(The following information was provided by Shawsheen Tech and the administration of the Tewksbury VFW.)
Thanks to the skills she has learned as a student at Shawsheen Valley Technical High School Annie Whitehouse, ironically enough, is headed to the White House.
In early February, Whitehouse, a Tewksbury resident and a senior at Shawsheen, was honored for her first-place performance at the Voice of Democracy audio essay competition sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). The annual contest has a patriotic theme and involves thousands of students in grades 9 through 12 at schools throughout the state.
Because Shawsheen Tech is located in Billerica, Whitehouse competed representing that post.
The students are judged first at a local level and the first-place finisher from each school advances to competition at the district and then state levels.
Whitehouse competed with fellow Shawsheen Tech student Christen Aliperta of Billerica at the local level before advancing to No. 1 in the state.
Whitehouse now qualifies for the national finals and leaves for Washington, D.C. this weekend. Whitehouse and other winners from all over the country (and international students from Europe and the Dominican Republic) will travel to Washington where their recorded speeches will be judged in pursuit of the first-place prize, a $30,000 scholarship to whatever college they attend.
Also as part of the trip to Washington, the students will take a guided tour of the White House and Shawsheen’s Whitehouse said the group might even meet the President.
“It’s very cool,” she said. “This has all been fun and exciting.”
Whitehouse is Shawsheen Tech’s first-ever state champion in the competition although the school has enjoyed plenty of recent success, Sara Pietila finished fifth in the state two years ago.
“It’s great,” said Leah Marquis, an English teacher at Shawsheen Tech and the advisor for the VOD competition. “This has been quite a thrill.”
Whitehouse admits that she wasn’t sure that she was going to win the night of the awards banquet, even up until the moments before she was named the winner.
The six winners were announced in order from sixth to first.
“Once they announced third place,” Whitehouse said with a laugh, “I gave up listening.”
But much to the surprise of Whitehouse, Marquis and Whitehouse’s family, the room full of more than 300 people applauded when Whitehouse was announced as the first-place winner.
“She deserved it,” said Marquis. “She did a tremendous job.”
The theme of this year’s VOD competition was “Does my generation have a future in America?”
Whitehouse’s six-minute speech spoke about how today’s youths have seen society incorporate the internet to deal with real-life issues. She mentioned a recent campaign fueled mostly by blogging that helped pass several laws to prevent animal cruelty.
The speech was recorded on a CD for the competition that was held at Shawsheen and that same recording was used for Whitehouse’s district and state contests. The CD will be on display in Washington next month.
Whitehouse is no stranger to competition. Last year, she placed second in the state at the speech competition hosted by Skills USA.
An honor-roll student and the vice president of the National Honor Society, Whitehouse hopes to pursue writing and publishing after college.
Tewksbury VFW Post announced Local Voice of Democracy Winners
Tewksbury VFW Post Commander Vinnie Oliva announced the local winners of the Voice of Democracy and Patriot Pen contests.
The 2010 VOD winner is Linsey McQuesten. Runner ups are Alexander Bouthot, Megan Bouthot, Nicole Daigle, Tara MacMullan, Sean Taylor.
The 2010 Patriot Pen winner is Bryan Tam. Runner ups are Joseph Kasprzak, Jarrod Martin, Daniel McColgan, and Ronald Tam.
"We at the VFW of Tewksbury decided to award all students who took the time to write an essay and submit a voice recording," said Oliva. "We may be the only VFW in the state that awards all contestants."
The winners won $50.00 while all runner ups received $25.00. The winners were also submitted to the District level.
The participants were honored at an awards banquet, which took place Feb. 17 at the VFW function hall. Each student brought two guests and enjoyed a buffet dinner catered by Mastorilli's.