Centennial High School senior Michele Jones thought she'd done a pretty good job with her entry in the District 11 Veterans of Foreign Wars "Voice of Democracy" audio and essay competition.
But when the names of students from throughout the state who had won scholarships in the contest were announced recently at the Reynoldsburg VFW Post, Jones' name was not among the top 10 and she began to think she hadn't even placed.
Which is ironic, considering the theme this year was, "Why I Am Optimistic About Our Nation's Future."
Her mom, Darlena Jones of the East Side near Reynoldsburg, on the other hand became excited, assuming her daughter was among the top finishers.
Mother knew best, and Jones won third place among the 1,500 entries representing 50 Veterans of Foreign Wars Posts in the state.
She will receive a $750 scholarship.
Whetstone High School sophomore Benjamin P. Kramer and Crisstina M. Hammond, a junior at Marion-Franklin High School, were among those finishing in 10th through 18th place, according to an announcement from Columbus Public Schools.
Each will receive a scholarship of $100.
Jones said she learned about the Voice of Democracy Competition, which is for both essays and audio recordings, through Darlene Smith, her mentor with the Elks National Foundation.
She was given the opportunity to take part with the assistance of Alexa Middlebrook and Eyvonne Martin of the Ladies Auxiliary for VFW Post 3764.
"I immediately gravitated toward it," Jones said of the essay contest. "I investigated it and I immediately fell in love with the content."
Jones' essay focuses primarily on the way people in the United States showed their resiliency following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Although she was in kindergarten at the time, the events of that day left a deep impression on her, Michele said.
"I am optimistic about our nation's future because we as a people have proven that we may stumble when met with catastrophe, but that we are also resilient and hopeful to change any circumstances we find ourselves in," she wrote, in part.
"I had tears in my eyes," Darlena Jones said of listening to the audio of her daughter's work on the way to drop it off at the Post.
"To hear her read the speech, it was just emotional," Darlena Jones said. "I don't just say that because I'm her mother. She did an excellent job."
The Voice of Democracy Program is a national oratory and written competition for students in grades 9-12 designed to give them the opportunity to voice their opinion on their responsibility to their country, according to the announcement from the school district's communications and media relations department.
Since 1947, the Voice of Democracy has been the Veterans of Foreign Wars' premier scholarship program. Each year, more than 50,000 high school students compete for more than $2.3 million in scholarships and incentives, the announcement said.
Jones said she plans are to attend the University of Cincinnati to study public health administration and social justice.