By David Fong
TROY — Rachel Martin grew up setting a pen to paper and letting her imagination take her places through her writing.
Now, however, the Troy High School junior’s ability to write is taking her to some pretty amazing places in reality — beginning this weekend with the state Veterans of Foreign Wars “Voice of Democracy” essay-audio competition.
“I’ve always loved writing — I do it a lot, just for fun,” Martin said. “When I was a little kid, I was always writing. I was making up tales and making up stories. I wrote a lot of realistic fiction.”
Martin initially won the local VFW “Voice of Democracy” competition, then captured first place at the district competition. This weekend, she’ll be one of 12 district winners at the state competition. Should she win the state competition, she’ll be flown to Washington, D.C., where her essay will be judged against the state-level winners from across the nation.
The VFW “Voice of Democracy” scholarship contest began in 1946. As a district winner, Martin already is guaranteed scholarship money, the amount of which depends on where she places at the state level. Should Martin make it to the national competition, the scholarship money available would continue to grow.
“I’m excited and honored just to be one of the 12 district winners,” Martin said. “Last year I had to write the essay as a part of a class assignment (in teacher Mike Gegel’s English class). I won the local competition, but only got fifth place at the district level. I really didn’t think about it much last year, because I was only a sophomore.
“This year I entered and won the local contest, then I won the district contest. I think it means a lot more to me this year because of the scholarship money. Now that I’m a junior, I’m starting to think about that a lot more since I’m going to be going to college next year.”
After she graduated next year, Martin said she hopes to attend The Ohio State University and major in fashion and retail studies.
In addressing this year’s topic, “My Vision For America,” Martin focused heavily on equality in America. She also wrote passionately about her desire to see a woman elected president.
“My vision for America focused on equality for everyone,” she said. “I talked about the one day we would have a female president. It took us 220 years to get a person of color elected president. I’m hoping to see a woman elected president. I don’t know if that will happen or not this year — but hopefully it will happen sometime in my lifetime.”
Martin said she spent about two days working off and on in writing and polishing her essay. She then had to make an audio recording of her essay to send on to competition. She found out she had won the district competition — and would be moving on to this weekend’s state competition — as she was sitting in Gegel’s class recently.
“I was sitting in class when they came in and told me,” she said. “I had actually just gotten in trouble for eating Cheez-Its in class. It caught me totally by surprise. I had no idea.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong