PLEASANT HILL, Ohio (WDTN) — A Miami County teen is representing the state of Ohio advancing to the national level in an annual VFW essay contest.
The Voice of Democracy essay contest has been around for more than half a century, but this is the first time someone from Pleasant Hill has advanced to the national level.
Owen Via, 18, was one of 64,000 students nationwide entering the annual essay contest.
“I always really liked writing. It was one of my strong suits, and once I saw the topic, I knew that was something I wanted to elaborate on,” says Owen.
The theme of this year’s contest was “Is this the country our founding fathers envisioned?”
“It was a tough topic this year, but Owen’s essay just stood out,” says Kris Byrd of VFW Post 6557 who serves as the chairperson for the essay contest.
“The content was just fantastic, but his presence, his spoken presence, his oral presence–He had a power in his voice that you don’t often see in anybody, let alone teenagers,” states Harry Polling, VFW 6557 Post Commander.
The Newton High School senior came out on top at the local, district, and state levels.
“I think my first reaction was ‘whose kid is that?'” laughs Owen’s mother, Mandy Via. “When we first heard him speak it was very powerful because you could see it came straight from his heart. He truly believed in what he had to say.”
“He took all of those thoughts and articulated them and pulled it all together. For me, it kind of set me back,” says Owen’s father, Jason Via.
Owen’s essay will now go on to be judged by the national board; he’s one of 53 competing.
“I hope what I have done inspires other people,” says Owen.