Students, Westminster police officer honored at VFW Post #467

Students, Westminster police officer honored at VFW Post #467
Jordan Badorrek, 17, [left] won first place in the 2018 VFW Voice of Democracy audio-essay program, followed by Alex Barnes, 18, [middle] in second place and Jordan Salafia, 17, [left] in third. Marisa Ossinger, 11, [front] won first place in the 2018 VFW Patriot's Pen contest. (Jennifer Turiano)

Nearly 40,000 high school students across the country enter the Voice of Democracy contest through the Veterans of Foreign Wars to win their share of $2.1 million in educational scholarships and incentives.

And three local students who won this year were honored at the VFW Post #467 holiday party Saturday.


After winning the local level, students move on to compete statewide, and then nationwide.

The winner of the VFW Patriot’s Pen contest and the Westminster Police officer of the year were also honored at the dinner, which took place on Poole Road Dec. 15.

Jordan Badorrek, 17, won first place in the VFW Voice of Democracy audio-essay program, followed by Alex Barnes, 18, in second place and Jordan Salafia, 17, in third. The students, all from Winters Mill High School in Westminster, were tasked with explaining why their votes matter.

“I talked about the history,” Badorrek told the Times before the awards were given. “From the civil rights movement and feminist movement. Then I went into today and how hard people fought for us to vote and how some people blow it off, but it’s important for everyone to vote.”

She said doing an oratory project instead of a written one was different for her because most school assignments are written and she needed to focus not only on what she said, but how she said it.

Salafia — who focused her speech on how even one vote can sway an election, and how if people don’t vote, they can’t complain about government — agreed that it took a different way of thinking to be a winning speaker.

“Using an audio recording you can use more exclamation and tone to make it sound better,” she told the Times, “and how you want it to sound so people understand you better.”

Barnes, the only 18-year-old winner in the group, said he just voted for the first time this year, and used that experience for his audio-essay.

“The premise of it was just trying to help people understand that your vote is not just your voice that you’re expressing,” he said, “but the voice of all those who can’t vote — those people in other countries who don’t get the leisure to vote, who don’t have free speech, that are coming to our country and risking their lives for that right.”

Last year’s national winner was Robyn Anzulis, a senior at South Carroll High School in Sykesville, sponsored by VFW Post #10076 and its auxiliary in Mount Airy. Her speech on the theme, "American History: Our Hope for the Future," won her a $30,000 college scholarship.

Marisa Ossinger, 11, was the local winner of the Patriot’s Pen youth essay contest for middle school students, in which the national first-place winner wins $5,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C.

Ossinger, a student at Mount Airy Middle School, lives in New Windsor with her family and said she’s been involved with the VFW for some time because of her grandfather, who is a Marine veteran.

“I wrote about why I honor the American flag,” she told the Times. “I honor it because it’s really disrespectful not to honor it — because people fought for out freedom now and in the past. I think to kneel or not honor it is very rude.”

In addition to students honored at the holiday party, VFW Post #467 honored its Westminster law enforcement officer of the year, an award Master Deputy William Kyle Barget from the Carroll County Sheriff ‘s Office won this year.


“We appreciate the VFW recognizing us,” said Barget. “It’s something we sign up to do. We’re not looking to get recognized for it. It’s a job for me, it’s what I do.”