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Oxford students’ patriotism wins them praise, cash

Elizabeth-Anne Smith believes she has a responsibility to America to be the best person she can be, whether it’s at home, in school or in the community.

Smith, 16, is a junior at Oxford High School and hopes to one day be an English teacher to high school students. She enjoys writing.

“It comes naturally to me,” she said.

Her writing talent recently earned her $300 for winning the Veterans of Foreign War and Auxiliary’s Voice of Democracy essay and speech contest. Smith won first place in the local competition with her essay and then took home the first-place prize in the district. Each contest paid her $150 for winning.

Smith

Smith

Now, she moves onto the state competition where she will compete for $1,000 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C.

State winners move on to the national competition where they could win a $30,000 scholarship to the college of their choice.

Smith was recognized Tuesday night by the local Dan Jackson VFW Post 3978 and Auxiliary where she received a certificate and her cash prize.

“I am so honored and proud of myself,” Smith said.

Established in 1947, the Voice of Democracy program is offered to high school students, grade 9 through 12. Each year there is a patriotic theme. The 2016-2017 theme was, “My Responsibility to America.”

Also recognized Tuesday were the first-through-third-place winners in the Patriot’s Pen Essay contest for middle school students, also sponsored by the VFW.

Locally, winners receive cash prizes from $50 to $100 and the first-place winner will move into the district, state and national contest, where they also can win up to $30,000 in scholarships.

Taking the first-place award Tuesday night for his essay, “The America I Believe In,” was Brandon L. McCluskey, who is in the sixth grade in the Lafayette County School District.

McCluskey, 12, said he was told about the contest by his social studies teacher. In his essay, McCluskey said the  America he believed in represents “strength, freedom and courage.” His essay won over 82 other essays in Oxford and Lafayette County.

McCluskey

McCluskey

“I was really excited that I won,” he said after Tuesday’s award ceremony.

Winning second place was Joshua L. Wilson and tying for third place was Michael Nelson Bender and Lucas J. McKeown.

VFW Commander Gail Wilson said the contest is a way for students to express their patriotism for their country while working on important writing skills.

“I’m hoping to get more teachers involved next year, especially on the high school level,” Wilson said. “These kids can win thousands of dollars toward their college education with these contests.”