Each year more than 125,000 students in grades 6-8 enter the VFW's Patriot's Pen youth essay contest. The first-place winner from each state competes for national awards totaling $50,000, with each first-place state winner receiving a minimum of $500 at the national level. The national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in March. The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America's history, along with their own experiences in modern American society, by drafting a 300- to 400-word essay, expressing their views based on a patriotic theme chosen by the VFW Commander-in-Chief.

This Year's Topic: What Freedom Means To Me

First Prize is $5,000!

Who May Enter
The Patriot's Pen program is open to students in grades 6-8, who are enrolled in a public, private or parochial high school or home study program in the United States and its territories.

How To Enter
Click here to access the Patriot's Pen 2015-16 entry form and brochure.

Students can ask a teacher or youth group leader to supervise their progress in the competition. Then students can contact a local participating VFW Post and establish a contact person who is a member of that Post or Auxiliary.

Essays must be no less than 300 words and cannot exceed 400 words. They should be submitted to the Post, along with the completed Patriot's Pen entry form no later than the November 1 deadline.

Due Dates 
November 1, Student entries to the Post 
November 15, Completion of Post judging 
December 6, Completion of District judging Department Chairmen 
January 7, Completion of Department judging  
January 15, District participation reports to 
January 15, Department winners to National
January 31, Department reports to National

Judging Criteria
Knowledge of the theme is worth 30 points: You must show a thorough knowledge of the theme in your work. Demonstrate you have researched the issue extensively. 

Theme development is worth 35 points: Answer all relevant facts about the theme such as the who, what, where, when and why. Relate the theme to your own experiences. 

Clarity of ideas is worth 35 points: Write your essay in an easy-to-understand format. Leave your reader with a clear understanding of your explanation of the theme.

 

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