SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ -- Shaun Keating of Union Catholic was honored during a ceremony on Monday a UC for finishing in first place on both the local and Union County levels, and for placing second in the entire state of New Jersey in the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Voice of Democracy Audio Essay competition.

Keating, a junior, received a medal, a certificate and a $3,000 scholarship from Frank Chupko, the past commander of the VFW Post 10122 in Scotch Plains.

The Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition, which requires a three to five minute video, is open to students in grades 9-12. Since 1947, the Voice of Democracy has been the VFW’s premier scholarship program. Each year, almost 40,000 high school students compete for more than $2 million in scholarships and incentives. 

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This year’s theme for the Voice of Democracy was, ““American History: Our Hope for the Future.”

“I was really surprised,’’ Keating said of finishing second in the state. “It was incredible to finish second, and I was almost speechless when I found out. It was a fantastic essay to participate in because I got to combine history with patriotism. I did some research, but I mainly depended on a lot of what I’ve learned this year in Mr. Sagendorf’s history class. Since the topic was about how America’s past will affect its future, I talked about the American work ethic, and I used what I’ve learned in Mr. Sagendorf’s class to talk about the dedication and perspiration that was needed to create this country from the ground up.’’      

Keating said being honored by the veterans of our country meant a lot to her.

“These are men and women who fought for our country and are some of the bravest people on earth,’’ said Keating, who lives in Plainfield. “So it was fantastic to be honored by them. I can’t really be disappointed that I didn’t finish first in the state because I have an opportunity to come back next year and try again to finish first.’’

Keating is active at Union Catholic with Peer Ministry, the Performing Arts Company, Forensics, and is a member of the varsity basketball team.