Montini Catholic junior, Conor Kaefer of Lombard and freshman Ryan Rucinski of Woodridge were recently awarded for putting pen to paper and their voices to video and entering the Voice of Democracy Patriotic Essay Competition sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
Each year, high school students are invited to compete in the essay contest. This year’s theme was “What Are the Greatest Attributes of Our Democracy?” Kaefer and Rucinski were awarded with a monetary award for their exceptional work and were invited to attend a special banquet Jan. 13 recognizing local winners.
Rucinski’s parents, Jeff and Kim Rucinski, were very proud of his achievement.
“I was very honored to win,” said Rucinski, who represented VFW Post 1578 in Woodridge. “I really like history and I have a great respect for our veterans who have given so much for our country. My great grandfathers were veterans and I knew entering would make them proud.”
Rucinski is a graduate of St. Mary of Gostyn in Downers Grove. He is a member of the Montini soccer team. He is also involved in student government and enjoys being a member of the art and baking clubs.
“It was an honor to hear that I had won the local contest, especially because my older sister (Stephanie Kaefer ‘12) has also won in the past,” said Kaefer, who represented the VFW Lilac Post 5815. He is inspired by honorable veterans, some family members, who he is proud to know.
“I know several Veterans of Foreign Wars members, and they have always been kind and supportive to me. They offered me this opportunity to participate in this contest, and I did so as a way of thanking them for their service to our country. In addition, my grandfather and several other family members are veterans, so I did this to honor and thank them.”
Kaefer is a graduate of Sacred Heart School in Lombard and is the son of Frederick and Jeanne Kaefer. He is a member of the Montini cross country and track and field teams. Academically he is a math team and robotics team member.
He is a National Honor Society member, a Mu Alpha Theta member and enjoys participating in both the history and spanish clubs. He also inspires fellow Broncos spiritually as a member of the peer ministry team. He is currently aspiring to pursue an engineering degree in college.
Established in 1947, the VFW’s 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-$15,000, 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.