VFW Rewards Student Writing: Patriot’s Pen, Voice of Democracy

Budding authors and public speakers were honored recently with cash prizes, awards and certificates by the Startz Memorial VFW Post 8800 as part of the annual VFW Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy contests.

 VFW Post 8800 also recognized two Comal ISD teachers with teacher of the year honors including Matt Vanderbrook, a U.S. history teacher at Smithson Valley Middle School, and Gloria Wolfshohl, a career and technology teacher at Smithson Valley High School. They were each given a cash prize and a plaque for their honor.

Patriot’s Pen Contest

Smithson Valley Middle School submitted 131 entries this year, and nine of those entries were selected to advance to the district level contest, which includes four VFW posts. Spring Branch Middle submitted six entries. VFW Post 8800 Education Programs Committee Chairman Ty Teel presented the honorees with their awards. 

This year’s first place winner for the Patriot’s Pen contest was SVMS eighth grader Brooke Hutzler who received perfect scores from every judge, said Teel. She received $250, a medal, lapel pin and certificate for her honor. The other eight winners received certificates, gift cards and/or checks as well.

The winners included Hutzler, first place; eighth grader Ashley Young, second place; eighth grader Victoria Edens, third place; seventh grader Olivia Ingram, fourth place; eighth grader Alexandra Quintero, fifth place; eighth grader Sidney Smith, sixth place; eighth grader Emma Siebold, seventh place; eighth grader Rhett Laverty, eighth place and seventh grader Jordan Buffalo, ninth place.

SVMS students have been participating in the Patriot’s Pen contest for five years. History teachers at each grade level encourage all students to participate. The Patriot’s Pen essay contest is for middle school students in sixth through eighth grades and centers around an annual theme with this year’s theme being “Why I Honor the American Flag.”

Voice of Democracy

The Voice of Democracy contest is an audio-essay submission for high school students who not only write an essay, but record it as well. This year’s theme is “Why My Vote Matters.” SVHS students have been participating in this contest for 15 years receiving scholarships totaling approximately $8,000. Teel presented awards to this year’s honorees recently including junior Kailey Fox, second place; senior Alexys Vallejo, third place; and junior Caitlyn McIntyre, fourth place. Three students from Canyon Lake High School participated in this year’s contest as well.

The VFW Post 8800 serves five counties including Comal, Hays, Guadalupe, Gonzales and Caldwell representing three high schools and numerous middle schools. Two of the high schools, SVHS and CLHS, are within Comal ISD as are several middle schools including SVMS, Spring Branch Middle, Mountain Valley Middle and Pieper Ranch Middle. Since Comal ISD covers 589-square miles, its campuses are served by different VFW posts.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars partners with schools across the nation annually by hosting these scholarship contests. The national first-place winner of each contest receives a $30,000 college scholarship.


(SVMSPatriotsPenWinners2018) VFW Patriot’s Pen essay contest winners were presented their awards recently. Back row from left: VFW Post 8800 Representative Ty Teel, SVMS U.S. History Teacher Matt Vanderbrook. Front row from left:  Jordan Buffalo, Sidney Smith, Rhett Laverty, Ashley Young, Emma Siebold, Alexandra Quintero, Brooke Hutzler, Olivia Ingram, and Victoria Edens.

(SBMSPatritotsPen) Spring Branch Middle School students participating in this year’s VFW Patriot’s Pen Contest included sixth grade Peyton George, seventh grade Sebastian Tellez Avella, seventh grade Wilson Smith, sixth grader Ava Smith, seventh grader Eva Arriola and eighth grader Margaret Brooks.

(VoicesOfDemocracySVHS2018) Students at Smithson Valley High School participated in the VFW Voice of Democracy audio-essay contest and were presented with certificates and awards recently. Back row from left: VFW Post 8800 Representative Ty Teel, Trevor Miller, Sydney Boakye and VFW Post 8800 Representative Tessa Teel. Middle row from left: SVHS Principal Michael Wahl, Isabelle Suermann, Tyler Miles, Rebekah Williams and Matthew Frazier. Front row from left: Alexys Vallego, Teacher of the Year honoree Gloria Wolfshohl, Kailey Fox and Caitlin McIntyre. SVHS students Ashley DeBoarde and Julian Sharp also participated in the contest but are not pictured.



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