Erin Stoeckig had a big question to respond to: "Is this the country our founders envisioned?" The question may have piqued her interest quickly, but the answer she would eventually give took time.
But, it was time well spent.
The Mayo High School junior was named first-place national winner in the Veterans of Foreign Wars 2020-21 Voice of Democracy scholarship program. As the winner, Stoeckig is the recipient of the $30,000 T.C. Selman Memorial Scholarship award.
"I thought the prompt was really interesting," she said. "I thought there's a lot to dig into with that question."
Taking the top spot in the essay contest is no small feat. According to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, more than 64,000 high school students from across the country compete in the program every year.
Once she was named as the national winner, the VFW came to Rochester to recognize her achievement. Stoeckig read her essay at Soldiers Field, speaking about how the founding fathers built a nation able to change — that they built a nation striving to be better than it was before.