TEA 10th grade student places 2nd in nation-wide “Voices of Democracy” Essay Contest

The theme of the contest asked the question “America: Where do we go from here?”

This year, Beth Vallarino’s 9th and 10th grade ELA students participated in an essay contest sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. This annual contest established in 1947, called the Voice of Democracy provides high school students with the unique opportunity to express themselves in regards to a democratic and patriotic-themed written and orally recorded essay.

Each year, nearly 64,500 9-12 grade students from across the country enter to win their share of more than $2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the program.

This year, the theme of the contest asked the question “America: Where do we go from here?”

As the 9th and 10th graders are teenagers living and growing up in 2022, they have experienced a country of extremes. Politics, Covid-19, climate change, racial justice, immigration, international and domestic crises are just a few of the many topics that have dominated recent news cycles, families, schools, and dinner table conversations.

Students analyzed TEA’s mission, vision, and values. They considered questions like: How do we fight for a just and equitable world? How do we tackle today’s messy and important problems? How do we enact positive change in the world? Then they got down to business. They considered the essay prompt. They brainstormed, outlined, drafted, edited, and revised a 650 word essay to submit to the contest.

Student-selected topics were incredibly diverse, and ranged from ideas such as gun control, to education, to equality and justice for all.

We are so proud to announce that our very own 10th grade student, Cameron Tatara, has placed 2nd in this nation-wide contest with over 60,000 entrants. Please help us in congratulating Cameron on this well-deserved win!

Please read Cameron’s winning essay

American Dream

The “American Dream,” what does that mean? It’s a term that is used a lot in our society. It is something that our country has fought in wars for, lost lives for, and continues to seek out. Living in the land of equal opportunity is the premise for this idea, but how has it come to be? Has it ever truly been achieved? These are both valid questions that need to be addressed historically and presently.

For the longest time, many people didn’t have close to the same opportunities as others. When the issue of slavery, and other civil rights issues were brought up in the writing of our constitution, there was much debate and arguing that took place. This included addressing the wording and potential change regarding human and civil rights. Segregation could’ve been extinguished right then and there, but, to many’s disappointment, it was not. The writers of the constitution were not a diverse group, and in fact, many of the main writers were owners of human beings. This, along with many other factors and political strategies, has caused major indecisiveness and allowed segregation and mistreatment of humans to continue.

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln and many others acted on this travesty, and decided that fighting one of the most life taking wars in the history of the world was worth it. And so it was.

Desegregation is long lasting and has been an extremely prominent issue for hundreds of years, so, even after the war, it has taken even more time to really close the equality gap. This conflict also created a great divide between people with different morals and character, and is something we still see today in our modern world. The dehumanization and affective polarization that is shown toward different groups and political parties today has caused unnecessary conflict. The extremely sad reality of this is that people are benefiting off of it. Politicians and others in interest use people’s fear, hate, and differences among each other to remain in power and in control.

Despite all of this, I believe that resolve is possible. If we all begin to think of ourselves as allies, not enemies, and look for common ground with each other, our country can finally find real unity, not the kind that is preached to you by politicians trying to get elected. This divisive strategy is not something that can continue. Having real conversations with people about important topics does more than any policy change could ever. If we can do this, we can finally call ourselves, “We the People,” and truly live the American Dream, something that has never been accomplished before. This may not be an easy task, but it is 100% necessary for the survival and prosperity in our country.