BARNEGAT, NJ – Last year, Barnegat VFW Post 10092 earned national recognition with an outstanding community service award. Part of the organization’s commitment to the community includes reading through competitive essays submitted by area students. The competition is fierce in the VFW’s Voice of Democracy and Patriot’s Pen youth scholarship contests.  Recently. the local chapter honored both students and their school liaison.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) selects the essay topic on a national basis. This year, students were instructed to write an essay on “What Makes America Great.”  The Patriot Pen competition was open to students in grades 6-8, with a word limitation from 300-400 words. Participants were judged as far as their knowledge of the theme, its development, and how well they gave their readers a clear understanding of the theme.

Post 10092 selected three winners from the Robert O. Brackman Middle School as Patriot Pen essay winners.  Giana Germano, Alyson Sojak, and Jake Scarabaggio all submitted award-winning pieces.

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High school students entering the Voice of Democracy competition were faced with an additional task. In addition to writing essays on the same topic, participants also needed to record presentations between three and five minutes in length.  The criteria for judging these submissions was based on originality, content, and delivery of the materials.

 Barnegat High School students, Selina Mei, Madison Neaves, and Bridget Harrington, all met the mark when it came to their submissions. The local VFW selected the three as winners.

In the meantime, students weren’t the only ones honored by Barnegat VFW Post 10092.  Tracee DuBeck is the District Supervisor of ELA and Social Studies for grades 6-12. As part of her position, DuBeck is the liaison between the VFW and the school district for the essay contest. That said, she seemed taken by surprise when VFW member Mike McMahon recognized her during the awards ceremony.

“Tracee has been instrumental in what we do,” said McMahon, who runs the contest locally. ”She’s been our point of contact and has weeded through a lot of the essays.”

McMahon admitted that he did some internet research to look for words to describe educators like DuBeck. However, he opted for a list of his own, saying that DuBeck is a great listener, compassionate, sympathetic, and a mentor. “Tracee’s true nature shows how much she cares about the community,” McMahon shared.

Over 700 essays are submitted between the two contests. While Barnegat students turn in the most entrants, other area schools participate as well.

According to DuBeck, she took over coordinating the VFW essay contest when she was promoted to her current supervisory position. DuBeck decided it would make sense for social studies teachers to require their students to write an essay based on the rules and theme of the contest.

“I’m a big believer in cross-curricular writing, “DuBeck explained. “This helps students achieve consistency in their writing skills.”

Some of the students took an enthusiastic approach to the assignment.  As far as DuBeck is concerned, the process works well because the district is surrounded by both amazing teachers and amazing students.

After DuBeck collects the essays and recordings, she culls through them herself to find the best possible contest entrants.  The VFW ultimately chooses from between 50-75 submissions before selecting a winner.

VFW Commander Frank Healy concurred with DuBeck’s feelings about the teachers. However, he included DuBeck in his findings. “The teachers in this town – and Tracee are amazing,” said Healy. “This community has some of the finest educators.”