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West Fargo VFW, Ladies Auxiliary host state mid-winter conference

Front row L to R: Ladies Auxiliary National Guard, Francisca Guilford, VOD winner Ryan Christianson, Teacher of The Year grade 9-12 winner, Rachel Heggen; Teacher of the Year Grade 6-8 winner Barb Rood and Patriot's Pen Winner - Brynn Hoggan. Back Row L to R: Past National VFW Commander-in-Chief Tommy Tradewell, Department VFW Commander Jim Hapala, Teacher of the Year Grade K-5 winner - Barbara Deck and Department Auxiliary President Janice Best

The West Fargo VFW and Ladies Auxiliary Post 7564 recently hosted the VFW Mid-winter Conference. The conference was well attended by members throughout the state with special guests Past National VFW Commander-in-Chief Tommy Tradewell from Wisconsin, Francisca Guilford, National Ladies Auxiliary Guard from Alaska, and National Council Member Gary Mathisen from Wyoming. Concluding the conference was the recognition banquet for State VFW Commander Jim Hapala and State Auxiliary President Janice Best, both of West Fargo.

During the conference luncheon, awards were presented to local state teachers and students. Being presented awards for Teacher of the Year for North Dakota were Barb Rood, Phoenix Elementary, Grand Forks, N.D., for grades K - 5; Barbara Deck, BM Manson Elementary, Harvey, N.D. for grades 6 - 8; and Rachel Heggen, West Fargo High School for grades 9 - 12.

Each year three exceptional teachers are recognized by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for their outstanding commitment to teach Americanism and patriotism to their students. The VFW annually recognizes the nation's top classroom elementary, junior high and high school teachers who teach citizenship education topics - at least half of the school day in a classroom environment - and promote America's history, traditions and institutions effectively.

The VFW's National Citizenship Education Teacher Awards (Teacher of the Year) include: a $1,000 award to the top K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 grade teachers for professional development expenses; a $1,000 award for each winning teacher's school; plaques for both the winning teacher and school; and an all-expenses-paid trip to attend a VFW conference and receive their award. 

Recognized as winners of the State VFW Voice of Democracy program were first place, Ryan Christianson of Grand Forks; second place, David Lund of Cooperstown, N.D., and Benjamin Bergstrom, Devils Lake, N.D.

Each year, more than 51,000 high school students from across the country enter to win a share of the $2.2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the VFW's Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition.

Knowing that a democratic society needs nurturing, the VFW established the Voice of Democracy program (VOD) in 1947 to provide students grades 9-12 the opportunity to express themselves in regards to democratic ideas and principles.

The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient's American university, college or vocational/technical school. Other national scholarships range from $1,000- $16,000 and the first-place winner from each (State) VFW Department wins an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. 

Recognized as winners of the State VFW Patriots Pen program were: first place, Brynn Hoggan, Memorial Middle School, Minot Air Force Base; second place, Emily Hertz, Harvey; and Cody Eisenbeisz, Cheney Middle School, West Fargo.

The VFW believes strongly in good citizenship and fostering patriotism, and in doing so, encourages youthful minds to examine the nation's history and their own experiences in modern American society through the Patriot's Pen youth essay-writing contest.

Annually, roughly 112,000, students from grades 6-8, enter to win one of several savings bonds totaling $1.2 million, as well as an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for the national first place winner.

Students draft a 300-400 word essay, expressing their views based on an always patriotic, annual theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief.