Local teen to compete in national veteran-focused scholarship competition

What began as a simple class assignment has resulted in a pending trip to Washington, D.C., for a local high school student to compete in a national scholarship competition.

A senior at California High School, Nathan Thibon said all students in his speech class were required to complete an audio essay that was submitted to the Voice of Democracy program.

The program is sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its Ladies Auxiliary, and is open to high school students and consists of an original recorded essay. Entries begin at the local post level, and students may progress to the national level competition.

“This year’s theme was ‘Is There Pride in Serving in Our Military?’” Thibon said.

Wanting a uniquely structured essay to compete with the creative endeavors of his classmates, Thibon was initially uncertain how to respond to the question since he has not served in the military.

“I decided to approach the essay from the perspective of demonstrating how those who have already served exemplify the patriotic pride of our country,” he explained.

Impressed by Thibdon’s composition efforts, speech teacher Dana Barr had him record the essay more than once to improve the recording. Thibon was selected by a panel of teachers at the school to read the essay during a school assembly last Veterans Day.

In mid-November 2011, his audio essay was sent to VFW Post 35 in Jefferson City, where he won a $500 savings bond.

A couple of weeks later, he learned his tribute had secured him a district victory and a $300 check.

Earlier this month, he competed at the state level where the essay won first place among the 18 districts throughout the state.

“I really didn’t realize how big a deal the contest was until I saw just how excited the veterans were over the whole program,” Thibon said.

On Saturday, he will travel to the nation’s capital where his essay will be entered into competition with 52 other submissions from other states and territories. The winner of the competition will receive the top scholarship award of $30,000.

“After I had written the essay and was completing my proofreading, I knew that it was good,” Thibon said. “But I didn’t know the quality of all the other submissions. So I was really shocked when I learned that I was going to national.”

Planning to attend college after his graduation, Thibon said winning the top scholarship would be a definite boon to his educational goals.

“I am interested in biochemistry or an American history degree, and this would certainly help with the costs of such an education,” he said.

For more information on the Voice of Democracy and other VFW sponsored programs, please call 816-968-1117 or visit www.vfw.org.

Jeremy Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.

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