SALINAS VALLEY — Each year one “Outstanding Spokesperson for Freedom” is chosen to represent the Sgt. Frank Lillard Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6747 in King City as its Voice of Democracy youth delegate.
What is different about the 2020-21 Voice of Democracy youth writing competition is not the format or the topic, but the winner: Karla Vasquez, a senior at Soledad High School. This year, like the past six years, Vasquez has risen above her peers to secure a winning position because of her insights, creativity and patriotism toward the United States.
Vasquez, the daughter of Danie and Carlos Vasquez of Soledad, began by entering the Patriot’s Pen 6-8th grade competition when she was in sixth grade, and has taken the initiative to write an essay every year since. As her skill in writing prose grew, she won third-, second- and finally first-place in the Patriot’s Pen essay contest.
Vasquez then proudly announced that she would be back to tackle the high school Voice of Democracy 9-12th grade competition, as well. She once again began to climb the winners’ ladder with third- and second-place wins, and for two years in a row has represented the VFW as its first-place winner.
Her 2020-21 essay topic, “Is This the Country the Founders Envisioned?” won the local and district levels, and she moved on to the California state level.
When speaking with VFW members who run the competition and asking what they think about Vasquez’s repeated success, they say they aren’t surprised.
“This girl writes from the heart,” said VFW Ladies Auxiliary Member Laura Tucker. “She draws on her experiences she and her family have as immigrants and citizens in the United States. Her creativity in translating these experiences and what it means to be an American is an inspiration. Her faith and love of America is strong. This is rare these days.”
Vasquez’s plans for the future are to attend college, as she is interested in computer science, and she will use this year’s $1,300 in first-place prize money to help achieve this American dream. Over the years, she has won nearly $2,500 in scholarship funds through the VFW.
The ultimate prize of a $30,000 scholarship and a trip to Washington, D.C., is another keen incentive.
Youth from King City, Greenfield and Soledad are invited each year to participate in the local contests. A new topic is announced every August for the competitions; visit vfw.org or contact the local VFW post for more.