Wayne High School senior Abigail Kerestes finished 11th of 53 students in a national VFW competition in Washington, D.C. CONTRIBUTED

Wayne senior wins $10K in scholarships in VFW competitions

A Wayne High School senior has won more than $10,000 in scholarships for her essay “Why My Vote Matters.”

Senior Abigail Kerestes placed 11th of 53 students in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Voice of Democracy competition on March 2-6 in Washington, D.C.

She went through local, district and state levels before nationals. The competition involved judges listening to audio and reviewing written speeches.

Kerestes and other students received two jackets with the VFW logo embroidered on them and a paperback book that contained each finalist’s speech and photo.

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Students exchanged VFW State Pins with each other. Olympic athletes have a similar tradition.

The finalists from all 50 states — plus Germany, Panama and Tokyo — spent four days in D.C. for the competition and toured the White House, museums, memorials and participated in an Escape Room activity.

Kerestes speech conveyed her thoughts as a soon-to-be voter and reflected her experiences as a child when she voted. She wanted to show how people’s votes make a difference.

“My one vote has been the deciding factor for which pizza place to order our weekly pizza from, and even more impressively, was the deciding factor for the colors chosen to paint our entire house,” Kerestes said on using the voting process at home.

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She wanted readers to know that one vote could be all it takes to decide an election. Even if your one vote is not it, the message is still important. It shows you care about yourself, others around you and the nation, Kerestes said.

Kerestes mother, Lori, prided herself in her daughter’s accomplishment and watched her on a livestream during the competition.

Each student at the competition was surprised with a Dell laptop engraved with the VFW logo.

Kerestes’ writing expertise has earned her multiple scholarships for college during each phase pf competition that include $200 from the VFW post #3283 in Huber Heights, $8,000 from the state of Ohio for being first and a $2,500 from the national competition.

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“It’s never too early to think about the first time you will be able to vote, which I feel, is exciting in itself, and how this will become an important part of being an American,” Kerestes said.

“After hearing my speech, I hope listeners feel honored to be part of our Democratic system and know their vote does ‘matter,’ in so many ways, regardless of the outcome.”

Kerestes grew up in Huber Heights with her mother, Lori, father, Stephen, and her older brother, Jared, a junior at Wright State.

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