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Saipan based Fil Ams won top and 2nd prize in Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen contests

Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen contest winners. From left, Mariano Fajardo, Victoria Dela Cruz, Matthew Berline, Katherine Mersai, Danahlei Rodriguz, and Brad Ruszala. Image © Lori Lyn Lirio

VETERANS of Foreign Wars Post 3457 on Tuesday recognized six students for winning the Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen contests for its Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands chapter.

This year’s theme is “American History: Our Hope for the Future.”

Established in the 1947, the VFW formed up women auxiliary, composed of wives and espouses of the veterans. They came up with the scholarship program, which aims to promote a sense of patriotism among the youth.

The winners for the Voice of Democracy or VOD contest, a three to five-minute audio essay contest which sought the participation of students from 9th grade to 10th grade, were: 1st place – Fil Am Kelvin Wolf of Marianas High School. He won USD$150.

Second place went to another Fil-Am, Victoria Dela Cruz of Marianas High School. She won USD$100.

Winners for the Patriot’s Pen or PP, an essay contest for middle school students that write essay not more than 350 words, were: 1st place – Danahlei Rodriguez of ChaCha Middle School. She won USD$150.

Second placer is Mylan Goodwin of Saipan International School. She won USD $100 while third place went to Matthew Berline of Saipan International School. He won USD$75.

The VFW Post 3457 also recognized Katherine Mersai, teacher from William S. Reyes Elementary School, for instilling patriotism among the students.

Mersai will get USD$1,000 and her school will also get the same amount. She will be going to Washington, DC to represent the CNMI and the Asia-Pacific region to compete with 52 other States.

Mariano Fajardo, co-chairman of VFW’s scholarship program, said students who won in the contests will have a chance to get the top prize USD$30,000 scholarship fund for the VOD and USD$5,000 for PP. He explained that students who won in the CNMI will have to compete first to Asia Pacific region, comprised of eight districts, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, Taiwan, Philippines, Guam and CNMI.

First, the winners here will we take it to Guam because it is a part of District 6. Our winners will compete with their winners. Whoever takes over the district will move up to the department where you will be competed with other six districts,” he said.

Fajardo said the VFW reached out to students when the school started.

We reached out to every school and we pass out all these essay entry forms. We set the deadline on Nov.1.”

The top winner for the region will be announced in March.

Winners will go to Washington DC for national competition.

Expenses are all paid for and same with the teacher,” he said.

This is the first we have a teacher from Saipan to represent us to go to Washington DC in March. Most of the time, it was always from Korea and Japan.”

In an interview, Mersai said she was nominated by her principal Naomi Nishimura.

I’ve been teaching for eight years. I was nominated by our principal and our leadership coach. They send in my nomination. Im the only one in the CNMI. From there, my application went all the way to the Philippines and I won the overall district – Asia Pacific district,” she said.

During her nomination, Mersai said they list down all the things she has been doing as a teacher.

I do a lot of community service. I plan a lot of field trips for the students. My grade level team always plan [projects or activities] to make sure that we go to American Memorial Park to see the veterans. I didn’t think that would make a big difference, but it actually make the kids be more appreciative of what we have today,” she said, adding she is teaching second grade students.

Victoria Dela Cruz said she was motivated to join the VOD contest because her teachers gave them extra credit for it.

But I did the Patriots Pen last year, so why not do the VOD this year,” she said, adding she did not expect to win because when she submitted her entry before the deadline, she never heard from the VFW.

Lori Lyn Lirio
Lori Lyn C. Lirio is a veteran newshen having worked for the People's Journal Tonight for more than 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications degree from the Lyceum of the Philippines University. She currently writes for the Marianas Variety, Saipan's number one community paper. .

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