Two Franklin County school districts have named their respective school winners in this year's Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy and Patriot's Pen competitions.
Benton High School history teacher Jason Hobbs announced his school's VOD winners. First-place honors went to junior Carson Hill. Gabriela Wysong took second place.
At Thompsonville High School, a brother-and-sister duo took the top spots in both competitions. Eighth-grader Gavin Kerley took the school's top spot in the Patriot's Pen compeititon while his sister, Brandi, earned a back-to-back win in the VOD. Brandi Kerly, a senior, was last year's winner for Benton Post 2671.
Since 1947, the VFW has conducted the Voice of Democracy competition, an audio-essay program that provides students in grades 9 to 12 from across the country an opportunity to express themselves in a democratic and patriot-themed recorded essay. This year's theme was "Our Hope for the Future."
The VFW enacted the Patriot's Pen youth essay competition in 1995 as a way to encourage young minds to examine America's history, along with their own experiences in modern American society. It is held in conjunction with the Voice of Democracy competition.
The contest is open to students in grades six through eight. This year's theme was "America's Gift to My Generation."
The school winners will advance to the post level for judging. Those winners will advance to the District 15 competition. That awards dinner is set for Jan. 6 at the Marion VFW.