March 18th, 2019 – Wayne High School senior Abigail Kerestes made an impressive finish in the VFW’s Voice of Democracy competition. Kerestes placed 11th out of 53 national finalists for her essay titled “Why My Vote Matters.”
The 53 national finalists included winners from every state as well as winners from Germany, Panama, and Tokyo. Kerestes and the other finalists spent four days in Washington D.C. for the national competition that included other activities like touring the White House, museums, memorials, and participating in an Escape Room activity.
Students received two jackets with the VFW logo embroidered on it and a paperback book containing each finalist’s photo and speech. The students also exchanged VFW State Pins with each other, similar to the same tradition seen at the Olympic Games.
Kerestes wanted her speech to convey her thoughts as an upcoming voter and reflect on her voting experiences as a child. She wanted to dispel the notion of someone’s vote not making a difference by using herself as an example.
“My one vote has been the deciding factor for which pizza place to order our weekly pizza from, and even more impressively, was the deciding factor for the colors chosen to paint our entire house,” said Kerestes on utilizing the voting process at home.
Kerestes also wanted readers to know that all it takes is one vote to decide an election. Even if one vote doesn’t decide an election, she still contends that, “your one vote certainly sends an important message: you care about yourself, others around you, and our nation.”
Kerestes’ mother, Lori, was extremely proud with how her daughter fared in the competition. “We watched Abigail with much pride and adoration as it was live streamed and we will always remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Lori.
The surprises kept coming as Dell gifted each student a laptop engraved with the VFW logo. Kerestes earned multiple scholarships throughout the various stages of the competition. She earned a $200 scholarship from the Huber Heights VFW Post #3283, an $8,000 scholarship for being the first place winner for the state of Ohio, and a $2,500 scholarship at the national competition.
If nothing else, Kerestes holds that, “voting matters because it impacts every one of us, it gets our message across, and gives us power to influence our lives.” She says she made her speech not only for people of voting age, but for children who will be voting at some point in their lives.
“It’s never too early to think about the first time you will be able to vote, which I feel, is exciting in itself and how this will become an important part of being an American,” says Kerestes. “After hearing my speech, I hope listeners feel honored to be part of our Democratic system and know their vote does ‘matter,’ in so many ways, regardless of the outcome.”