Austin Houck, a senior at West Potomac High School, was awarded first place in the Voice of Democracy scholarship contest offered by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 7327 and Auxiliary in Springfield, during their annual awards ceremony on Saturday, March 30.
Austin and his submission was sponsored by his former history teacher, Daniel Baldwin. The topic of the Voice of Democracy essay for this year was “Why My Vote Matters.” Austin performed a reading of his essay during the awards ceremony, which also honored teachers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers, and other volunteers who contribute to the betterment of their communities. Austin’s and the others’ awards were entered into the Congressional Record via the U.S. Gerald E. Connolly (D-11).
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States is a nonprofit veterans service organization; its programs and services support veterans, service members and their families, as well as communities worldwide. The VFW Voice of Democracy audio-essay program provides high school students with the opportunity to express themselves through a democratic and patriotic-themed recorded essay. Each year, nearly 40,000 9-12 grade students from across the country enter to win their share of $2.1 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the program.
Austin was also selected as a candidate for the Presidential Scholars Program this year, which is a program of the Department of Education. It is described as "one of the nation's highest honors for students." Semifinalists are announced in mid-April, and all scholars are announced the first week of May. The National Recognition Program in Washington, D.C. usually occurs in June. Austin will be attending the University of Virginia this fall as part of its 200th graduating class (Class of 2023).