroom.


Teacher of the Year


Without our nation’s veterans, America wouldn't be the great nation it is today. Our youth deserve to learn about our rich history, traditions and the role of our veterans in creating and shaping America.

Each year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars selects elementary, middle, and high school teachers to participate in the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher program.

Please review the new rules and eligibility requirements and, click here for the 2021 nomination form to nominate a teacher you know.

Looking to share updated information and materials on VFW's Voice of Democracy, Patriot's Pen and Teacher Award programs? Share our National Scholarship Brochure with the students and educators in your community.


And the 2020 Teacher of the Year winners are ...




TOTY Elementary Winner
Megan Joy Rodgers, a fourth-grade teacher at Brookfield Elementary School in Brookfield, Ohio, has been selected for its 2020 Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award at the elementary level. Rodgers, sponsored by VFW Post 7538 in Struthers, Ohio, was chosen for her creative qualities, character and frequent efforts to organize field trips, activities and services to help her students learn about and recognize America’s veterans and their military service. Rodgers’ family history of service to our nation has helped her teach students patriotism, civic responsibility and patriotism. From coordinating a school-wide wall of honor to spotlight veterans and writing cards for veterans and deployed service members, to organizing school trips to Washington, D.C., and the 9/11 memorial in Austintown, Ohio, Rodgers’ passion and initiative are present daily in her classroom and throughout the school.
TOTY Middle School Winner
Michael Russell, an eighth grade science teacher at Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School in Bridgewater, New Jersey, has been selected for its 2020 Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award at the middle school level. Russell, sponsored by VFW Post 370 in Highland Park, New Jersey, was chosen for his work creating initiatives designed to educate his students and the school on the importance and sacrifices of America’s veterans. A former sergeant with the Army National Guard and volunteer firefighter, Russell’s military and volunteer service have greatly influenced his teaching methods. From establishing a Veterans History Club which included veteran discussions, visits to veterans’ memorials and supporting the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, to organizing school-wide fundraisers to generate donations and supplies for service members, veterans and their families, his dedication and initiatives in the classroom have enabled him to have a positive impact on everyone he comes in contact with. 
TOTY High School Winner
Matthew Bundy, a 12th grade American government teacher at Mountain Home High School in Mountain Home, Idaho, has been selected for its 2020 Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award at the high school level. Bundy, sponsored by VFW Post 5423 in Mountain Home, Idaho, was chosen to represent the high school level for the innovation and passion he brings to his classroom, and for going above and beyond to encourage civic responsibility and activism in his students. A Lieutenant Colonel who served 20 years in the Air Force, Bundy’s military service offers invaluable insight when teaching his students about the attacks on 9/11, the service and sacrifice of our nation’s heroes, and the importance of their civic and community involvement.