The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) awards many prizes and scholarships throughout the year to deserving community members, mainly students and teachers. “The Voice of Democracy” has been the VFW’s leading scholarship program since 1947. Each year nearly 40,000 high school students compete for more than $2 million in scholarships across the nation, according to the website.

The winner of this year’s contest for Medford Crater Lake Post 1833 is Emma Sanford, a senior at Ashland High School. Sanford won $300 for her essay. This year’s topic was “American History: Our Hope for the Future.”

“I personally wrote about the civil war and how African-Americans’ lives have changed, been affected, and how they are today,” Sanford said. The full essay is available online at

The contest requires students to write an essay and then create a three to five-minute audio version.

The annual contest is open to all schools in the Rogue Valley. Even home-school students may apply, Maj. Frank Sobotka, project chairman, said.

All of the essays were read or listened to by a group of retired school teachers and then scored based on a grading rubric.

Emily Nash, a North Medford High freshman, took second place with a prize of $200.

Every VFW post sends their winners to the district level, which then goes on to the state and eventually the national level to compete for a prize of $30,000. Winnings stack up on each level and the top winner could receive as much as $35,000 Sobokta said.

There’s a lot of competition to win on the national level.

“There are 13,000 members of the VFW in Oregon. Our District (#7) is one of 14 in Oregon, and our post (Medford Crater Lake VFW Post 1833) is one of five in our district and one of 84 in the state,” Sobokta said.

—Contact Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at