Local students are VFW state contest winners

STATE CHAMPS — Marisa Malander, left, and Stephanie Wright, hold their respective award plaques from the Nebraska Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy contests.

Boone County is beginning to gain a reputation for top entries in the annual patriotic speech and essay contests sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Department of Nebraska.
In what VFW officials described as a “highly unusual occurrence” last week, the first place statewide winners in both the Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen contests hailed from Boone County.
Stephanie Wright, a senior at Boone Central, won the Voice of Democracy audio-essay contest. Stephanie is the daughter of Doug and Michele Wright of Petersburg. Her twin brother, Scott, was runner-up in the State Voice of Democracy contest last year.
Stephanie received a $2,000 award, and she will travel to Washington, DC, in April to compete at the national level for the first prize of a $30,000 college scholarship.
Marisa Malander, a seventh grader at St. Michael’s School in Albion, won the state Patriot’s Pen essay contest. She is the daughter of Mike and Amy Malander of Albion.
Marisa received a $1,000 state award, and her essay will be entered in a national competition for the opportunity to win $5,000 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC.
Both of the state winners were also Boone County winners and District 15 winners in their respective contests. Both were sponsored in the district and state contests by VFW Post 736 and Auxiliary of Albion.
In Voice of Democracy, contestants write and record a three-to-five minute essay on a patriotic theme. This year, the theme was: “Why My Vote Matters.” This year, a total of 1,153 Nebraska students participated in the contest.
Stephanie will be one of 54 finalists worldwide to attend the national competition this year.
In Patriot’s Pen, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students write a 300 to 400-word essay on a patriotic theme. This year, the theme was: “Why I Honor the American Flag.” Some 3,086 Nebraska students participated in the contest this year.
Both competitions are intended to foster patriotism among today’s youth. Winners in district contests advance to the state competitions in early February each year.
This is the third consecutive year that a Boone Central High School has had a student place in the top two of the state level Voice of Democracy contest. Thomas Hosford won first place in 2017. Scott Wright was runner-up in 2018, and Stephanie Wright was the first place winner this year.