Youth and Adult Scholarships and Awards

Check this page for links to VFW Sponsored Scholarships and Awards

https://www.vfw.org/community/youth-and-education/youth-scholarships

Youth Scholarships

The VFW is dedicated to promoting patriotism and investing in our future generation. If you are a democracy-loving high school student interested in a $30,000 college scholarship or a patriotic middle school student interested in winning $5,000, these scholarships may be for you.

Voice of Democracy 9th-12th Grade Students

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, 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. 

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 6th-8th Grade Students

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.

Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher of the Year Program

Each year three exceptional teachers are recognized by the VFW for their outstanding commitment to teach Americanism and patriotism to their students. The VFW annually recognizes the nation’s top certified/licensed elementary, junior high and high school teachers who teach and promote America’s history, traditions and citizenship education effectively. The Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award recipients are selected from entries submitted to local VFW Posts in every state and overseas. The awards include the following items: . A national $1,000 Past National CIC John Smart award for the top K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 grade teachers for professional development expenses . $1,000 award for each winning teacher’s school . Plaques for both the winning teacher and school . An all-expenses-paid trip to attend the VFW National Convention Nomination must be submitted to our VFW Post by October 31, 2019. Additional information about our program please refer to our website at vfw.org.

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.
  • An all-expenses-paid trip to attend a VFW conference to receive their award. 


Please review the rules and eligibility requirements and nominate a teacher you know by submitting the 2019-20 nomination form.

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.