Weirton VFW, auxiliary present student awards

HONORED — Weirton Madonna High School senior Chad Durante, left, and David Connors, second from left, a sixth-grader at St. Paul School in Weirton, were honored Monday by the Weirton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 2716 and the VFW Auxiliary as the recipients of the Voice of Democracy competition and the Patriot’s Pen competition, respectively. With them are Mike Rutlidge, post 2716 commander, and Patricia Hans, VFW auxiliary president. -- Contributed

WEIRTON — Two local students received awards Monday from the Weirton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 2716 and the VFW Auxiliary.

Chad Durante, a senior at Weirton Madonna High School, was the post’s winner of the Voice of Democracy competition, and David Connors, a sixth-grader at St. Paul School in Weirton and a member of the Tri-State Young Marines, won the post’s Patriot’s Pen competition.

Both students advanced to the VFW District 1 competition, which covered 15 VFW posts in northern West Virginia, with Connors clinching the District 1 Patriot’s Pen Award.

He will now advance to the state level competition along with the winners for each of the VFW’s six district winners in the state. The winners of each state’s competition will advance to the national competition, which will be held in Washington, D.C., next year.

Established in 1947, the 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, nearly 40,000 students in grades nine through 12 from across the country enter to win their share of $2.1 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.

Durante was awarded $100 from Post 2716 and an additional $50 from the VFW Auxiliary. Durante plans to pursue a career in medicine. The 2018-19 theme was “Why My Vote Matters.”

Each year more than 132,000 students in grades six through eight, meanwhile, enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen written essay contest. The national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

The first-place winner from each state competes for national awards totaling $55,000, with each first-place state winner receiving a minimum of $500 at the national level. 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. This year’s theme was “Why I Honor the American Flag.”

Connors was awarded $100 from Post 2716, $50 from the VFW Auxiliary and an additional $200 from VFW District 1.