Mount Pulaski High School student wins Illinois VFW Voice of
Democracy scholarship competition
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MOUNT PULASKI — Madison Haley, a
senior at Mount Pulaski High School and daughter of Jeff and Tricia
Haley of Chestnut, won the 2013-2014 Illinois Veterans of Foreign
Wars Voice of Democracy scholarship contest. Saturday evening in a
packed ballroom at Springfield's Crowne Plaza Hotel, she was awarded
$3,000 for her winning essay: "Why I'm Optimistic About Our Nation's
Her essay was chosen as the best from all of Illinois' 18 VFW
districts. This was the first time Mount Pulaski VFW Scroggin-Gee
Post 777 and VFW District 10 has had a champion Voice of Democracy
student during all the years since 1947, when this annual high
school contest was initiated by VFW's national headquarters in
Kansas City, Mo.
Left to right:
10th District commander; Phil Bertoni, Mount Pulaski VFW Post 777
Madison Haley; Roger Bates, Post 777 commander; Vince
Long; VFW 10th District quartermaster
Knowing that a democratic society needs
nurturing, the VFW established the Voice of Democracy competition in
1947 to "provide students grades 9-12 the opportunity to express
themselves concerning democratic ideas and principles."
All of the student participants in the Illinois state essay
competition were invited for a Friday evening reception, dinner and
overnight lodging, followed by Saturday's breakfast and then a bus
tour of Abraham Lincoln sites in the Springfield vicinity.
Each year, nearly 40,000 high school students from across the
country, along with VFW Europe, VFW Asia and others, enter to win a
share of the $2.2 million in scholarships and incentives awarded
through the VFW's Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition, with
scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $30,000. The first-place
champion from each state or regional VFW department wins an
all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., where the overall
champion will be revealed in March. The national first-place winner
will receive a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient's
choice of American university, college or vocational-technical
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Students were required to submit their essay by Nov. 1, 2013,
both in typed-written and CD-recorded formats. The recording had to
be between three and five minutes.
Jordan Luczaj, also a senior at Mount Pulaski High School, was
runner-up to Madison in the local Mount Pulaski Scroggin-Gee Post
777 competition in November.
After the announcement of the state winner, Madison was asked to
read her essay. All attendees gave her a long-standing and
The Illinois VFW state commander, Matthew Mihelcic, later
remarked that the "imagery used by Madison made her words stand out
Madison's grandmother, Mrs. Shirley Haley, added afterward that
she was so pleased to see her granddaughter win such a prize, as "Maddy
has been writing essays since the third grade — something she loves
doing so very much!"
For a copy of Madison Haley's first-place essay in the Illinois
click here (PDF).
[Text from file received from Phil
Bertoni, Mount Pulaski VFW Scroggin-Gee Post 777 quartermaster]