Lauren Bellatti of McKinney was recently named as one of several winners in the 2013 National Voice of Democracy Program, sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). She is one of the recipients of a $1,000 Department of Idaho and Auxiliary Scholarship Award.
Bellatti won first place in the state of Texas for the Voice of Democracy Patriotic Audio-Essay Competition. Two professors from the University of Texas Speech Communications Department, one of whom was the chair of the department, judged the state level. Approximately 2,300 high school students across the state of Texas participated in this competition. Over 50,000 students competed across the nation.
Bellatti, a homeschooled senior, was initially chosen as a finalist at the Farmersville VFW Post 7426 and then advanced through district to become the state champion. The topic of this year's competition, "Is Our Constitution Still Relevant?" sparked her interest and inspired her to write and record her essay.
“This experience has been completely surreal,” Bellatti said. “The fact that my words, on the relevancy of our Constitution, were recognized completely blows me away.
“The people I have met through this competition have been some of the most unique individuals I have ever known and I feel honored to be among them. It's incredibly exciting to be surrounded by so many like-minded individuals who share the same love for our nation's government and founding documents. This competition has blessed me immensely and it is certainly something that I will never forget.”
According to her mother, Bellatti's essay stated that the Constitution is still relevant because people are still willing to sacrifice their lives to protect it and because it proscribes and protects our individual liberties. Some quotes from the essay which illustrate these points are:
"Throughout the course of history, from our Founding Fathers, to my great-grandfather and the “greatest generation,” to my high-school classmates, Americans have persistently pledged their lives to the protection and furtherance of freedom.
"The U.S. Constitution is utterly unique in the way that it prescribes and protects the inalienable rights which each person possesses.
"America is not ours to own, but rather ours to steward and protect for future generations. The Constitution is relevant and living today, and it is up to my generation to preserve her."
The essay sparked comments from some of the judges.
According to her parents, “an unnamed VFW member at the Mid-Winter Conference in Austin said ‘Lauren should read her essay to the President. He needs to hear it.’ Her grandfather, Edd Bellatti, said that his father, Lauren's great grandfather, who was a lifetime newspaper publisher and editor, would be so proud.”
As champion for the state of Texas, she was awarded a $10,000 scholarship, as well as an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national contest; and Valley Forge, Pa., for a leadership summit at the Freedoms Foundation. Bellatti received a total of $11,900 from Post, District, State and National levels.
“This experience has not only helped to fund my future education, it has also inspired me,” Bellatti said. “I have had the honor of meeting people from all across this nation; listening to the stories of and discussing ideas with these new friends has made me all the more excited for college and beyond.”
She plans to major in Strategic Communications with a minor in Political Science at Oklahoma State University. In the fall she will be part of the Freshman Research Scholars Program at OSU and looks forward to studying innovative marketing and media strategies as they relate to campaigns. Her long term goal is to serve on the communications/campaign team for a U.S. Senator.
“Lauren's dad and I are so proud of her,” said Melinda Bellatti, Lauren’s mom. “This is a culmination of all her hard work in high school. We are grateful to the VFW for the scholarships, experiences and support they have given Lauren through this opportunity.”