The Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters in Mineral Wells and Weatherford recently gave awards to teachers and students.
Aledo High School junior Ashlyn Vozeh won in the Voice of Democracy competition in the Weatherford chapter, and Burleson ISD’s Hajek Elementary teacher Veronica Brentz won Teacher of the Year. For the Mineral Wells chapter, Millsap High School senior Rebecca Maisel won first place in Voice of Democracy, and Millsap High School special education teacher Amanda Burr won Teacher of the Year.
In addition, Tison Middle School students dominated the Patriot’s Pen competition in both Weatherford and Mineral Wells. In Weatherford, Hannah Sanders placed first, Tyler Mercer placed second and Taylor K. Houghton placed third. In Mineral Wells, Nevaeh St. Clair placed first and Presley St. Clair placed second.
Winners took home scholarship money as well, which varies from chapter to chapter. First-place winners and teachers of the year have the opportunity to advance to the district competition.
Voice of Democracy is a scholarship competition that requires high school students to record themselves reciting a patriotic-themed essay. This year’s theme is “What Makes America Great.”
Patriot’s Pen is an essay contest for middle school students which this year has the same theme as Voice of Democracy.
To prepare, Vozeh turned to her teachers to help her craft her essay and speech, which focused on diversity and opportunity.
“If I hadn’t gotten their corrections, I don’t think I would have won,” Vozeh said. “They worked together with me to totally revamp my paper because I was having serious writer’s block, and they both inspired me to keep it going and make sure everything was correct.”
Applying for the Voice of Democracy scholarship was an assignment in a student leadership class at MHS, Maisel said. She wrote her essay about America’s diversity and national pride passed down over generations.
“In my schools and my family, we’ve always been very proud to be Americans, always supported our country as best as we can,” Maisel said. “My family and my teachers have never tolerated any disrespect to the nation. That’s really how I’ve grown up.”
Burr started working as a substitute teacher in Millsap ISD in 2014, then as an elementary special education aide in 2015. This is her second year teaching in the district. She said it’s important to her to teach students leadership and citizenship.
“To me, when they’re 30 years old, and they’re not using Algebra I or writing persuasive essays anymore, they’re still going to need leadership skills,” Burr said. “Those are going to be important to them. We still need to teach them how to be good people and care about others and put others first.”
Brentz is in her 18th year of teaching and currently teaches second grade. She said patriotism is taught to children when they are young, especially in Burleson, where there is a specific focus on this.
“At the beginning of the year, one of the first few lessons we teach in Burleson is really patriotism and civic duty, so the kids understand right off the bat how to recite the Pledge [of Allegiance], what the words mean in it — like indivisible, justice, liberty. We teach all of those words to the kids,” Brentz said.