Opportunity knocks… Ian McSalley answers

Ian McSalley (11) is $1,000 richer because he seized an opportunity and aced the test.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars honored McSalley with third place, along with the cash prize, at the Voice of Democracy Award Ceremony, Feb. 4.

“We have kids from the high school that participate every year, but we’ve never had somebody win $1,000 before!” Mrs. Cindy Hefling, the gifted resource teacher, said.

Part of Mrs. Hefling’s job is to enrich her students’ activities. Her office has stacks of entry forms for various competitions. One happened to be the VOD entry form.

“I put opportunities out there,” Mrs. Hefling said. “Ian just took the bait.”

Another student, Kelsey Knobbe (11) pursued this opportunity as well, though McSalley was the one who placed at districts.

“It was a good experience nonetheless. It definitely helped me with my own writing skills and I got back into creative writing, ” Knobbe said. “I’m happy he went further in the competition.”

This year’s topic for the competition was “Is there Pride in Serving in our Military?”

McSalley had no trouble starting the writing process.

“I’m a patriotic person,” said McSalley, “so writing about the topic was easy for me.”

The Voice of Democracy competition is an oral essay competition held by the VFW, so to straighten out the little details Mr. Todd Trotta, Language Arts teacher, helped McSalley edit his essay.

“He’s got a great vocabulary,” Mr. Trotta said. “He knows exactly how to say what it is he wants to convey, but I was able to step in was to show how to perhaps soften some of the language to better mirror the meaning of his essay.”

Once finalized and submitted, McSalley’s story placed third in District 12, the Missouri branch of the VFW.

His teachers know that McSalley has what it takes to go far in an essay writing competition.

“Ian’s got that spark,” Mrs. Hefling said. “I know he’s sincere.”

Mrs. Hefling notes McSalley’s charismatic personality, while Mr. Trotta notes his exceptional qualities from a language arts teacher’s perspective.

“I’d say Ian’s logic is one of the biggest things that stands out about him, along with his vocabulary and his enthusiasm that’s shown in his voice,” Mr. Trotta said.

In the end, McSalley benefitted from the competition and the experience.

“I got a red jacket, $1,000 and a greater respect for our veterans who serve our country,” McSalley said. “I need money for college, so every little bit counts.”

It is organizations like the VFW that inspire today’s youth to appreciate the sacrifices the men and women of the armed services have made for our country and acknowledge them through contests such as the VOD competition.

The opportunity that the VFW presents is one Mrs. Hefling believes students should take advantage of.

“I’m hoping he enters the contest next year because he’ll be a senior and the prize for first place is a $30,000 college scholarship,” Mrs. Hefling said. “The Veterans are so generous and they just want to encourage patriotism.”