By winning at the state level he and 50 winners from other states will meet in Washington, D.C. for the national judging in March. Straley had to write both an essay and record an audio CD (hence: "voice" of democracy), which counted for 50 percent of the judging. This year's essay topic was "Is Our Constitution Still Relevant?"
"It's been a pretty amazing experience. The VFW organization at all levels, but particularly at our local level, has been unbelievably supportive of all the student' efforts who enter the contests. They make us feel like our voices are truly heard and valued. The whole experience really does foster and affirm a love of country, and a recognition of exactly why we should be both proud and grateful to live in a nation such as this one," Straley said.
The Voice of Democracy Program is open to students in grades 9-12, who are enrolled in a public, private or parochial high school or home study program in the United States and its territories.
Straley received $300 from the VFW post in Manchester and then won the District level earning another $100. Winning at the state level this past Saturday earned Straley an additional $1,000 and a free trip to Washington D.C. in March where he will tour the nation's capitol with the other state winners, visit monuments, museums, and even meet the President. Each participant will be guaranteed at least another additional scholarship of $1,000 and the awards will increase the higher up they place within the final 50.
Straley will use his winnings to help pay for college.
Each year over 45,000 students enter the Voice of Democracy VFW essay contest. Straley is representing Vermont and will now compete for the $30,000 VFW grand prize scholarship.
Straley finished 4th in the Nation in 2010-2011 out of over 125,000 students who entered the VFW Patriots Pen essay contest open to 6-8 graders.