Youth Programs


Voice of Democracy

Established in 1947, our Voice of Democracy audio-essay program provides high school students with the unique opportunity to express themselves in regards to a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay. Each year, more than 51,000 9-12 grade students from across the country enter to win their share of more than $1.9 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the program. 

The national first place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. A complete list of other national scholarships range from $1,000-$16,000, and the first place winner from each VFW Department (state) wins a minimum scholarship of $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. Want to apply? Read the rules and eligibility requirements, and download the 2020-21 entry form application, as all student entries must be submitted to a sponsoring local VFW Post by midnight, Oct. 31

The 2020-21 theme is: 
Is This the Country the Founders Envisioned?


About the 2019-20 winner …

Shruthi Kumar, a high school senior from Marian High School in Omaha, Nebraska, was named the 2019-20 Voice of Democracy first place winner. Shruthi’s speech on the theme, “What Makes America Great,” won her a $30,000 college scholarship. Shruthi was sponsored by VFW Post 1581 in Omaha, Nebraska. Watch as Shruthi delivered her winning speech during the Parade of Winners ceremony at the 2020 VFW Legislative Conference.

Want to catch up on everything that happened this year? You can watch the Parade of Winners ceremony from the 2020 VFW Legislative Conference, see this year’s complete list of winners, or listen to the winning essay from your state. 

Patriot’s Pen

Each year more than 138,000 students in grades 6-8 enter the VFW’s Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest for a chance to win their share of more than $900,000 in state and national awards. Each first place state winner receives a minimum of $500 at the national level, and the national first place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. 

The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief. Want to apply? Read the rules and eligibility requirements, and download the 2020-21 entry form application as all student entries must be submitted to a sponsoring local VFW Post by midnight, Oct. 31

The 2020-21 theme is: 
What is Patriotism to Me?


About the 2019-20 winner …

Ruby Howe, a seventh grade student from Rochester Hills, Michigan, was named the 2019-20 Patriot’s Pen first place winner. Her essay on the theme, “What Makes America Great,” won her a $5,000 award. Ruby was sponsored by VFW Post 334 in Lake Orion, Michigan.

Watch as Ruby delivered her winning essay, or see the complete list of 2020 national winners.

Scout of the Year

Some of our earliest ties to the community involve youth groups and perhaps none are stronger or more lasting than the relationship between the VFW and America’s scouting organizations. In fact, our partnership with the Boy Scouts of America dates back to 1915 when VFW Post 2100 helped to establish Troop 1 in Everett, Washington.

Our Scout of the Year program provides members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who display standout citizenship, patriotism and love of country with the opportunity to be rewarded with college scholarships of up to $5,000. 

Before submitting your Scout of the Year application, please review the rules and eligibility requirements.

Teacher of the Year

Without our nation’s veterans, America wouldn’t be the great nation it is today. Our youth deserve to learn about our rich history, traditions and the role of our veterans in creating and shaping America.

The VFW Teacher of the Year award contest recognizes three exceptional teachers for their outstanding commitment to teaching Americanism and patriotism to their students. Each year, a certified/licensed elementary, junior high and high school teacher whose curriculum focuses on citizenship education topics can be nominated for the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award. Winners receive:

  • A $1,000 award for professional development expenses.
  • A $1,000 award for his/her school. 
  • Two award plaques: one for the teacher, the other for his/her school.


Please review the rules and eligibility requirements and, check back soon for the 2021 nomination form so you can nominate a teacher you know. 

Looking to share updated information and materials on VFW’s Voice of Democracy, Patriot’s Pen and Teacher Award programs? Share our National Scholarship Brochure with the students and educators in your community.

VFW in the Classroom

Every day, we strive to thank America’s educators by providing them with helpful resources and encouraging our members to visit local classrooms. Let us help you educate America’s future leaders and bring history to life!

Veterans play an important role in educating our nation’s youth about the founding principles upon which America was founded. As combat veterans, VFW members can provide students with a unique perspective about the sacrifices America’s service members make to maintain freedom for all of us.

When visiting a classroom, a VFW member will prepare a brief introduction, a main presentation and a Q&A session. Depending on the topic, a member may bring appropriate memorabilia, uniforms, photographs and other relevant material.

American history is something we all share, and there’s no one better to help tell that story than someone who’s had a great part in shaping it.

Contact your local VFW Post to arrange for a veteran to visit your classroom. 

If you are a VFW member or Post interested in becoming active with your local schools these tips and suggestions may be helpful.


As combat veterans, we play an important role in educating our nation’s youth about the principles and ideals upon which America was founded.


%d bloggers like this: