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2 for 2: Platteville student wins state oratorical contests
Masoom Legion
Saafia Masoom (right) is pictured with American Legion Department of Wisconsin Commander Bob Shappell after Masoom won the Legion oratorical contest at Ripon College Feb. 14.

Platteville High School junior Saafia Masoom has had quite the month of February.

Masoom won statewide speaking contests, earning trips to Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis for national contests.

Masoom’s month began Feb. 14 when she won the American Legion Oratorical Contest at Ripon College. She was sponsored by American Legion Post 42 of Platteville.

Masoom, the daughter of Abulkhair and Fahmida Masoom, qualified by winning the district event at Barneveld High School Jan. 31. Her speech was “Our Great Experiment, Our Constitution.”

Winning the state contest earned her a $3,000 college scholarship after winning five levels of competition. She will be going on an all-expenses-paid trip to Indianapolis April 10–12 to participate in the national contest.

Before that, Masoom will be taking another all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., to compete in the VFW Voice of Democracy national Audio-Essay Contest Feb. 28–March 4. Masoom won the Wisconsin contest, earning a $1,500 scholarship. She was recognized at the VFW mid-winter convention in Appleton Saturday.

The American Legion Oratorical Contest exists to develop deeper knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution among high school students. Since 1938, the program has presented participants with an academic speaking challenge that teaches important leadership qualities, the history of our nation’s laws, the ability to think and speak clearly, and an understanding of the duties, responsibilities, rights and privileges of American citizenship.

Young orators earn some of the most generous college scholarships available to high school students. More than $138,000 in scholarships can be awarded each year. The overall national contest winner gets an $18,000 scholarship. Second place takes home $16,000, and third gets $14,000. Each department (state) winner who is certified into and participates in the national contest’s first round receives a $1,500 scholarship. Those who advance past the first round receive an additional $1,500 scholarship. The American Legion’s National Organization awards the scholarships, which can be used at any U.S. college or university.

High school students younger than 20 are eligible. Competition begins at the post level and advances to a state competition. Legion department representatives certify one winner per state to the national contest, where department winners compete against each other in two speaking rounds. The contest caps off with a final round that decides the three top finishers.

Speaking subjects must be on some aspect of the U.S. Constitution, with some emphasis on the duties and obligations of citizens to our government. Speeches are eight to 10 minutes long; three- to five-minute speeches on an assigned topic also are part of the contest.

Each year, nearly 40,000 high school students from across the country enter to win a share of the $2.2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the VFW’s Voice of Democracy audio-essay competition. The VFW established the Voice of Democracy program in 1947 to provide high school students the opportunity to express themselves in regards to democratic ideas and principles.

The national first-place winner receives a $30,000 scholarship paid directly to the recipient’s American university, college or vocational/technical school. Other national scholarships range from $1,000 to $16,000.