Ryan Arel, a senior at Colchester High School, was named the first-place winner in the Vermont Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) 2016-17 Voice of Democracy audio-essay contest. The annual event encourages high school students to write speeches and essays based on democratic and patriotic themes. Click here to read Ryanâ€™s winning essay.
Nearly 40,000 9-12 grade students from across the country enter to win their share of $2.1 million in educational scholarships. The first-place winner from each state wins a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. This unique opportunity is designed to foster patriotism by allowing students the opportunity to voice their opinion.
After winning the local district with his submission titled “My Responsibility to America”, Ryan was invited to a banquet at Post 782 in Burlington recognizing the top three finalists in Vermont. He left that ceremony having received the top honor for Vermont and the opportunity to represent the state in Washington, D.C.
Ryan says writing this essay helped him to focus on his own values. “Itâ€™s important for all of usÂ to really reflect on our true value; reflect on bigger picture ideas; reflect on what we define as right and wrong.”
As for the trip to DC? He says it went very well. “After writing this piece and spending time with people from all across the country, I can safely say that regardless of all our differences, Iâ€™ve learned how to get along with people from all different backgrounds a little better than before,” Ryan said.