YUTAN – What started out as a government class assignment turned into a scholarship and a top 10 spot in the Voice of Democracy competition for Rachel Pohl of Yutan.
“My teacher, Mr. (Elliot) Ruleaux said if anyone wanted to try to enter the school contest for the essay they could spend a little more time on the paper,” Pohl said.
Pohl’s father, Greg Pohl, was a Navy veteran, so she decided to enter.
“I wanted to enter the contest and show all what I believe makes America great, and make the men and women and who serve this country feel appreciated,” she said.
Established by the Veteran of Foreign Wars (VFW) in 1947, Voice of Democracy is an audio-essay program that provides high school students with the opportunity to express themselves through a democratic and patriotic themed essay.
Each year nearly 40,000 high school students from across the country enter to win their share of more than $1.9 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded to winners.
The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. Other scholarship winners receive from $1,000 to $16,000, and the first-place winner from each VFW Department in each state wins a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.
Pohl said they initially had one class period to work on the assignment but had the option to work on it out of class.
“I got about three fourths of the way done with my paper and just had to edit and record,” she said.
Pohl didn’t dream that she’d win the district contest.
“At this point I was hoping to win the contest in my school and I had no clue that it had the potential to go beyond that,” she said.
Two weeks after winning her school contest, Pohl said she learned that she was the district winner and would be moving on to the state portion of the competition. She then had to re-record her speech. A month later, she went to the Wahoo VFW and accepted her award and read her speech.
“Two weeks later we went to the banquet at the Cornhusker Hotel in Lincoln where all of the winners were announced,” she said.
Winning a total of $675 from all three levels of the competition, Pohl said said it meant a lot to her to be a part of this.
“There are so many good writers out there, and the fact that people that I have so much respect for picked me in the top 10 means a lot to me,” she said.