Students from Wauwatosa West and East high schools received recognition and cash awards for participating in the VFW Post 1465-sponsored Voice of Democracy program.

Wauwatosa East student Sophie Dion-Kirschner won first place at East, with other East students William McMahon receiving second and Jenny Heck receiving third. Adam Fendo was the first place winner from Wauwatosa West. Dion-Kirschner was also the winner of the VFW district level competition, and will go on to state competition.

Sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Voice of Democracy Program is open to students in grades nine through 12 in the U.S. and its territories.

'This is something I'm very involved in — I find that a lot of the students that participate have done very well after school,' said VFW Post Commander Walter Groth.

Each year, nearly 40,000 high school students enter to win a share of the $2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the VFW's Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition, according to a news release.

The VFW established the Voice of Democracy program in 1947 to provide students with the opportunity to express themselves on democratic ideas and principles. This year's theme was 'My Vision for America.'

In February 2016, winning essays from the 10 VFW districts in the state, including Dion-Kirschner's, will be judged, and the winner will go on to the national competition in Washington, D.C.

The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient's American university, college or vocational/technical school. Other national scholarships range from $1,000 to $16,000, and the first-place winner from each state wins a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C.

Also winning an award from VFW Post 1465, in their Patriot's Pen essay, was Eleanor Toyama from Milwaukee Montessori School. The VFW-sponsored Patriot's Pen essay contest is for students in grades six through eight.

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