Verdugo Hills High School senior Taylor M. Hanes attended the California Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Ladies Auxiliary annual midwinter Voice of Democracy (VOD) banquet in the California Ballroom on January 22 at the Holiday Inn Capitol Plaza in Sacramento. Taylor, a Sunland resident, was the winner of the 2015-16 VOD essay-audio competition for the Fourth District VFW of California, composed of El Monte, Pico Rivera, Wilmington, Sierra Madre, Inglewood, Lomita, Compton, Long Beach, Apple Valley, among many other Los Angeles County VFW posts. She attended the banquet with 13 other district winners from around the state of California. It was the final step before the national level competition moves forward and will be held in Washington D.C
Taylor was named first runner-up for the 2015-16 VOD competition in California. A senior at Verdugo Hills High School in Tajunga, California, Taylor began her journey in 9th grade when she was placed in the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program and entered the VOD competition each year as part of the curriculum. Taylor is the Battalion Commander for Verdugo Hills High School as well as the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) JROTC Deputy Colonel, where she serves as secondin-command of all 5,000+ LAUSD JROTC cadets enrolled in the highly motivational program.
Previously, through the LAUSD JROTC program, Taylor had submitted several essays for the VOD competition beginning her freshman year. She did well within the JROTC level competition placing 2nd in 2012-13 and 1st in 2013-14. This year however she took 1st place again on the JROTC level, then she was selected by her local VFW post #1961 and finally the District Four Los Angeles County VFW to represent in the Sacramento VOD state competition.
One first-place winner from each state competes to win one of 54 national awards totaling a minimum of $106,000.00. The first-place winner from each state also wins an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. The national first-place winner wins a $30,000.00 scholarship and other awards.
Each year, nearly 40,000 high school students from across the country enter the competition. While the national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship, other national scholarships range from $1,000 to $16,000 for contestants and runner-ups. Total awards and scholarships are estimated to be more than two million dollars.
The VOD program, established in 1947, is open to students in grades 9-12 who are enrolled in a public, private or parochial high school or home study program in the U.S. and its territories. Entries and guidelines for the 2016-2017 season can be downloaded at www.vfw.org or picked up at your local VFW post.