Caulder, a senior at Clayton Valley Charter High School, won the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Post 1525, District 10 and state levels of the Voice of Democracy Essay Competition.
The contest is the VFW’s premier scholarship program, in existence since 1947. High school students write and record an essay with a patriotic theme. Nearly 40,000 students compete for more than $2 million in scholarships and incentives. The 2018-’19 theme is “Why My Vote Matters.”
“In 2019, I will be able to vote and exercise my right to decide the direction of our nation,” Caulder wrote.
She received a paid trip to Washington, where she will tour the city with other state winners and be honored by the VFW. The national winner will take home the grand prize of $30,000.
Caulder’s father, Leonard, is an Air Force veteran who told her about the contest last fall. Inspired by stories of wars her father and other family members served in, she wrote about how they went to battle for the rights of those who live in this country.
She said her parents always keep her informed of current events, and she also learned about politics in her government class. Her drama background and experience delivering speeches as senior class president helped her compile her thoughts about voting. She plans to major in theater in college.
VFW Post 1525 judged 16 entries on originality, content and delivery. “Her essay was heartfelt and personal,” says Commander Mark Steinberg. “We knew that we had something very special.”
She then advanced to the district level, with 19 VFW posts in Contra Costa, San Francisco and Alameda counties. The post and district celebrations were one and the same in December.
In January, Caulder competed with 17 districts at the state level, concluding her speech with: “My vote matters because I matter.”
For more information on Voice of Democracy, go to vfw.org.